Volume 3, Issue 3, 2003
What is Management
John K. Alexander
Pragmatic Decision Making
A Manager’s Epistemic Defence
I was in manufacturing for over thirty years and a manager for nearly twenty-five. During that time it never occurred to me that the consequentialist, utilitarian framework I used was inadequate as a conceptual framework for making decisions to ensure organisational viability and success. The framework gave three criteria which enabled me to construct a rational approach to issues associated with my role as a manager:
(i) to make product at the lowest possible cost so as to maximise the bottom line;
(ii) to take into account the interests of everyone affected by my decisions equally; and
(iii) not to cause unnecessary and avoidable harm to innocent people.
To show that this framework is adequate as a basis for managerial decision making I want to spell out the logical implications of the three criteria and show that they are necessary and jointly sufficient to provide an epistemically sound framework for managerial decisions. I will argue that we can look to managerial practice for examples which can serve as paradigms for constructing a pragmatic approach to management decision making, one that - when employed correctly - will result in the best moral outcome for all those affected by a decision.
This approach is derived from, and ultimately justified by, the primary role responsibility of a manager to create and implement a healthy work environment. This is one designed to be viable so that the organisation can compete successfully in the marketplace and meet the morally minimal standard that we ought not to cause unnecessary and avoidable harm to innocent people. Because the approach is goal directed, it is teleological and consequential in nature. I maintain that a workplace, or organisation, is healthy when all the components that constitute it are working coherently together to achieve legitimate organisational goals designed to ensure the best chances of being viable and competitive. Such an organisation is what I term optimally functional.