Victor Vroom’s Decision
Vroom’s research has helped thousands of leaders make better decisions;
but his career path was determined by an important decision of his own.
When he was a junior faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania,
he was torn between becoming an academic or a musician. Vroom recalled,
“The chairman in the department of psychology said, ‘Victor, if you
want to get anywhere in this world, you’re going to have to make a
decision,’ and I did--to become an academic and analyze how leaders
make their decisions.”
Vroom, the John G. Searle Professor of
Organization and Management, studies the social aspects of decision
making. “Who needs to be involved in the making of the decision? What
are the social processes that should intervene between the occurrence
of a problem and its solution, whether the problem is a disaster on a
ship at sea or a need to revamp the MBA curriculum?” Vroom asked with a
He developed a normative model that can guide
managers in choosing a decision-making process, with categories ranging
from autocratic to highly participative. He collected data from dozens
of managers about successful and unsuccessful decisions they had made.
Then Vroom wondered: “What was there in the description of the cases
that could be used in predicting the degree and form of participation
that would be most successful?” These situational factors took the form
of a decision tree in which managers answered a series of questions
about the nature of the team, the problem or decision, and the
organizational context. From these answers, they were guided to the
“best” decision process.
Vroom then concentrated on the
development of a more complex and user-friendly model, which he called
Expert System. A manager using this online decision aid was asked a set
of 11 questions concerning their problem, the answers to which are
input into four equations designed to predict the effects of their
choice on decision quality, implementation, time, and development.
also created a computer program called Lestan (Leadership Styles
Analysis). It provides a detailed analysis of a manager’s leadership
style based on that person’s intended actions to a set of 30
decision-making situations. These cases are all based on real
situations and require the respondent to assume various roles ranging
from a CEO in an electronics firm to a charter sailboat captain to a
high school principal. Furthermore, the cases are very strictly
selected so that each of eight factors in the normative model are
systematically varied across the set of cases. This enables Lestan to
show which situational factors influence each manager’s choices and
which are ignored.
Lestan produces a 12-page report for each
manager comparing their choices with the normative model, a peer group
(usually a set of managers in their own organization or training
program), and a comparison group (usually a set of managers in a
position to which they aspire). Based on these comparisons, the
computer generates a set of recommendations to help the managers
increase their effectiveness.
Expert System and Lestan are now available on the Internet (decisionmakingforleaders.com).
Vroom hopes the website will provide managers, executive coaches, and
leadership trainers with up-to-date leadership development technology
on demand and in their choice of language. He also anticipates that the
data collected will increase our understanding of cultural,
organizational, and gender differences in leadership.
Source: Yale School of Management (mba.yale.edu)