New Kepner-Tregoe Study Uncovers a Digital-Age Decision-Making Paradox: We're Speeding Up -- And Dumbing Down

Jun 29, 2000, 01:00 ET from Kepner-Tregoe, Inc.

    PRINCETON, N.J., June 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Decision making in the Digital
 Age is faster -- but not necessarily better -- a new study finds.
     The findings are based on the responses of 339 hourly workers and
 479 supervisors to a survey conducted by management consultants Kepner-Tregoe,
 Inc., headquartered in Princeton, N.J., and have been certified as reliable by
 Yankelovich Partners.  The responses reveal that today's decision makers are
 racing against the clock. Over 70 percent of all respondents say that the
 number of decisions they make during a typical workday has increased.  At the
 same time, 84 percent say that the average amount of time they are given to
 make each decision has either decreased or stayed the same.  All this in spite
 of the fact that more than half of both groups report having more and better
 information at their disposal.
     As a result of this increased time pressure, many organizations find
 themselves in "decision overdrive" -- going too fast to be effective and
 losing focus and precision in the process.
     When speed takes precedence, workers and managers report seeing quality
 suffer in the areas of budgeting/finance, organizational restructuring,
 personnel/human resources, customer service, and quality/productivity.
     When asked to specify in which ways decision making is compromised under
 time pressure, nearly half of all respondents point to poor information
 sharing.  Thirty-five percent of workers and 40 percent of managers cite
 failure to involve the right people as another frequent consequence of
 decision making on the fly.  Others high on the list include failing to agree
 up front on what should be accomplished, failing to obtain enough information,
 and not gaining commitment to a decision prior to implementing it.
     As powerful as technology's impact has been, it hasn't been able to
 overcome some of the age-old barriers to decision making:  the need for
 multiple approvals (cited by over 40 percent of workers and supervisors),
 organizational politics (more than a third of both groups), changing
 priorities (more than a quarter); and difficulty getting people to agree up
 front on what they want the decision to accomplish (25 and 26 percent,
     "Philosopher John Dewey once observed that humans differ from other
 animals in their ability to preserve their experiences," says Peter Tobia, the
 director of Kepner-Tregoe's Business Issues Research Group.  But how well do
 today's business organizations preserve their decision-making experiences?
 "Decision-making amnesia is epidemic," Tobia notes, "Over 90 percent of our
 respondents told us their organization doesn't keep and share information on
 how past decisions -- good or bad -- were made."
     While technology provides a common platform for sending data along the
 pathways of an organization, what's missing is a common, systematic approach
 to sorting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions about that data, especially in
 group situations.  Over four fifths of both workers and supervisors said their
 organization doesn't have such a system in place or, if it does, they're
 unaware of it.
     "Technology doesn't determine business success.  People do," adds Tobia.
 "And the success of business decisions still rests on people's analytical
 skills and their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another.  Under
 time pressure, these elements become more critical than ever, and no amount of
 technology can make up for their lack."

SOURCE Kepner-Tregoe, Inc.