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Guide to Decision Making: Getting it More Right than Wrong by Helga Drummond

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Chapter 6

Shifting tides: power and politics in decision-making

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Anon

THE LAUNCH OF APPLE’S IPAD was bad news for rival computer companies. One of the hardest hit was Microsoft, which a decade earlier had been the first to produce commercially viable tablet computers but had dropped the innovation because of fears that tablets would suck resources from mainstream products.

In theory, that should not happen. In theory, firms allocate resources to where they can do most good. Employees, moreover, do as they are told. But theory is a poor guide to what happens in practice. Firms do not always select the best, or economically wisest, course of action. Even if they do, it does not mean that decisions are always executed faithfully – or even executed at all.

This chapter explores how the shifting tides of internal power and politics can result in firms being pulled off course. The golden thread running through what follows is that although decision-makers may be in charge, they are not necessarily in control. Half the battle is recognising the fact. The other half is taking control – often without appearing to. It is known as triumph through not contending.

The dynamics of power

Decision-makers may issue directives. Employees may attempt to carry them out faithfully. Yet the results may not be as intended. To understand why firms get pulled off course, it is necessary to step back and consider what power is, and what it is not. Power is the ...

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