The Holistic Decision Making-I, The Emerging Scene

A brief review of the complexity of the contemporary and global decision-making in the corporate world.

The contemporary decision-maker is placed in an environment which demands a wider outlook than a narrow laser-like focus on profit and shareholder values. She has to or rather forced to, take into consideration the needs, interests and demands of the employees, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. She cannot and should not ignore the factors which lead to immediate commercial success like productivity, profit, quality and customer satisfaction. But she must also take into consideration other factors which determine the long-term effectiveness or sustainability of the organization like employee motivation, satisfaction or well-being, ethics and transparency, social responsibility, environmental preservation. We can find this recognition of the complexity of the emerging corporate scene in the “MBA Oath” which is a recent initiative of a grassroot movement of MBA students to restore ethical standards in management education. The first para of the oath states:

“As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.”

The oath goes on to state, as the first three postulates:

“Therefore I promise:

I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.

I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.

I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.”

We have now some understanding of the complexity of the emerging corporate milieu. The new or the future manager must be able to assess the impact of her decision on the stakeholders and the totality of the larger whole of which her organization is a part or in other words the capacity for holistic decision-making, which has to be:

  •  commercially successful
  •   ethically sound.
  •   socially responsible.
  •   environmentally sustainable.
  •   serve customer needs.
  •   maximize human wellbeing

The problem is too complex for reason to handle because it requires reconciling the conflicting demands and objectives of a multiplicity of stakeholders. It requires a higher intuition beyond reason; not an infrarational “gut-instinct” below reason but a suprarational insight beyond reason. This doesn’t mean reason has to be set aside. Reason has an important role to play in holistic decision-making. But the final decision can be arrived only by a higher intuition greater than reason.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

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