Effective Management of Health and Safety Programs: A Practical Guide, 3rd edition. Moser R Jr., ed., Berverly Farms, MA: OEM Press, 2008 Mar; :191-202
In developing programs, responding to problems, and accomplishing day-to-day activities, managers have to make decisions and solve problems [1,2]. Many decisions and problem-solving efforts will be relatively easy, but others will tax the skills and capabilities of the manager. It is possible to delegate these functions, or obtain recommendations from a committee, but the manager is ultimately responsible for the final actions. NEED FOR DECISION MAKING: In their book, In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman document the significance of making decisions by noting that successful companies have a bias for action and are not paralyzed by the decision-making process . The same principle applies to service organizations, such as health and safety units. One manager for whom I worked commented that he frequently made wrong decisions but that at least he made decisions. He considered himself successful if the majority of his decisions, and particularly the most important ones, were correct the majority of the time. One might argue with this supposition, but my personal experience has been that the worst managers are those who delay making decisions indefinitely. Both the organization and its members suffer from such stagnation. Supervisors must recognize that "not deciding now" is a decision and is often the worst possible one. Ordinarily, it is not possible to have all of the desired information needed to make a decision. Certainly, a health and safety director wants to obtain and evaluate as much information as reasonably possible before making an important decision, but repeatedly de. ferring action until "one more study" has been done can severely impact an organization. It is essential that the manager recognize the fine line between reasoned deliberation and "paralysis by analysis," or procrastination. SUMMARY: The problem-solving process depicted above is only one of many systematic approaches that the manager may use in making decisions. For example, one method that works well for some managers is to try to define how the problem under study could be caused. By defining all the factors needed to cause the problem, methods to solve or prevent the problem may become evident. Regardless of the method used, it is important that, once significant problems are identified, the problem-solving process be conducted as expediently as possible without compromising the quality of the effort. Failure to proceed rapidly compromises morale, demeans the importance of the problem, and may open the door for liability for the organization.