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Herbert Simon & Administrative thought


With the advent of  Herbert Simon, Public Administration  gained new horizon of understanding administration and behaviour of administrators.His contribution is noteworthy in developing rationalistic theory of decision making  but also focussed on the decision making capacity in Administration by pointing out three steps in decision making process. Simon insisted upon ‘rationality’ in the decision making process.  He was the one who describe administration physiologically which was previously described only on the basis of anatomy of organisation.

Herbert_Simon

Simon equates administration with decision making. He insisted upon how decisions are made, & how they be made more rationally & effectively. He suggested valid principles of Administration & now – how to apply these. He suggested empirical approach to the study of science of Administration. He proposed a new concept of Administration, based on theories & methodology.He proposed a new concept of administration which is based upon purely factual statements in Administrative science. That is why he calls traditional concept of Administration as proverbs & myths. His concept of decision making becomes the core of administrative action.

He opines that the decision making as the heart of the organisation. ‘Decision making is the’ Vocabulary of administrative theory which should be derived from logic & psychology of human choice. According to Simon, an organisation is a structure created for decision making. Decisions are made at all the levels of organisation. Every decision may affect less or more members within the organisation. Each decision, is based upon number of premises. The task of ‘deciding’ pervades the entire administrative organisation, quite as much as does the task of ‘doing’ – indeed, it is integrally tied up with the latter.

Simon divides the decision making process into three phases

  • Intelligence activity: The head of the organisation tries to understand organisational environment in which decisions have to be taken. Intelligence activity is finding occasions to take decisions.
  • Design activity: A head of the organisation tries to identify all possible options before making a final decision. This involves time & energy of the head to think over the best possible alternative.
  • Choice activity. Finally a head chooses one of the selected options, which becomes a decision.

Though these three stages are described by Simon, he says that these phases may appear to be simple & one precedes the other, in practice, the sequence is more complex, than what it appears to be. These three phases are wheels within wheels. These three phases are closely related to the problem solving – what is the problem, what are the alternatives & which alternative is the best? Thus, decision making is a choice between alternative plans of action & choice in turn, involves facts & values. To him, every decision consists of a logical combination of fact & value propositions. A fact is a statement of reality indicating the existing deed or action. Whereas a value is an expression of preference. He insists upon making analysis of ethical & factual statements that remain present in a ‘decision’. Every decision, thus is a mixture of fact & value.Simon views organisation as a ‘hierarchy of decisions’ – ‘a complex network of decision processes.’ Every decision involves the selection of a goal & a behaviour relevant to it, till the final aim is reached. Thus decision making involves close interrelationship between facts & values. In order to achieve a balance between facts & values, Simon proposes that every decision has to have rationality. Every decision must be rational.

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