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🦉 10x curiosity - Organisational Decision Making - The Garbage Can Model


🦉 10x curiosity

July 3 · Issue #254 · View online

🦉 A weekly sample of links that made me think 🤔

Also published in 10x Curiosity
The garbage can model of organisational choice provides a great mental model for how decisions are made within organisations. Published 50 years ago by Cohen, March & Olsen, provides a theory which 
enable choices to be made and problems resolved, even when the organization is plagued with goal ambiguity and conflict, with poorly understood problems that wander in and out of the system, with a variable environment, and with decision makers who may have other things on their minds. (Cohen, March & Olsen 1972)
Traditional decision theory indicates that decisions are made in a logical linear process (Figure 1)

Contrary to this, the paper highlights that an Organization is similar to a garbage can where you can find:
  • Choices looking for problems.
  • Participants with issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired. (Soapbox anyone…?!)
  • Solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer. (when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail!)
  • Decision makers looking for work.
One can view a choice opportunity as a garbage can into which various kinds of problems and solutions are dumped by participants as they are generated. (Garbage Can Model — Explained — The Business Professor, LLC)
The framework is particularly relevant in organisations the authors class as “Organised Anarchies”
Organized anarchies can be characterized by a sense of chaos and dynamism. Problems and solutions are loosely coupled. Proposed solutions change during bargaining. All participants involved do not get the chance to fully participate, and have limitations on their time and energy. Many things happen at once, all competing with each other for attention. Amongst the confusion, participants try to make sense of their role in the organization (Garbage can model — Wikipedia)
The terrific “The Safety of Work” podcast Ep.88 Why do organisations sometimes make bad decisions? goes through the concept in some detail and is a great reference for further exploring the model
Further Reading
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