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Jeffrey Pfeffer
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Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and author of the Sept. 2010 book, POWER: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t.

The Only Strategy

As Victor Vroom pointed out in research conducted decades ago, the choice of management approaches to pushing a proposal has less to do with the specifics of the proposal than the distribution of power and authority.

If you have time and, more importantly, if others are crucial for either the approval or implementation process, you should definitely involve those others in the process of formulating the final "answer." As research shows, people think much more highly of things they have been involved in creating, and involvement is one of the best ways of building commitment to some course of action.

In the case of Obama and health care reform, he has chosen the right, and possibly only, strategy. He can not, on his own, do very much--almost all the changes contemplated require congressional action. So, he could send something up to the Hill, but it would just be reworked anyway. Much better and more effective to involve others in the formulation. Such a strategy coopts them and builds support. And this approach also brings more perspectives to the table--and for complex issues, more heads are customarily better.

The typical top-down decision making and proposal approach suffers from two flaws: hubris and an overestimation of the power and insight of those at the top, and an insufficient appreciation of the fact that although the more involving approach could take longer and looks messier, it cuts down the risks and time to actually getting what is decided turned into action.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer

 |  March 2, 2009; 11:49 AM ET
Category:  Public policy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Posted by: carolinev | March 4, 2009 1:07 PM
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