Careers & Student Outcomes

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Group demonstrates teamwork, honesty and leadership necessary for success in Managerial Judgment and Decision Making course.

"Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision."
Peter Drucker

It’s been estimated that a person makes more than 35,000 decisions a day. Some, like whether to hit the snooze button, are made in a split second without much conscious analysis. Others, such as if it’s the time to make a career move, require thoughtful reflection and examination.

Four Stevens online MBA students recently put that idea to the test with their assignment in professor Michele Lewski’s Managerial Judgement and Decision Making class. The course’s objective is to “help students understand how decisions are made, why they are often less than optimal, and how decision-making can be improved.” The curriculum also provides concrete strategies to invite challengers, reframe and test assumptions and data, look broadly at both the short- and long-term, and more.

Instead of choosing, as Lewski described, a “slam dunk, generic decision” to evaluate, the group used the decision-improvement strategies taught in the class to probe one of their teammate’s desire to leave a successful career in media and entertainment and begin his entrepreneurial journey in the world of aquaculture (raising aquatic animals or cultivating aquatic plants for food).

Josh Oh first became interested in the subject through the work of a chef but became more fascinated after doing further research on its sustainability benefits.

Two photos of Joshua Oh. The first representing his work in media. The second representing his work in aquaculture.“This was a very big personal decision career-wise and something that I've been considering for a long time,” Josh said. “I got stuck in a rut in some ways of how I wanted to think about this change, and I latched onto this one idea and built out what that would look like for me.”

Enter Mariel Ogurek, Steven Palacios and Melanie Ung. Familiar with each other as part of the same online cohort, the group wasn’t afraid to ask questions and make suggestions that might have been hard to hear, both on the actual decision and how to do approach the assignment.

“I think what made this so successful was the way we stemmed away from the assignment treatment,” Steven said. “We did what we needed to do, but we had constant debate. We were going back and forth while ensuring that we recognized each other’s leadership roles and skills. It wasn't just yes or no, or simple answers. We engaged and conversed, then gave each other ideas and advice on how we could proceed moving forward.”

That approach didn’t surprise their instructor. The group, who had all previously taken her Leader Development course, had consistently demonstrated their ability to go above and beyond.

“That's leadership, right?” professor Lewski replied when asked about the group’s teamwork. “I think in our professional lives we can all scratch the surface, but when you’re willing to challenge someone because you want to make them better, that's leadership. And I think they do it with class and respect.”

“That is something that we talked about in class, too, having that psychological safety for people to be able to openly communicate,” Mariel continued. “We definitely have that in this group. There's that level of comfort where we can say something that Josh isn’t going to agree with, but he might need to hear it.”

The messages may not have been matched with the “happy story” he had imagined, but they were heard and appreciated.

“It was eye-opening and sobering, really, to get the perspectives that I hadn’t considered,” Josh said. “But that's part of the class. It's identifying the biases and blind spots that we all have and being able to rely on others in the context of that psychological safety to take it in.”

Selecting such a unique scenario to evaluate was a risk. Would the process and lessons apply to other decisions and situations? The answer turned out to be a resounding yes.

“I've been in a couple of classes with Josh, and we all heard his story,” Melanie said. “It is super fascinating, and I feel like a lot of the techniques that we talked about during the class could be applied to almost any situation. We went over the decision matrix with Josh and how to use that tool to go over broad decision-making like that. I feel like a lot of these things can be transferable. So even though we focus on using the tool for Josh's decision, it can apply to any situation, and having that practice was beneficial to us outside of his decision.”

“Having a decision strategy in general is not something I ever thought about,” Mariel added. “I feel like in the past I was always thinking about things unconsciously. Now, I am more conscious, and knowing that there are multiple different tools you could take from depending on the scenario is a big takeaway. It can be one tool, or it could be a multitude of tools.”

While certainly not the only group to do an outstanding job on the assignment, the foursome’s ability to go beyond an academic exercise and treat it from a more professional standpoint demonstrated exactly the type of work they’ll be faced with as business leaders and mentors.

“This group undoubtedly embodies a sense of team,” Lewski said.  “I believe they trust each other enough to challenge when needed, build on each of their strengths, and truly work together. The results of that teamwork show in the superb quality of their work. And that’s the goal!”