Decision Making Processes - the Missiles of October

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The dynamic process of decision making covered in the movie, The Missiles of October (1974,) was almost nail-biting. As I watched the movie, it was difficult for me to separate myself from the fact that I was a baby in 1962. As such, I was completely dependent on my parents for protection, but how aware were my parents that their safety rested in the hands of the President of the United States? His ability to make a decision concerning the future of millions of lives was put on the line. He would be responsible for the outcome of the decision, good or bad.

Harrison (1999), explains the dynamic process of decision making as a complex process, full of information, detours, uncertainty, fuzziness, and conflict. Though most decisions made in corporate America do not nearly reach the pinnacle of the decisions made by world leaders during the missile crisis, it still needs to be reviewed as a process we should understand if we are to make appropriate decisions as leaders in our own right.

In order to follow a decision making process, one must be aware of setting objectives. Objectives allow us to measure our success in accomplishing the organizational purpose (Harrison, 1999). President Kennedy had a number of objectives when he was first made aware of the potential for a national crisis. He was presented with photographic evidence that the Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba, which were a direct threat to the United States. In previous meetings, he was assured by the Soviet Union that this was not the case, however, American intelligence proved otherwise. His immediate reaction was for his own personal benefit. It was an election year and he wanted to win the election. By making the wrong decision, he could lose the faith of the American public. His objective changed as he learned more information from his committee, the public, and his own contacts with the Soviet Union. Win or lose the election, his major concern became avoiding a war. The potential outcomes of his decisions included finding American in the midst of a war, and potentially with a new president and government. Granted, his desire was for a peaceful resolution and to govern for four more years, however we can see how one decision has the ability to stream into so many other potential areas (Bazerman, 2005).

After an objective is determined, in this case, to avoid a war, the decision making processes demands that we search for alternatives. How can we avoid a war? During the many meetings conducted either with the president or without, it became apparent that some of the alternatives were going to be difficult to decide upon. The movie mentions blockades, quarantines, invasion, threats, and war. In addition, alternatives also involve informing the public and the world of the processes being considered, and to what degree should they be informed. Every decision made, leads to yet another decision, another problem or solution. The process becomes ineffective when responsible parties don't use known information, or ignore it and make haphazard decisions (Harrison, 1999).

Once alternatives are discovered, the next process must include the evaluation and comparison of these alternatives. To accomplish this, one must use the processes of judgment, bargaining, and analysis (Harrison, 1999). This process was not taken lightly during the movie. Every participant brought their own agendas to the table. Some worked in an effort to please the president, some to insure their own internal voices would be at rest (Bazerman, 2005). They all had different strengths and weaknesses and they all had different backgrounds and experience. This group needed to use all of their skills to the best of their ability in order to evaluate all of the potential alternatives to war. Oddly, some were apt to declare war even before all of the information was on the table. Had this been an individual's responsibility instead of a group decision, the wrong person...
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