Study: Tacit knowledge in unstructured decision process

Study: Tacit knowledge in unstructured decision process

Keywords: Evaluation, Strategic decisions, Tacit knowledge, Unstructured decision-making

Author(s): FΓ‘bio de Oliveira Lucenaa and Silvio Popadiukb





Summary Of Unstructured Decision-Making Process

The process routines of Mintzberg et al. (1976) are described below:

  • Recognition: In the identification phase, it represents the routine in which opportunities, problems, and crises are recognized, and the decision-making activity is evoked.
  • Diagnosis: Also in the identification phase, it corresponds to the routine in which the manager seeks to understand the evocative stimulus of the decision-making process and determines the cause-and-effect relations for the decision-making situation.
  • Search: In the development phase, the search is designed to identify possible solutions to the decision problem, which can result in alternatives to be evaluated by decision-makers.
  • Design: Also in the development phase, it is concerned with the design of alternative solutions. You can start with a vague image of a solution (custom-made) or by modifying ready-made solutions.
  • Screen: In the selection phase, it is a superficial routine related mostly to the removal of unfeasible solutions than with the determination of appropriate solutions. The time constraint defines this routine.
  • Evaluation and choice: Also in the selection phase, it involves judgment, analysis and bargaining. During the judgment, decision-makers choose on their own based on procedures not necessarily explainable. During the bargaining, the selection is made by a group of people who have conflicting objectives among themselves, each one with their own judgments. The analysis, in turn, represents a factual assessment made usually by technocrats, followed by choice by judgment or bargaining.
  • Authorization: Still in the selection phase, as a final routine, authorization occurs when people who carry out the assessment and choice do not have the authority to decide. In this case, the decision process follows for approval. The search for authorization does not necessarily occur only when the previous routines have been concluded; it may be provoked in the previous phases.


Summary Of Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge was originally described in depth by Polanyi (1962). According to him, it is made up of two components: (1) the proximal (subsidiary) (2)the distal (focal) , which, integrated, give the notion of objectivity to the connoisseur. However, the connoisseur can only seize the object epistemically by having as subsidies other knowledge that he cannot explain, which the author calls tacit knowledge. Soon, the knower knows more than he/she can report. For example, when using a cane, a visually impaired person feels in a focal way what is in the tip, not in the shaft (Saiani, 2004). Without the shaft – that is subsidiary – the visually impaired does not realize what is in the tip of the cane-focus. It should be stressed that other subsidiary elements (muscle movements, brain synapses, among others) contribute to the visually-impaired understanding of the situation. According to Takeuchi and Nonaka (2008), tacit knowledge is characterized by two dimensions: (1) The technical dimension includes difficulty to detect informal skills (know-how), such as highly subjective and personal insights, intuitions, hunches and inspirations derived from bodily experience. (2) The cognitive dimension consists of beliefs, perceptions, ideal values, emotions and mental models that are embedded in people, who consider them natural.

Possible Expressions And Prevalent Flows Of Tacit Knowledge At The Unstructured Decision-Making Process



From the data presented herein, we affirm that tacit knowledge was inserted in all UDP routines. Thus, the importance of tacit knowledge for strategic decisions should not be ignored.

The most observed manifestations of tacit knowledge were perceptions, tacit heuristic, experience, and intuitions. Thus, these tacit skills may represent the core of the tacit knowledge in the UDP in the cases studied. It is recommended, therefore, that competencies associated with such expressions and flows be fostered at the level of managers training.

Evaluation is a routine that could be inserted into the UDP of Mintzberg et al. (1976), as, at least in regards to tacit knowledge, its relevance was evidenced.

This research, however, had some limitations:

  • It was unable to perform, in greater depth, psychological studies to investigate the deepest cognitive and emotional aspects of managers.
  • As the investigation did not adopt quantitative instruments, with inferential analyses, it is considered statistically invalid; i.e. it cannot be generalized to all cases of UDP.
  • A certain level of subjectivity is associated with similar phenomena concepts (intuition versus insight, experience versus learning-by-doing, intuition versus perception versus sensibility).
  • It does not address, in depth, issues related to tacit knowledge in decisions, which is a relevant aspect.