How to solve Decision Making questions in XAT Exam?

Would you like to read the book Lord of The Rings or watch movies?

Well, there! There you made a decision, didn’t you? 

We don’t know how many, but we make many decisions in a day. There is a simple process we unconsciously adopt while making various decisions throughout the day. We ask questions and measure the benefits of different possibilities to ultimately decide. The approach of solving Decision Making Singlets and Caseletes (covered in following examples) is similar, keeping few constraints in mind, given as below:

  1. What is the passage talking about.
  2. Identify the stakeholders
  3. Avoid personal biases
  4. Make a logical and ethical decision
  5. Only make an unethical decision in case of a life-death situation
  6. Develop alternative solutions, rate the alternatives, rate the risk of each alternatve.
  7. Ask better and relevant questions.
  8. Try to go for a middle path rather than taking up extreme measures
  9. Whatever option you choose must be in compliance with the law

DM sets are majorly classified into three categories:

  •  Business/Financial situations
  • Situations related to Corporate/Human Resources/ Management
  • Ethical Dilemmas

After reading the passage, try determining questions that would summarise and focus only on the core problems in the case, like:

  • What happened?
  • What is the ultimate solution?
  • Are there any micro problems/situations in there?
  • Is any of the micro problem/situation a cause-effect pair?
  • Is there a root cause of the entire episode?
  • What is ethical to do?

Remember to mark these questions as relevant or irrelevant according to the answers it leads to. If the answer doesn’t lead to a problem-solving approach, mark it as irrelevant. If the answer gives a slightest of the probable solution, it can be relevant.

Example 1: You are running late for your office while on the way a traffic police stops you for not wearing a helmet. He tells you the fine is Rs 100 but getting the receipt will take some time or you can pay Rs 500 and leave immediately. What would you do?

In the above example, the following series of questions should be asked and then categorised as relevant(R) or irrelevant(IR) to the question.

  1. What Happened? Stopped by Traffic Police Officer: IR
  2. What is the ultimate solution? Paying and Leaving: R
  3. Would you be ethical or unethical here? Ethical: R

Considering the above situation, you are late for your office and a trading opinion of whether leaving immediately or waiting for the receipt would not save you from the time-lack you are already at. Thus, in the situation above you should choose to pay Rs 100 and wait for the fine receipt.

Example 2: In the above situation, if your friend meets with an accident in your neighbourhood and calls you for the help. 

When you would ask yourself question a and b, the answer would remain the same but in question c, here you would choose Unethical path. Few more questions you would ask yourself would be

  1. Is there any way to make your unethical option ethical? Yes, Reporting and filing an FIR against the traffic police officer about the situation.

Let us now take our understanding of decision making in solving the caselet given below. We will discuss the approach on how to attempt the following set

Questions 1-6: 

Mr. Rajiv Singhal, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Loha India Ltd., (a steel manufacturing company) had just been visited by several other directors of the company. The directors were upset with recent actions of the company president, Mr. Ganesh Thakur. They demanded that the board consider firing the president.

Mr. Thakur, recently appointed president, had undertaken to solve some of the management-employees problems by dealing directly with the individuals, as often as possible. The company did not have a history of strikes or any other form of collective action and was considered to have a good work culture. However, Mr. Thakur felt that by dealing directly with individuals, he could portray the management’s concern for the employees. 

An important initiative of Mr. Thakur was to negotiate wages of the supervisors with each supervisor. In these negotiation meetings, he would not involve anyone else, including the personnel department that reported to him, so as to take unbiased decisions. After the negotiation, a wage contract would be drawn up for each supervisor. This, he felt, would recognize and reward the better performers. 

Mr. Thakur successfully implemented the process for most of the supervisors, except those working in the night shift. For them, he had drawn up the contracts unilaterally benchmarking the wages of supervisors of the night with that of the supervisors of the day shift.

For several days, Ram Lal, a night shift supervisor, had been trying to seek an appointment with Mr. Thakur about his wages. He was disgruntled, not only over his failure to see the president, but also over the lack of discussions about his wage contract prior to it being affected. As a family man with six dependents, he felt his weekly wage should be higher than that granted to him. 

Last Thursday afternoon, Ram Lal stopped by the president’s office and tried to see him. Mr. Thakur’s secretary refused his request on the grounds that Mr. Thakur was busy. Infuriated, Ram Lal stormed into the president’s office and confronted the startled Mr. Thakur, with his demands for a better wage. Mr. Thakur stood up and told Ram Lal to get out of his office and express his grievance through official channels. Ram Lal took a swing at the president, who in turn punched Ram Lal on the jaw and knocked him unconscious. 

1. The most important causal factor for this entire episode could be: 

A. Trying to follow a divide-and-rule policy in his dealings with the supervisors. 
B. Inconsistent dealings of Mr. Thakur with supervisors. 
C. Paternalistic approach towards mature individuals in the organisation.
D. Legalistic approach to employee problems.
E. Inadequate standards for measurement of supervisors’ on-job performance. 

2. The situation with Mr.Lal could have been avoided if Mr. Thakur had 

1). Delegated the task of negotiation of wage contracts for night shift employees to Personnel department.
2). Created a process for supervisors working the night shift so that they could have had an opportunity to interact with him.
3). Created an open door policy that would have allowed employees to see him without any appointment.
4). Postponed the decision of wage revision for supervisors in the night shift for two months, since supervisors were rotated on different shifts after every two months.

The option that best arranges the above managerial interventions in decreasing order of organizational impact is:

A. 4, 2, 3, 1
B. 4, 3, 2, 1 
C. 4, 3, 1, 2 
D. 4, 1, 2, 3 
E. 2, 3, 1, 4

3. The most likely premise behind Mr. Thakur’s initiative regarding individualized meetings with the supervisors seems to be

A. Employee related policies should allow scope for bargaining by employees. 
B. Involvement of company’s president in wage problems of employees will lead to a better goodwill towards the management among the workers. 
C. Individual agreements with supervisors would allow the management to prevent any possible collective action by the supervisors.
D. Management will be able to force supervisors to accept lesser wages individually in this way.
E. He would be able to know who the troublemakers in the plant are by interacting with the supervisors. 

4. Out of the following, which one seems to be the most likely cause of Ram Lal’s grievance? 

A. His disappointment with the management’s philosophy of having one to one interaction as the supervisors were in a way being forced to accept the wage contracts. 
B. His being in the night shift had worked to his disadvantage as he could not interact with the management regarding his problem. 
C. He was not allowed to meet the chairman of the board of directors of the company 
D. Employment in the night shift forced him to stay away from his family during the day time and therefore he could not interact with his family members.
E. All of these. 

5. Apart from the supervisors working in the night shift, executives of which department will have most justified reasons to be disgruntled with Mr. Thakur’s initiative? 

1. Production department – for not being consulted regarding the behaviour of the supervisors on the shop floor. 
2. Finance department – for not taken into confidence regarding the financial consequences of the wage contracts. 
3. Marketing department – for not being consulted on the likely impact of the wage contracts on the image of the company. 
4. Quality control – for not being able to give inputs to Mr. Thakur on how to improve quality of steel making process. 
5. Personnel department – for it was their work to oversee wage policies for employees and they had been ignored by Mr. Thakur. 

A. 1 + 2 + 3 
B. 1 + 4 + 5 
C. 1 + 2 + 5 
D. 1 + 3 + 4 
E. 3 + 4 + 5 

6. Which of the following managerial attributes does Mr. Thakur seem to lack the most? 

A. Emotional instability under pressure. 
B. Proactive problem solving.
C. Ethical behaviour.
D. Emotional stability under pressure. 
E. Independent decision making

Again let us ask ourselves questions and mark R for relevant questions and IR for irrelevant questions. The first questions that we should be asking as soon as we finish reading the passage should be:

  1. What happened? Fight.(R- seems relevant)
  2. Is there another way out that avoids the fight? Yes. What? Mr. Thakur could have calmly handled the situations instead of retaliating. (R)
  3. What else happened? Night shift supervisors couldn’t meet with Mr. Thakur (IR-seems irrelevant)
  4. Is the situation in question c, a cause-effect type? Yes. 

So, could situation in question c be avoided? Yes. How? By Planning and organizing a meeting with night shift supervisors.

Observe: The question c, in the first go might look irrelevant to the whole passage but when we analyse and understand that the action in question a and question c are related to each other, question c becomes automatically relevant. Why? Because not being able to set up a meeting with night shift supervisor becomes the root cause of the entire problem above. Had that been tackled properly, none of the consequences would have arised. So now we mark question c and d as relevant.

Now, let us try to solve the questions given in the set and see if there is more to dig deeper in the situation above or not.

Answer 1: B

Well, didn’t we just find the answer to this question? Now, you see why learning the art of asking better questions is important.

Answer 2: E

Again, we have the approach of solving this by checking the answer in the second part of the question d., which shortlists option 1, 2 and 3. We know that a meeting has to be conducted between Mr. Thakur and night shift supervisors. This shortlists options 2 and 3. In the passage it is clearly mentioned that Mr. Thakur bypassed the personnel channel. This arranges these options in the order: 2,3. Obviously, option 4 is last in order as it delays the decision by 2 months. Therefore, the correct order would be 2,3,1,4.

Answer 3: B

In this question, option elimination works better. In the first go itself, option E and D are completely out of context as there isn’t any mention of these view point in the passage. Looking at option C and B, we know the passage talks about that there haven’t been strikes and the organisation leads a good work culture and management’s concern for its employees. Therefore, we leave these options for a while and move to option A. Again there is no mention of bargaining in the passage, therefore we eliminate this. Reading the last line of paragraph 2, we know that Mr. Thakur’s initiative portrays management’s concern and therefore the premise of this initiative has to be related to why the management would want to show concern to its employees? Thus, the answer becomes option B.

Answer 4: B

We can easily come to option B as the answer by eliminating other options. Clearly, there is no mention of Mr. Lal’s dissatisfaction towards night shift or Mr. Thakur’s philosophy. Therefore, option A and D can be ruled. Since,  A and D are ruled out, option E is gone too. Now, looking at option B and C, we know that Mr. Lal wasn’t allowed to meet Mr. Thakur but he wanted to meet him to register his grievances. Therefore, option C is ruled out and option B is the answer.

Answer 5: C

Let us take one department at a time and short list our options and mark do they have a valid reason or not.

Production department: Valid Reason
Finance department: Valid Reason
Marketing department: Invalid
Quality department: Invalid
Personnel department: Valid 

Answer 6: D

It is obvious from the way Mr. Thakur reacted that he lacks emotional stability under pressure.
Always remember to keep approach simple. Decision making is a day-to-day activity. Asking right and better questions easily lead you to the correct options, as we have seen in the above examples. Instead of viewing DM sets with third person viewpoint, try to enact the roles while staying detached from the characters as well to avoid emotional decision. For example: In example 3, question 4, if we would have been attached to Mr. Lal, then we would have found option A correct and we would have misinterpreted paragraph 4 as an act of forcefully setting wages. You see? This problem can be completely steered away by asking different kinds of questions. 

Practice as many questions as you can!

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