Simon's Theory of Administrative Behavior
Simon (1976) clarified the processes by which goal specificity and formalization
contribute to rational behavior in organizations (Scott p. 45). He criticized
Fayol's platitudes and Taylor's "economic man" assumptions, proposing
the "administrative man" who pursues his self-interests but often
doesn't know what they are, is aware of only some of the possible decision
alternatives, and is willing to settle for an adequate solution than continue
looking for an optimal one (p. 45).
Simon distinquishes between the decisions a person makes to enter or leave
an organization and the decisions they make as a participant. Organizations
simplify decisions and support participants in the decisions they need to
Organizations simplify decisions by restricting the ends toward which activity
is directed. Goals supply the value premises that underly decisions. Value
premises (assumptions of desirable ends ) are combined with factual premises
to make decisions. The more precise the value premises, the greater effect
they have on decisions.
Participants in high positions make decisions with a higher value component,
people in lower positions make decisions with a higher factual component.
The top makes "what" decisions, the bottom "how" decisions.
Choice of ends can only be validated by fiat or consensus, choice of means
While goals are often vauge, they can serve as the starting point for a
series of mean-ends chains where one develops a set of means for the overall
goal, redefines each mean as a sub-goal, and then develops means for the
sub-goal, branching until the means are activities.
Each goal in the means-end hierarchy is an end to things below it and a
mean to those above it. Activities can only be evaluated against the goals
above it. Goals can be delegated to different units which simplifies the
decision making process for participants. Scott notes that "from this
perspective, an organization's hierarchy can be viewed as a congealed set
of means-ends chains promoting consistency of decisions and activities throughout
the organization". p. 46
According to Perrow (1986), Simon's model stresses unobtrusive control of
participants through training, information, standard operating procedures,
etc. -- channeling of attention and information.
Simon also notes the cognitive limitations of decision makers through his
and March's concept of bounded rationality (March and Simon, 1958).
Overall, Simon helps us understand how the decisions of hundreds or thousands
of individuals in an organization can be directed toward ultimate orgnizational