The Manager as a Critical Thinker

October 17, 2010

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Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the position of a memo from the Human Resources Vice President of Triad Insurance Company of Indianapolis (TICI) applying the 10 steps of critical thinking.
To begin, the authors of asking the right questions, a guide to Critical thinking define values ???as the unstated ideas that people see as worthwhile.??? They also identify four primary values of a critical thinker; these values are autonomy, curiosity, humility, and respect for good reasoning wherever you find it. These values are tools for reminding us the importance of paying close attention to individuals who have and use a different set of value priorities.
The Issue and the Conclusion
The issue in the memo is whether, or not Triad Insurance Company of Indianapolis should invest in a leadership development program. The memo was a reaction to a suggestion that was posed at an executive meeting which is the link between the question and the memo. In the conclusion of the memo the Human Resources Vice President uses the word should which is identified by Brown and Kelley as prescriptive issue indicator. These are two clues help to confirm the issue. The conclusion of the memo is that TICI should not invest in an executive leadership program.
Reason
There were several arguments Ms. Khali presented in the memo as to why she believed that the executive training program should not be implemented. To begin, she stated that the Company had been in business for over 50 years. She further expressed support for that reason by adding that TICI had an average growth rate of 12 % per annum and that none of the currently executives attended leadership training and the company prospered, in spite of that fact. According to the memo the annual growth rate of 12% is. Next, The VP of Human Resources surveyed the executive staff and all but one agreed with her perception that leaders are ???born, not made???. She added a quote from a famous economist to give her position additional value. More additional support was provided in the memo was that indentified qualities of ambition, self-confidence, and intelligence as innate. Examples such as Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were provided. Ms. Khali even provided a personal reason stating that individuals with tall physical stature was another quality possessed by leaders and gave examples of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, john F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Colin Powel, and Barack Obama. The fact the all of the senior executives of the Company except the individual who suggested the executive leadership program were over six feet tall was provided as well.
Ambiguity
First, as it relates to cost, we cannot make any determination that the executive leadership program would cost too much until we have an idea of the projected benefit of having a bigger pool of junior executives in house as opposed to hiring externally. The amount of $100,000 dollars a year??™s sounds high, but in the context of making million dollar decisions that senior executives make would that still be a reasonable amount in the context of spending money to make money. Next, the survey taken may have been biased. Ms. Khali does not offer any information about the context of the survey, other than ???all but one agreed with the notion???. It is unclear about the exact questions or results of the survey and whether the senior staff agree with the lack of success and effectiveness of an executive leadership program, or agreed with the belief that leaders are ???born, not made???. Secondly, a Wikipedia definition leadership is discussed in the memo which may not be the shared definition of leadership at TICI. An opponent??™s challenge of the definition and could say that many other qualities are also found to be innate in leaders. Finally, the author of the memo speaks about sending ???the wrong people??? which is ambiguous because it is unclear on whether a committee be established to determine who was selected for training, or would the managers be responsible for selecting the candidates for training.
Value and Descriptive Assumptions
Ms. Khali makes assumptions that the operations manager is actively seeking her position. She also makes assumptions about Mr. Clarke??™s motivations and assumptions that tall physical stature is a characteristic of leaders. One could easily take the opposite position of Ms. Khali, making the assumption that his intentions are improving the Company??™s executive pool by developing the skills and talents of existing junior executives. Additionally, one could have the opposite value priorities and believe that men of average stature demonstrate better leadership.
Descriptive Assumptions
There is no basis for Ms. Khali??™s definition assumptions about the tall physical stature of leaders. No logical support for Ms. Khali??™s conclusion of not supporting the executive development program.
Fallacies in Reasoning
The biggest fallacy with Ms. Khali??™s reasoning is her reasoning that leaders possess tall physical stature. Fallacies seriously damage an argument, according to brown and Kelley (2010). One would make the argument that there were just as many average and short Presidents or great leaders. Ms Khali??™s own statistics limited her statement to American leaders.
Evidence
Brown and Kelley define evidence as explicit information communicated to support the dependability of a factual claim (2010). Ms. Khali mentioned an ad hock survey in which she asked senior executive staff if they agreed with the notion that leaders ???are born, and not made???. This was a biased survey not conducted independently. Next, Ms. Khali could not provide any substantial; believable evidence about the tall physical stature of leaders. She also mentioned that she suspected Mr. Clarke of wanting her position as Vice President of Human Resources, but she failed to provide any evidence of activities that would lead a reasonable person to the same conclusion. This is an example of intuition evidence; which ???relies on unconscious processing that largely ignores relevant evidence and reflects on biases???, Brown and Kelley (2010).
Rival Causes
Ms. Khali did provide any alternate explanations as to why she wrote the memo, other than Mr. Clarke the Director of Operations suggested the implementation of the leadership program at TICI.
Deceptive Statistics
The incomplete statistics provided by Ms. Khali only painted a partial picture. If she had included the entire list of presidents she, more than likely would have had a different perspective on the tall physical stature possessed by leaders. There are have been forty-four presidents and they all have been of varying statures, but the Ms. Khali made an extremely broad statement about leaders and only referenced six (Internet, 2010).
Significant Information Omitted
The author of the memo fails to provide information on the theories of the Aspen Institute that ???are not appropriate for the culture of TICI.??? Leaving out critical information about the theories of an organization which provides a neutral venue for discussing leadership ideals and ideas would lead one to question whether the ideals and ideas were relevant to good leadership. The omission goes against the values of a critical thinker; respect for good reasoning wherever you find it as discussed by Brown and Kelley (2010).
Reasonable Conclusions are Possible
Based on the most important reasons offered in the memo, budget constraints and successful growth at a rate of 12% per year, TICI should not implement an executive leadership program. However, one alternate conclusion would include deleting unsupported statements, and false or misleading information.
Conclusion
The authors, Brown and Kelley, describe weak-sense critical thinking as thinking to defend your current belief or those you are paid to have (2010). They describe the purpose of this type of thinking as resistant and annihilating to any opinion that is not like your own. This line of thinking exposes us to self-deception, conformity, and making avoidable mistakes. On the other hand, Brown and Kelley describe Strong sense critical thinking as ???the use of the same skills to evaluate all claims and beliefs, especially your own.??? When we systematically apply critical thinking in the manner discussed, we use our cognitive skills of retention and analysis to better our own conclusions, beliefs, and decisions. Autonomy, Curiosity, Humility, and Respect for good reason wherever you find it, are the four basic values of a critical thinking that will provide you with the justifiable satisfaction about your current beliefs.
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References:
Browne, N. and Keeley, S. (2010). Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking, 9th Ed. Prentice Hall.
Internet (2010). The presidents by height and bmi. Retrieved: October 17, 2010. Available at: http://home.comcast.net/~sharonday7/presidents/AP060303.htm

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