garbage can model of decision-making
‘garbage can’ model of decision-makinga pattern of decision-making in organizations, identified by the American Professor of Management, James March (1928 -), in which organizational members generate a stream of problems and solutions, especially when choices need to be made. These are in effect ‘dumped’ into a ‘garbage can’; only a small minority of solutions will be incorporated in the final decision (if one is made at all). The basis of this model is that organizational members frequently have favoured courses of action: wherever they can they seize the opportunity provided by a problem or the organization's needs to make a choice to advocate the implementation of their solution. In this sense organizations can be said to be a set of ‘free floating’ solutions waiting for problems to arise. Decisions can be seen as a more or less fortuitous by-product of problems, solutions and choices coming together at a particular junction. See ORGANIZATIONAL ANALYSIS, ‘ORGANIZED ANARCHY’.
Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson