I got a message from a former coworker that my direct senior engineer is retiring this year (2011).

I worked with the engineer for whole my engineering career and he always encouraged and inspired me to be a real engineer. His retiring is a big loss not only for me but also the organization (BOSCH).

I know that time cannot be ceased, but lossing an inspirational leader is a heartbreaking experience. 

I would like to tribute a study of mine to Mr. Chung, Ha-Seung. The research was conducted under Mr. Chung, Ha-Seung's permission and guidance, and I really thanks for his support and enthusiasm in developing engineers.

The study was published and presented at UKC (US-Korean Scientists and Engineers Conference) 2011 at Utah.

Thank you Mr. Chung, Ha-Seung, the real engineer whom I have ever known.

Jeonghwan Choi,

Seasoning Decision Styles of Engineers at Workplace


Presenter: Jeonghwan Choi, Ph.D. Student, MBA, ME

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, jeonghwan.choi@gmail.com


Is decision style matter for engineers? How engineers’ decision styles change over their career stages? By investigating nine engineers at research and development team in a German headquartered Korean manufacturing company, this study reveals that engineers’ decision styles change from avoidant / rational, dependent / intuitive to integrative / rational. These seasoning of engineers’ decision styles are caused by not only because of their development of technical expertise but also because of social interactions with their seniors and many stakeholders such as management, co-workers, and customers.



Decision style is the learned, habitual response pattern exhibited by an individual when confronted with a decision situation. It is not a personality trait, but a habit-based propensity (Scott & Bruce, 1994). Scott and Bruce (1994) indicate that innovative engineers have a certain problem solving style that is appropriate to the stage of the innovation cycle in which they are involved. Underpinning this study, they develop a new measure of decision style and propose five decision styles: rational; intuitive; dependent; avoidant; spontaneous (1995). Although there are many studies for managerial decision styles, little attention has been paid for engineers.



This study applies the qualitative case study method as a main research design since the changes of decision style is highly nested in with complex events within a real-life context. Nine engineers, from novice (2 years) to old (more than 30 years), who are all involved a quality improvement project participate this study. Technical reports, quality manuals, and standard quality management manuals are analyzed prior and post to conducting interviews



Results show that novice engineers have avoidant and rational decision styles while young engineers report more complex mixture of their decision styles. Mid-career engineers indicate more dependent and intuitive decision styles by emphasizing importance of ‘relationship with their seniors and co-workers’ than their technical tasks. But old engineers report that integrative and rational decision styles are appropriate to achieve successful engineering career in an organization.

Figure 1. Seasoning Engineer's Decision Style.



Decision making is an important expertise for engineers, and it is socially constructed and learned at the workplace. The changes of decision styles impact on organizational performance by moderating or elaborating conflicts between or within different career-staged engineers in organization.



1. Scott, S. G., & Bruce, R. A. (1995). Decision-making style: The development and assessment of a new measure. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 55(5), 818.

2. Scott, S. G., & Bruce, R. A. (1994). Determinants of innovative behavior: A path model of individual innovation in the workplace. Academy of Management Journal, 37, p580(28).


Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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