Management in times of crisis: Can collective plans prepare teams to make and implement good decisions?

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Purpose: Crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic pose extraordinary challenges to the decision making in management teams. Teams need to integrate available information quickly to make informed decisions on the spot and update their decisions as new information becomes available. Moreover, making good decisions is hard as it requires sacrifices for the common good, and finally, implementing the decisions made is not easy as it requires persistence in the face of strong counterproductive social pressures. Design/methodology/approach: We provide a “psychology of action” perspective on making team-based management decisions in crisis by introducing collective implementation intentions (We-if-then plans) as a theory-based intervention tool to improve decision processes. We discuss our program of research on forming and acting on We-if-then plans in ad hoc teams facing challenging situations. Findings: Teams with We-if-then plans consistently made more informed decisions when information was socially or temporally distributed, when decision makers had to make sacrifices for the common good, and when strong social pressures opposed acting on their decisions. Preliminary experimental evidence indicates that assigning simple We-if-then plans had similar positive effects as providing a leader to steer team processes. Originality/value: Our analysis of self-regulated team decisions helps understand and improve how management teams can make and act on good decisions in crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)2155-2176
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 10.12.2020

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Anna Mayo, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, for her helpful feedback on an earlier draft of this paper and gratefully acknowledge financial support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through research units FOR 1882 “Psychoeconomics”; FOR 2374 “Riskdynamics” and through project 441551024 “Updating Risk”. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 703042.

    Research areas

  • Psychology - Causal processes, Collective implementation intentions, Team decisions, Laboratory experiments