A multiple case study of decision making on pipfruit orchards : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Horticultural Science in Horticultural Management at Massey University, New Zealand
Traditional farm management texts view the farming firm as family oriented, owned and operated. In owner-operated settings owner's and manager's goals are assumed to be the same. However, corporate ownership structures, with ownership separated from management, make an important contribution to New Zealand agriculture. To further farm management research, teaching, and extension it is necessary to understand decision making within the specialised management structure of land-based corporates. Decision making, as described in the business literature, takes place in activities (primary or support). Decisions are of three types; structured, semi-structured and unstructured and are linked to decision levels; operational, tactical and strategic. Decision types and levels can be compartmentalised by management level. The relationship between decision making activity and decision type and level is unclear. Further, the relationship between activity and management level is yet to be explained. A multiple case study procedure, with an embedded design, was used to investigate decision making on corporate and owner-operated pipfruit orchards. Patterns were identified to describe actual decision making. These patterns were linked to the extant theory to identify the concepts and underlying propositions of managements' decision making. Decisions were classified into primary and support activities, decision type (structured, semi-structured or unstructured), and decision level (operational, tactical or strategic). The case study owner-operator predominantly made semi-structured operational decisions in primary activities. The corporate orchardist attempted to compartmentalise decision making by management level. However, this compartmentalisation was incomplete. The corporate made a significant number of unstructured and semi-structured decisions at lower management levels. Orchardists could improve decision making by making more decisions structured. In addition, the corporate has the ability to compartmentalise decision making which may lead to further improvements in decision making. A set of hypotheses are suggested that identify critical propositions between the three concepts of decision making and alternative management structures.