Group Decision Making

  • Post last modified:26 October 2021
  • Reading time:15 mins read

Decision Making

The process of decision making is very important for the organisation and individuals. It is critical for the success of any company. Sound decisions may take a company to the right path and achieve set objectives while the wrong decisions may become devastating for the organisation.

There are various theories of Decision Making. Here we will discuss some of them, in brief, to understand the basic process of Decision making before we deal with Group Decision Making. The process of Decision Making is complex when we talk of individual decision making.

It becomes highly complex when we deal with a process of decision making in a group. Group dynamics influence decision making. The perceptions, prejudices and beliefs of members of a group add to multiple factors to the entire process of group decision making.

Group Decision Making

Group decision-making is commonly known as collaborative decision-making when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives before them and take a decision.

The decision is then no longer attributed to one individual group member as all the individuals and social group processes like social influence contribute to the decision.

The decisions made by groups are mostly different from those made by individuals. For example, groups tend to make decisions that are more extreme than those made by individual members, as individuals tend to be biased.

While on the other hand it is also seen that in some groups it that most safe and conventional decisions are made because any extreme decisions are ruled out by a majority of group members. It, therefore, depends on the dynamics of the group and the strength of group. Hence team building becomes so important for companies.

As mentioned above, Group Decision Making may lead to a better decision or may lead to a worse decision as compared to individual decision making.

Thus there are advantages as well as disadvantages of Group Decision Making. Organisations have to take a call when they should resort to group decision making and when and to whom they give the responsibility to take individual decision making.


Advantages of Group Decision Making

Group decision making has two advantages over individual decision making.

Synergy

It is the idea that the whole is greater than the aggregate of its parts. When a group makes a decision collectively, its judgment can be powerful than that of any of its members. Through discussing, questioning, and a collaborative approach, group members can identify more complete and robust solutions and recommendations.

Sharing of information

Group decisions take into account a wider scope of information as each group member may contribute distinct information and expertise. Sharing information increases understanding, clarifies issues, and facilitates movement towards a collective decision.


Disadvantages of Group Decision Making

The major disadvantages of group decision making are as follows:

Diffusion of Responsibility

Group decision making results in the distribution of responsibility that results in a lack of accountability for outcomes. In this way, everyone is responsible for a decision, and no one really is. Moreover, group decisions can make it easier for members to refuse personal responsibilities and blame others for bad decisions.

Lower Efficiency

Group decisions can sometimes be less efficient than individual decisions. It takes additional time because there is a need of active participation, discussion, and coordination among group members. Without good facilitation and structure, meetings can get eliminated in trivial details that may matter a lot to one person but not to the others.

Groupthink

One of the biggest disadvantage of effective group decision making is groupthink. It is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the wish for harmony or conformity results in an illogical or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

By refraining from outside influences and actively suppressing opposing viewpoints in the interest of minimising conflict, group members reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of substitute viewpoints.

Groupthink sometimes produces dehumanising actions.


Techniques for Group Decision-Making

In order to eliminate groupthink and other disadvantages as mentioned above, the following four different techniques are commonly used which help to make a collaborative decision that is best for the group. These group decision-making techniques are:

Brainstorming

Brainstorming, developed by Alex Osborn (1962) more than fifty years ago, is a technique for creatively generating alternative solutions to a problem. The unique feature of brainstorming is the separation of ideas from evaluation.

Earlier, we noted the importance of generating a wide variety of new ideas during the generating alternatives step of the decision-making process. This increases the number of alternatives from which managers can choose when evaluating alternatives and making their decisions.

People tend to evaluate solutions to problems when they are proposed, which often eliminates many creative and feasible ideas from further consideration.

The following rules are central to brainstorming:

  • Do Not Evaluate or Discuss Alternatives. Evaluation comes later. Avoid criticism of your own or others’ ideas.

  • Encourage “Freewheeling.” Do not consider any idea outlandish. An unusual idea may point the way to a truly creative decision.

  • Encourage and Welcome Quantities of Ideas. The greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the number of useful ideas will remain after evaluation.

  • Encourage “Piggybacking.” Group members should try to combine, embellish, or improve on an idea. Consequently, most of the ideas produced will belong to the group and not to a single individual.

As an idea-generating technique, group brainstorming may not be any more effectivethan individual brainstorming. However, the technique is in widespread use today in alltypes of organisations.

Generally, a group of between five and ten in number, sitting together, generate free flow of ideas on a specific topic.

The purpose of Brainstorming is that, if more ideas can be originated, then it is likely that there will be a unique and creative idea among them. All these ideas are written on the Board so that all the team members can see every idea and try to improvise these ideas.

The brainstorming technique is very effective when the problem is comparatively precise and can be simply defined. A complex problem can be divided into parts and each part can be dealt with separately at a time.

This is a widely used technique in any group decision making for creative problem solving and innovation.

Nominal Group Thinking

This technique is similar to brainstorming except that this approach is more structured. It motivates individual creativity. Members form the group for namesake and operate independently, originate ideas for solving the problem on their own, in silence and in writing. Members do not communicate well with each other so that strong personality domination is evaded.

The idea with the highest cumulative ranking is selected as the final solution to the problem.

Didactic Interaction

This technique is applicable only in certain situations but is an excellent method when a situation actually demands it. The type of problem should be such that it generates output in the form of yes or no. Say for example, a decision is to be made whether to buy or not to buy a product, to merge or not to merge, to expand or not to expand and so on.

These types of decision require an extensive and exhaustive discussion and investigation since a wrong decision can have serious consequences.

There are many advantages as well as disadvantages of this type of situation. The group that makes the decision is divided into two sub-groups, one in favour of the “go” decision and the opposing in favour of “no go” decision.

The first group enlists all the “pros” of the problem solution and the second group lists all the “cons”. These groups meet and discuss their discoveries and their reasons.

After tiring discussions, the groups switch sides and try to find weaknesses in their own original standpoints. This interchange of ideas and understanding of various viewpoints results in mutual acceptance of the facts as they exist so that a solution can be put together around these facts and ultimately a final decision is reached.

Delphi Technique

Researchers at the Rand Corporation developed the Delphi technique in Group Decision Making the 1960s(Dalkey, 1969). Unlike brainstorming and the nominal group technique, the Delphi approach relies completely on a nominal group; that is, participants do not engage in face-to-face discussions.

Instead, their input is solicited by mail at their various home bases, thus allowing the polling of large numbers of experts, clients, executives, or constituencies who are removed from the organization by distance and scheduling.

For example, suppose the president of a large manufacturing firm wishes to evaluate new technology for manufacturing a new product line. Selected members of the organisation, plant managers, executives, consumers, and nationally renowned experts could participate in the various phases of the Delphi process.

The Delphi technique has many variations, but generally, it works as follows:

  1. The organisation identifies a panel of experts, both inside and outside the organisation, and solicits their cooperation.

  2. Each member of the panel receives the basic problem.

  3. Each individual expert independently and anonymously writes comments,suggestions, and solutions to the problem.

  4. A central location compiles, transcribes, and reproduces the experts’ comments.

  5. Each panelist receives a copy of all the other experts’ comments and solutions.

  6. Each expert provides feedback on the others’ comments, writes new ideasstimulated by their comments, and forwards these to the central location.

  7. The organisation repeats Steps 5 and 6 as often as necessary until consensus is reached or until some kind of voting procedure is imposed to reach a decision.

    Success of the Delphi technique depends on the expertise, communication skills, andmotivation of the participants and the amount of time the organisation has available tomake a decision.

There are several benefits of the Delphi approach are:

  • First, it eliminates many of the interpersonal problems associated with other group decision-making approaches.

  • Second,it enlists the assistance of experts and provides for the efficient use of their time.

  • Third, itallows adequate time for reflection and analysis of a problem.

  • Fourth, it provides for awide diversity and quantity of ideas.

  • Finally, it facilitates the accurate predictionand forecasting of future events.

The major objectives of the Delphi technique include the following:

  • To determine or develop a range of possible program alternatives.

  • To explore or expose underlying assumptions or information leading to different judgments.

  • To seek out information that may generate a consensus among the groupmembers.

  • To correlate informed judgments on a subject that spans a wide range ofdisciplines.

  • To educate group members concerning the diverse and interrelated aspects of thesubject.

Today, numerous organisations in business, government, the military, health- care agencies, and schools are using the Delphi technique. Research shows that the technique is superior to ordinary group decision making in terms of the number and quality of ideas generated and group members overall satisfaction (Corey, 2011).

The major disadvantage of the Delphi technique is the amount of time involved in going through the questionnaire phases of the process. Variations of the Delphi technique have been used to overcome this problem.

This technique is the improvised version of the nominal group technique, except that it involves obtaining the opinions of experts physically distant from each other and unknown to each other.

This isolates group members from the undue influence of others. Basically, the types of problems sorted by this technique are not specific in nature or related to a particular situation at a given time.

For example, the technique could be used to explain the problems that could be created in the event of a war. The Delphi technique includes the following steps “

The problem is first identified and a panel of experts are selected. These experts are asked to provide potential solutions through a series of thoughtfully designed questionnaires.

Each expert concludes and returns the initial questionnaire.

The results of the questionnaire are composed at a central location and the central coordinator prepares the second set of questionnaires based on the previous answers. Each member receives a copy of the results accompanied by the second questionnaire.

Members are required to review the results and respond to the second questionnaire. The results typically trigger new solutions or motivate changes in the original ideas. The process is repeated until a general agreement is obtained introduction.


Decision Making Processes

Decision-making processes within a business are often guided by a formalised decision-making logic or plan. One such approach involves three general steps.

Identify the Required Decisions

First, the business must identify the decisions that need to be made. These range from day-to-day operating decisions to strategic decisions that must be made by top management. This step is important for three reasons.

First, it helps to ensure that the decision is actually made. Did you ever get busy and forget to do something important? I know I have, so I tend to keep a reminder list for things I really need to do.

The third reason is to facilitate advance scheduling for the activities, such as meetings and data gathering, that might be required as part of the decision-making process.

Identify the Participants

The second step is to define the people responsible for the decisions identified in the first step. In other words, the business needs to identify who should participate in the decision-making process. Upper management should use its time wisely by delegating operating decisions to lower levels.

On the other hand, operating managers should involve upper management in decisions that may affect the business as a whole.

Define the Rules

The third step is to define the broad ‘rules-of-the-game.’ This includes such things as selecting the final decision-makers, stating the types of information that are required, defining the decision criteria, and specifying how the decisions will be evaluated.


Types of Group Decisions

There are several types of group decisions:

Unilateral

A decision made by one person, often the nominal leader, without consultation with other group members. At times, it can be appropriate. For example, a minor decision that needs to be made right away. If it is repeated and inappropriate, this type of decision can carry a very low group commitment.

Handclasp

Decisions made by two members. One suggests, the other endorses and carries it through without adequate discussion or group consideration. This type has high commitment for the two who made it, but generally not for the others.

Clique

Similar to the Handclasp but with more people involved. This type usually occurs when a close sub- group decides what is good for the rest of the group. Repeated clique decisions cause splintering of the group and low commitment.

Baiting

A technique that reduces discussions around decisions. A person will say, “Now we are all agreed, right?” and only the very brave will speak up. This usually suppresses obvious dissention and lowers group commitment.

Majority Rule

A popular way of making decisions. However, if the outcome of a secret ballot vote would produce any surprises, it is not a good time to make majority rule decisions. What happens is that a sizeable segment of the group may feel devalued and decrease their commitment to the decisions in which they “lose” to the majority vote.

Consensus

Similar to Majority Rule, but everyone knows that what they think and value is being considered by all, and there will be no surprises if you vote. Each person will agree that, under the circumstances, which may not be ideal, the decision made is a fair and workable one that they can live with and support.


Human Resources Tutorial

(Click on Topic to Read)

Human Resource Management

Leave a Reply