Decision-making is one of the most important functions of a manager. A decision can be taken alone or by a group. When a decision is taken alone by a manager, it is known as individual decision-making and when a group takes a decision, it is called group decision-making. Group decision-making is a type of participatory process in which multiple people working collectively analyse situations, and problems, consider and evaluate alternative courses of action, and select from the alternatives or solutions.
The number of people involved in group decision-making varies considerably but usually ranges from two to seven. The people in a group may be demographically similar or completely diverse. Decision-making groups may be somewhat informal in nature, or formally set and charged with a specific goal. The process used to reach the decisions may be structured or unstructured. The nature and composition of groups, demographic makeup,size, structure, and purpose all affect their functioning to some degree.
The external contingencies faced by groups (conflicting objectives and time pressure) affect the development and effectiveness of decision-making of groups as well. Depending upon the time, nature of the problem and situation, decisions can be taken individually or in a group. Group decisions may be better than personal decisions. As a result, today organisations constitute teams, groups and committees to take decisions.
According to George R. Terry, “Decision-making is the selection based on certain criteria from two or more
According to Robbins, Millett, and Cacioppe, “Group decision-making is defined as the process of making a choice from among two or more alternatives via the interaction of two or more people”.
Group versus Individual Decision Making
Nature of Group Decision Making
The nature of group decision-making includes:
1) Active Interaction: There is active interaction among group members. This is possible through participation in decision-making. Thus, participation is the backbone of decision-making.
2) Related to Situation: It is always related to a situation. A manager may take one decision in a certain set of situations and another in a different set of situations.
3) Joint Responsibility: All the members are jointly responsible for the decision made by the group. Even if some of the members do not agree with the decision, still they are responsible for the decision because of the operation of the concept of joint responsibility.
4) Common Issue: At least two decision-makers are acting jointly on an issue under decision-making. The number of decision-makers in a group can be two or more. However, the number of group members is kept up to a manageable level so that proper interaction takes place among them to arrive at a decision.
5) Conflicting Opinions: There may be conflicting opinions in the group decision-making among the group members.
By-Products of Group Decision Making
In terms of speed, personal decision-making is greatest, but groups tend to be more creative and the final decision more acceptable. Groups, however, are generally less efficient than people. Managers who have to choose between an individual and a collective decision-making process must keep these aspects in mind. Two by-products of group decision-making have received a considerable amount of attention from researchers in Organisational Behaviour. These two phenomena have the potential to affect a group’s ability to appraise alternatives objectively and to arrive at quality decision solutions.
These two by-products are groupthink and group shift.
Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis, occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”. Groupthink includes the tendencies of groups to develop norms ( beliefs and shared habits) and to demonstrate conformity.
Groupthink does not necessarily result in poor decisions but simply increases the likelihood of such a decision by limiting discussion on various alternatives, evaluation of critical facts bearing impact on decisions, and adhering to identical decisions made in the past, though faulty.
According to Janis, “Groupthink is defined as a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group when members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action”.
Groups affected by groupthink ignore options and tend to take irrational actions that degrade other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in the background when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision-making.
Members of groups victimised by groupthinktend to be friendly and tightly knit. One drawback of a cohesive group is its tendency to produce groupthink, a dysfunctional process.
Various reasons for the occurrence of groupthink are as follows.
1) There is the development of an extraordinarily high sense of group cohesiveness. While cohesiveness times desirable, it is not desirable when a variety of opinions is as crucial as they are in decision-making.
2) High-ranking teams that make decisions without outside help are especially prone to groupthink because they are likely to have shared mental models, i.e., they are more likely to think alike. And homogeneous groups (ones with small to no diversity among members) are more likely to suffer from groupthink.
3) The group isolates itself from the negative consequences that its decision may have in, on others outside the group.
4) There may be an unintentional setting of narrow constraints on the acceptability of decisions. Decisions that would affect the norms and structures of the group are unacceptable, even though the basic parameters of the decisions would be otherwise beneficial.
5) The feeling of a high degree of competence, team spirit, and agreement may mislead the group to seriously overestimate the collective wisdom and hence not a good decision.
6) Certain members may take the role of social leader of the group and they may protect the group from any facts, criticisms, or evaluations that might after the illusion of unanimity and infallibility.
7) Two other conditions that encourage groupthink are highly consequential decisions and time constraints. A highly consequential decision will have a great impact on the group members and on outside parties. When group members feel that they have a limited time in which to make a decision, they may rush through the process. These antecedents cause members to prefer concurrence in decisions and to fail to evaluate one another’s suggestions critically.
In comparing group decisions with the individual decisions of members within the group, evidence suggests that there are differences. In some cases, group decisions are more conservative than individual decisions. More often, the shift is toward greater risk.
Group shift is a change in decision risk between the group’s decision and the individual decision and the individual decision that members within the group would make; can be either toward conservatism or greater risk. Group shift is the phenomenon that exists when group members exaggerate their initial position, hoping that the eventual decision will be what they really want.
Group shift can be viewed as actually a special case of groupthink. The decision of the group reflects the dominant decision-making norm that develops during the group’s discussion. Whether the shift in the group’s decision is toward greater caution or more risk depends on the dominant pre-discussion norm. The greater occurrence of the shift toward risk has generated several explanations for the phenomenon.
For example, it has been argued that discussion creates familiarisation among the members. The most plausible explanation of the shift toward risk, however, seems to be that the group diffuses responsibility. Group decisions free any single member from accountability for the group’s final choice. Greater risk can be taken because even if the decision fails no one member can be held wholly responsible.
There are various differences between groupthink and group shift. Groupthink is something that is more in theory. This relates to the different pressures that there are in groups and how thoughts and ideas develop and cause different opinions. Group shift is what happens within a group. There may be someone who has more dominant ideas and is more outspoken than other people and therefore they are going to take control of certain ideas over others or someone else who may have done it before.
All one has to do to remember the difference is that with groupthink it is just that, one is thinking things, one has ideas and views on different things in society and a group is going to think the same things. If there are disagreements within the group these can efficiently be sorted without there being too many problems. Group shift involved activities within the group and is more active.
With both of these happening all the time there are always going to be many changes and differences within each & every group that there is, this is just a natural turn of events and cannot be helped. Thus, group shift is sometimes for the better and groupthink is what is going to keep a group close and collected to one another.