Techniques, Process, Advantages, Disadvantages of Group Decision Making
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.
Group decision making is an important part of every successful organization. It involves a collaborative effort among team members to arrive at a consensus on a particular problem or issue. Effective group decision making requires a certain level of professionalism and understanding. By encouraging open communication, establishing clear objectives, encouraging open communication, and maintaining a professional tone, team members can work together to arrive at effective solutions that benefit everyone involved.
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 Decision Making Techniques
Several techniques can be used by managers for group decision making. The various techniques used in group decision making are as follows:
Techniques of group decision making are given below:
1) Interacting Groups: The most ordinary form of group decision making takes place in interacting groups. In these groups, members meet face-to-face and depend on both verbal & nonverbal interaction to communicate with each other. But interacting groups usually censor themselves and pressure particular members toward conformity of opinion. Brainstorming, the nominal group technique and electronic meetings have been suggested methods to reduce many of the problems inherent in the traditional interactive group.
2) Brainstorming: Brainstorming is meant to overcome stresses for conformity in the interacting group that retard the expansion of making alternatives. It does this by utilising an idea-generation process that specifically encourages any alternatives while withholding any criticism of those alternatives.
In a regular brainstorming session, six to twelve people sit around a table. The group leader clearly states the problem so that it is understood by all participants. Members then “freewheel” as many options as they can in a given length of time. No criticism is allowed, and all the options are recorded for later discussion and analysis. That one idea encourages others and judgments of even the most bizarre suggestions are withheld until later inspiring group members to “think the unusual.”
3) Nominal Group Technique: The Nominal Group Technique restricts discussion or interpersonal communication during the decision-making process. Group members are all physically present, as in a standing committee meeting, but members work independently. Specifically, a problem is presented and then the steps given below take place:
i) Members meet as a group but, before any conversation takes place, each member himself writes down his ideas on the problem.
ii) After this silent duration, each member presents one idea to the group. Each member takes his turn, presenting a single idea until all ideas have been recorded and presented. No discussion takes place until and unless all ideas have been recorded.
iii) The group now discusses the ideas for transparency, and clarity and evaluates them.
iv) Each group member independently and silently ranks the ideas. The idea with the highest total ranking defines the final decision.
4) Electronic Meeting: The most current approach to group decision making combines the nominal group technique with sophisticated computer technology. It is called the electronic meeting or computer-assisted group. Once the technology is in place, the idea is simple, a maximum of up to 50 people sit around a horseshoe-shaped table, empty except for a series of computer terminals. Issues are explained to participants and they type their responses onto their computer screen. Individual comments, as well as aggregate votes, are shown on a projection screen in the room.
5) Delphi Technique: A systematic forecasting method that involves structured interaction among a group of professionals on a subject. The Delphi Technique generally includes at least two rounds of experts answering questions and giving explanations for their answers, providing the opportunity between rounds for changes and revisions. The multiple rounds, which are stopped after a pre-defined standard is reached, enable the group of experts to come to a consensus forecast on the matter being discussed.
Process of Group Decision Making
The group decision making process includes various steps which are as follows:
Step 1: Problem Identification: This is the first step, for making group decisions. There are some general points which should be evaluated:
1) Define the problem in a situation or behavioural terms.
2) Problem definition should be free to refer to causes and or faults.
3) Be careful not to invoke defensiveness on the part of group members.
4) Problem definition should invoke mutual interests.
5) Problem definition should culminate in a clear primary objective.
6) A set of criteria or constraints that a successful solution should meet should be developed. This constraint set should be based on stakeholder or claimant interests.
Step 2: Problem Diagnosis: Develop a model of the problem using the behaviour or objective as the dependent variable. The independent variables in the model should represent the potential causes of the problem. Avoid the trap of assessing the blame. This is the second and most essential phase. In this phase, any mistake can create a huge problem. Developing or constructing a model is an “intuitive” exercise. Once the model is established, it tends to become the basis for the remainder of the process. Be sure there is a consensus on the model.
Step 3: Solution Generation: This is the third stage at which all the possible alternatives are looked upon here, we generate several possible solutions before starting the evaluation. Among all the possible alternatives the best one is chosen. While generating alternatives, different viewpoints of different members become a hurdle.
There are some issues:
1) Do not get locked into a limited solution set too early.
2) Work to encourage new and different approaches. Consensual schema usually limits the scope of options that groups consider.
Step 4: Solution Evaluation: Evaluation should be based on comparing alternative solutions to the constraint set developed in the problem identification phase. At this stage, some group-related problems can emerge as everyone wishes that his viewpoint should be accepted.
The method used to determine intra-group conflicts is important at this point. The use of forcing (voting), smoothing, withdrawal, compromise and integrative decision-making (win-win) methods have different consequences in terms of solution quality, solution acceptance, and group maintenance.
Step 5: Framing a Decision: When the possible outcomes of possible courses of action are thus analysed with the help of data and models, it becomes easy to select a certain course of action to manage a particular problem. Such a selection is designated as making or taking a decision. If data is not adequate and appropriate data and or if data is not realistic and flexible to take care of a varied decision environment, the decision may not be taken.
Step 6: Follow-Up Actions: Decisions or no decisions, the decision-maker has to plan follow-up strategies and actions; he has to anticipate the reactions (moves and counter-moves) of others who are likely to be affected by his decisions. In that light, he has to make long-run (remote) and short-run (immediate) decisions. Decision-making is a continuous process; it has got a never-ending sequence; provided we realise that a problem induces a decision which creates a new problem, which calls for a new decision and so on.
Group decision making advantages and disadvantages are given below:
Advantages of Group Decision Making
The advantages of group decision making are as follows:
1) Pooling of Knowledge and Information: Since many individuals are involved in group decision making, more data and information can be brought to bear on the decision. The group delivers specialized inputs in defining variables and suggests options that someone alone is unlikely to come up with.
2) Satisfaction and Communication: Personal Satisfaction and comment in group decision making are constantly enhanced. This may be caused by an attitude change regarding the alternatives as a result of the discussion. It may also be caused by the development of group spirit as people find similarities among themselves.
3) Personnel Development: Group decision making is a source of development of individuals in the organisation. Learning is improved when one observes others, practices what has been seen, and experiences the favourable rewards received for successfully repeating the new behaviour.
4) More Risk Taking: Every decision concerns some kind of risk because a decision affects future events and one can never be sure whether a certain decision varies in terms of risk-taking aptitudes and capabilities, risk-taking increases when these people are pooled in a group. Thus, risk-taking tends to be higher in group decision making.
5) Greater Number of Approaches to the Problem: Most people develop familiar patterns for decision-making. If each person possesses his unique way of searching the information, analysing problems, and the like, participatory decision processes provide more angles of attack at each stage of the decision-making process.
6) Greater Number of Alternatives: Partly as a result of increased information and the use of varied decision-making patterns, groups typically can identify and evaluate more alternatives than one individual could. In listening to each other’s ideas, group members may unite information to develop amazing solutions that no single member could conceive.
7) Increased Acceptance of a Decision: Shared decision-making breeds ego involvement. That is, people tend to support and accept decisions that they make rather than those others make. The more people, who accept a decision and are committed to it, the more likely the decision is to be implemented successfully.
8) Better Comprehension of a Problem and Decision: More people understand a decision when it is reached by a group. This factor is especially important when group members are to be involved in implementing the decision.
Disadvantages of Group Decision Making
The disadvantages of group decision making are as follows:
1) Time-Consuming: Inevitably, groups take more time to reach decisions than individuals.
2) Individual Domination: Because of the group dynamics prevailing in group interaction, some people dominate the group processes and have considerable bearing on decision results. This may be because such people may enjoy higher status because of their age, expertise, experience, or other influencing factors.
3) Problem of Responsibility: No doubt, group decision brings more dedication and commitment from group members and its execution is easier but this is true when the decision implementation result is positive. When this result is negative, no one can be held responsible.
4) Groupthink: Groupthink is related to norms and describes situations in which group pressures for conformity deter the group from critically appraising unusual, minority, or unpopular views. It is a disease that attacks many groups and can delay their performance,
5) Goal Displacement: Sometimes, secondary concerns such as winning an argument, making a point, or getting back at a competition displace the primary task of making a sound decision or solving a problem.
6) Conflicting Secondary Goals: Many times, participants in group decisions have their turf to protect or axes to grind. Succeeding in an issue becomes more important than making a quality decision. Too much energy is devoted to political manoeuvring and infighting and too little to reach a quality decision.
7) Undesirable Compromises: Groups often make decisions that simply compromise resulting from differing points of view of individual members. This is likely when a group must decide on a controversial issue. Controversial issues, by definition, result in differing views. After a brief discussion, the group may conclude that a decision favouring either side is unacceptable, so a compromise solution is chosen. Such a process may result in a low-quality decision.
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 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 groupthink tend 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 involves 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 with one another.