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 al.” communication during the decision-making process, hence, the term nominal. 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: 

Process of Group Decision Making

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 fault.

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 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 the 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&n 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 reaching 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.

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