Group Decision Making: Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages, Strengths, Weaknesses, Techniques

Group Decision Making: Strengths, Weaknesses, TechniquesGroup decision-making is a situation faced when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives.

What is Group Decision Making?

Group decisions may involve assimilating a huge amount of information, exploring many different ideas, and drawing on many strands of experience.

And the consequences of the right or wrong decision may be profound for the team and the organization.

For obvious reasons, decisions made in groups can vary considerably from those undertaken by individuals. It is this potential divergence in outcomes that make group decision making attractive.

Group decision-making is a situation faced when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives before them.

The decision is then no longer attributable to any single individual who is a member of the group. This is because all the individuals and social group processes such as social influence contribute to the outcome.

The decisions made by groups are often different from those made by individuals. There is much debate as to whether this difference results in decisions that are better or worse.

According to the idea of synergy, decisions made collectively tend to be more effective than decisions made by a single individual. Factors that impact other social group behaviors also affect group decisions.

Moreover, when individuals make decisions as part of a group, there is a tendency to exhibit a bias towards discussing shared information (i.e. shared information bias), as opposed to unshared information.

Advantages of Group Decision Making

Group decision making provides two advantages over decisions made by individuals: synergy and sharing of information.

Synergy is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When a group makes a decision collectively, its judgment can be keener than that of any of its members.

Through discussion, questioning, and collaboration, group members can identify more complete and robust solutions and recommendations. The sharing of information among group members is another advantage of the group decision-making process.

Group decisions take into account a broader scope of information since each group member may contribute unique information and expertise.

Sharing information can increase understanding, clarify issues, and facilitate movement toward a collective decision.

Disadvantages of Group Decision Making

Diffusion of Responsibility

One possible disadvantage of group decision making is that it can create a diffusion of responsibility that results in a lack of accountability for outcomes. In a sense, if everyone is responsible for a decision, then no one is.

Moreover, group decisions can make it easier for members to deny personal responsibility and blame others for bad decisions.

Lower Efficiency

Group decisions can also be less efficient than those made by an individual. Group decisions can take additional time because there is the requirement of participation, discussion, and coordination among group members.

Without good facilitation and structure, meetings can be considered in trivial details that may matter a lot to one person but not to the others.

Groupthink

One of the greatest inhibitors of effective group decision making is groupthink.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

By isolating themselves from outside influences and actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints in the interest of minimizing conflict, group members reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints.

Strengths of Group Decision Making

  • Groups generate more complete information and knowledge.
  • By aggregating the resources of several individuals, groups bring more input into the decision process.
  • In addition to more input, groups can bring heterogeneity to the decision process. They offer increased diversity of views.
  • A group will almost always outperform even the best individual. So, groups generate higher quality decisions.
  • Finally, groups lead to increase acceptance of solutions. Many decisions fail after the final choice is made because people don’t accept the solution. Group members who participated in making a decision are likely to enthusiastically support the decision and encourage others to accept it.

Weaknesses of Group Decision Making

  1. Group decisions are time-consuming. They typically take more time to reach a solution than making the decision alone.
  2. Group decisions have conformity pressures in groups. The desire by group members to be accepted and considered an asset to the group can result in squashing any overt disagreement.
  3. Group decision can be dominated by one or a few members. If this dominated coalition is composed of low and medium ability members, the group’s overall effectiveness will suffer.
  4. Finally, group decisions suffer from ambiguous responsibility. In an individual decision, it’s clear who is accountable for the final outcome. In a group decision, the responsibility of any single member is watered down.

Group Decision Making Techniques

Managers in organizations often need to take the decision based on consensus. They need members of a team to discuss debate and decide on a mutually agreeable conclusion.

Though group decision making is a powerful technique it has its own disadvantages as it is time-consuming. Members may be unclear about their roles and if not handled well, there could be some bitter feelings between the members. Nevertheless, its advantages are more than the possible disadvantages.

As all the members are involved in the process, it is likely to be accepted easily and members would be more willing and abiding by the decision taken. Besides, there could be more generation of ideas with more information flow.

So, how can managers facilitate a productive group decision-making process?

Listed below are a few techniques that can assist managers in their efforts towards arranging a meeting for the purpose of group decision making.

There are a few techniques of group decision making.

Types of group decision-making techniques are;

  • Brainstorming.
  • Nominal Group Technique.
  • Electronic Meeting.
  • Multi-Voting.
  • Delphi Method.
  • Dialectic Decision Methods.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a process for developing creative solutions to problems. This technique was developed by Alex Osborn a partner in an agency. It is a popular method for encouraging creative thinking in groups of about 8 people.

Alex Faickney Osborn, an advertising manager, popularized the method in 1953 in his book, Applied Imagination. Ten years later, he proposed that teams could double their creative output with brainstorming.

Simply brainstorming is meant to overcome pressures for conformity in the interacting group that retard the development of creative alternatives.

It is built around four basic guidelines for participants:

  • Generate as many ideas as possible.
  • Be creative, freewheeling, and imaginative.
  • Build upon, extend, or combine earlier ideas.
  • Withhold criticism of others’ ideas.

It is a combination of group problem solving and discussions. It works on die belief that the more the number of ideas, the greater the possibility of having a solution to the problem that is acceptable to all. It starts with the group generating ideas which are then analyzed, with action points based on the discussions.

Brainstorming works by focusing on a problem, and then deliberately coming up with as many solutions as possible and by pushing the ideas as far as possible.

One of the reasons it is so effective is that the brainstormers not only come up with new ideas in a session but also spark off from associations with other people’s ideas by developing and refining them.

Nominal Group Technique

Another technique is the nominal group technique (NGT), which is a group process involving problem identification, solution generation, and decision making.

The nominal group technique restricts discussion or interpersonal communication during the decision-making process, hence, the term nominal. Group members are all physically present, as in a traditional committee meeting, but members operate independently. Specifically, a problem is presented and then the following steps take place:

  • Members meet as a group but, before any discussion takes place, each member independently writes down his or her ideas on the problem.
  • After this silent period, each member presents one idea to the group. Each member takes his or her turn, presenting a single idea until all ideas have been presented and recorded. No discussion takes place until all the ideas have been recorded.
  • The group now discusses the ideas for clarity and evaluates them.
  • Each group member silently and independently rank-orders the ideas. The idea with the highest aggregate ranking determines the final decision.

The chief advantage of the nominal group technique is that it permits the group to meet formally but does not restrict independent thinking, as does the interacting group.

It’s the method of tallying and coming to a resultant.conclusion that sets the nominal group technique apart from other methods.

The initial stage of the technique gives each individual a chance to state his opinion on what the solution should be. He’s also allowed to elaborate slightly with a brief accompanying explanation about why he chose the way he did.

Duplicate solutions are then eliminated from the pool, leaving only original solutions behind. The individuals then rank the remaining solutions according to numerical preference. All of these preferences are tallied and considered to render the most accurate results.

Electronic Meeting

The most recent approach to group decision making blends the nominal group technique with sophisticated computer technology.

It’s called the computer-assisted group or electronic meeting. It is a meeting in which members interact by a computer, allowing for anonymity of comments and aggregating of votes.

Once the technology is in place, the concept is simple. Issues are. presented to the participants and they type their responses into their computer screen. Individual comments, as well as aggregates votes, are displayed on a projection screen.

The major advantages of electronic meetings are mystery, honesty, and speed.

Participants can anonymously type any message they want and it flashes on the screen for all to see at the push of a participant’s board key. It also allows people to be brutally honest without penalty. And it’s fast because chitchat is eliminated, discussions don’t digress and many participants can “talk” at once without stepping on another’s toes.

The future of group meetings undoubtedly will include extensive use of this technology.

Team decision making is a time-consuming process and before the team leader organizes the participation of the full team, he/she must be sure that he/she has enough time and resources for the decision-making process and choose a technique that is most appropriate in a given situation, keeping the profile of team members in mind.

Multi-Voting

It starts with a number of rounds of voting where an individual casts his/her vote for the options that are shortlisted. Each individual can cast one vote at a time.

In this way, the options favoring the maximum number of votes is carried to the next round.

This process is repeated until a clear winning option is obtained.

Delphi Method

In this method of decision making, the facilitator allows team members to individually brainstorm their ideas and submit their ideas “anonymously”. The other team members do not know the owner of the ideas.

The facilitator then collects all the inputs and circulates them among others for modifying or improving them. This process continues until a final decision is made.

Delphi technique was originally developed by Rand Corporation as a method to systematically gather the judgments of experts for use in developing forecasts.

It is designed for a group that does not meet face-to-face. The Delphi method is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.

The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After recruiting participants, the manager develops a questionnaire for them to complete.

The questionnaire is relatively simple which contains straightforward questions that deal with the issue, trends in the area, new technological developments, and other factors the manager is interested in.

The managers summarize the responses and reports back to the experts with another questionnaire.

This cycle may be repeated as many times as necessary to generate the information the managers need. It is useful when experts are physically dispersed, anonymity is desired, or the participants are known to have trouble communicating with one another because of extreme differences of opinion.

This method also avoids the intimidation problems that may exist in decision-making groups.

On the other hand, the technique eliminates the often fruitful results of direct interaction among group members.”

Dialectic Decision Methods

Some face-to-face decision taking groups converge too quickly on one alternative while overlooking others. Their incomplete evaluation of options may reflect either the participants’ dislike of meetings or their lack of willingness to raise and confront tough issues.

The dialectic decision method (DDM), which traces its roots to Plato and Aristotle, offers a way of overcoming these problems.

The dialectic process begins with a clear statement of a problem to be solved. Then two or more competing proposals are generated. A key step follows in which participants identify the explicit or implicit assumptions that underlie each proposal.

The group then breaks into advocacy subgroups, which examine and argue the relative merits of their positions.

Then the entire group makes a decision based on the competing presentations. This decision may mean embracing one of the alternatives, forging a compromise from several ideas, or generating a new proposal.

The merits of DDM include a better understanding of the proposals, their underlying premises, and their pros and cons by the participants. Members are also likely to feel more confident about the choice they made.

Disadvantages include the propensity to forge a compromise in order to avoid choosing sides and the tendency to focus more on who were the better debaters than what the best decision should be. Nevertheless, the dialectic method holds promise for future decision¬making groups.