various methods of group decision making

Managers like to believe that they are accomplished in such group activities like group decision making, goal setting and problem solving. However-their ability to implement such techniques is often hindered by their lack of understanding of the dynamics of group-decision making processes. As a result, these managers often end up perpetuating problems that they themselves create through their insensitivity to the needs of other group members. Hence, instead of achieving a consensus, such managers take decision by the use of their authority. Sometimes, they lead the group towards decision making by minority rule or by majority rule. The better way to achieve consensus would be for them to track how decisions are made and ensure that they are achieved by consultations with group members.

Methods of Group Decision making in Organisational Behaiviour

The various methods of group decision making are given below:

  1. Decision by Lack of Response: The most common group decision-making method is the decision by lack of response. In this method, someone suggest an idea and before anyone else has said anything about it, without any deliberations it is rejected.
  2. In other words, all ideas that have been simply bypassed have in a sense been rejected by the group. The idea has been rejected because the 'rejections' is a simply a common decision not to support the idea. This method is also called the 'plop' method because the suggestion of the proposer has been 'plopped'.

  3. Decision by Authority Rule: Many groups have a power structure that makes it clear that the leader (chairman or someone in authority) will make the ultimate decision. In this case the group can generate ideas and hold free discussion, but the chairman or the leader may say that he has heard the discussion and has decided upon a given plan. The authority rule method produces a bare minimum of involvement by the group and unless the leader is very proficient he will not be able to take good decisions.
  4. Decision by Minority Rule: A single person can enforce a decision, particularly if he is the chairman and does not give in to the opposition. A common form of minority rule is for two or more members to come to a quick and powerful agreement on a course of action and implement it through the chairman or other powerful members of the group. Usually in the decision by minority rule, one, two or three people employ the tactics that produce action and therefore must be considered decisions but which are taken without the consent of the majority.
  5. Decision by Majority Rule: Under this system, it is felt that if the majority of participants feels the same way, it is often assumed that, that decision is the best. On the surface, this method seems completely sound but often it turns out that decisions made by this method are not well implemented, even by the group that made the decision.

This is so because of two kinds of psychological barriers:

  • The minority feels that there was an insufficient discussion or that their point of view were not properly understood and they may therefore feel misunderstood and sometimes resentful.
  • The minority members feel that voting (done to understand majority preference) has resulted in two camps and that their camp has lost.

As there are time constraints in coming to a group decision and because there is not perfect system, a decision by consensus is one of the most effective methods. This method is time consuming. Recognising the several types of group decision-making is only part of the process. Managers must be specific in their approach to the one that is best in their own situation.

Techniques for Group Decision Making: - The most common form of group decision making takes place in face-to-face interacting groups. Interacting groups often censor themselves and pressure individual members toward conformity of opinion. Once a manager has determined the technique that a group decision approach should be used, he or she can determine the technique best suited to the decision situation. Seven techniques are summarized below:

  1. Brainstorming: Brainstorming is a good technique for generating alternatives. The idea behind brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible, suspending evaluation until all of the ideas have been suggested. Participations are encouraged to build upon the suggestions of others, and imagination is emphasized. Brainstorming is meant to overcome pressures for conformity in the interacting group that retard the development of creative alternatives. Groups that use brainstorming have been shown to produce significantly more ideas than groups that do not.
  2. In typical brainstorming session, about 6 to 10 people sit and discuss the problem. The group leader states the problem in a clear manner so that all participants understand it. No criticism is allowed, and all the alternatives are recorded for later discussion and analysis.

    One recent trend is the use of electronic brainstorming instead of verbal brainstorming in groups. Electronic brainstorming overcomes two common problems that can produce group-brainstorming failure:

    1. Production Blocking: While listening to others, individuals are distracted from their own ideas. This is referred to as production blocking.
    2. Evaluation Apprehension: Some individuals suffer from evaluation apprehension in brainstorming groups. They fear that others might respond negatively to their ideas. Brainstorming, however, is merely a process for generating ideas.
  3. Nominal Group Technique (NGT): 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. NGT has the following discrete steps:
    1. Individuals silently list their ideas.
    2. Ideas are written on a chart one at a time until all ideas are listed.
    3. Discussion is permitted, but only to clarify the ideas. No criticism is allowed.
    4. A written vote is taken.
  4. NGT is a good technique to use in a situation where group members fear criticism from others. The chief advantage of the NGT method is that it permits the group to meet formally but does not restrict independent thinking, as does the interacting group.

  5. Delphi Technique: The Delphi technique originated at the Rand Corporation to gather the judgements of experts for use in decision-making. Delphi method is similar to the nominal group technique except it does not require the physical presence of the group's members. Experts at remote locations respond to a questionnaire. A coordinator summarizes the responses to the questionnaire, and the summary is sent back to the experts. The experts then rate the various alternatives generated, and the coordinator tabulates the results. The following steps characterize the Delphi technique:
    1. The problem is identified and members are asked to provide potential solutions through a series of carefully designed questionnaire.
    2. Each member anonymously and independently completes the questionnaire.
    3. Results of the questionnaire are compiled at a central location, transcribed, and reproduced.
    4. Each member receives a copy of the results.
    5. After viewing the results, members are again asked for their solutions.
  6. The advantages of the Delphi Technique are as follows:

    1. The Delphi technique is valuable in its ability to generate a number of independent judgements without the requirement of a face-to-face meeting.
    2. The Delphi technique can be used for decision making among geographically scattered groups.
    3. The cost of bringing experts together at a central location is avoided.

    The Disadvantages of the Delphi Technique are mentioned below:

    1. The Delphi technique is extremely time consuming, it is frequently not applicable where a speedy decision is necessary.
    2. The method may not develop the rich array of alternatives as the interacting of nominal group technique does.
    3. Ideas that might surface from the heat of face-to-face interaction may never arise.
  7. Electronic Meetings: This method, blends the nominal group technique with sophisticated computer technology. Issues are presented to participants and they type their responses onto their computer screen. Individual comments, as well as aggregate votes, are displayed on a projection screen.
  8. The advantages of electronic meetings are

    1. 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 keyboard.
    2. It allows people to be brutally honest without penalty.
    3. It is fast because discussions don't go off the point and many participants can "talk" at once.

    The disadvantages of electronic meetings are

    1. Those who can type fast can outshine those who are verbally eloquent but poor typists;
    2. Those with the best ideas don't get credit for them; and
    3. The process lacks the information richness of face-to-face oral communication.
  9. Quality Circles and Quality Teams: Quality circles are small groups that voluntarily meet to provide input for solving quality or production problems. Quality circles are often generated from the bottom up; that is, they provide advice to managers, who still retain decision-making authority. As such, quality circles are not empowered to implement their own recommendations. They operate in parallel fashion to the organization's structure, and they rely on voluntary participation.
  10. Quality teams, in contrast, are included in total quality management and other quality improvement efforts as part of a change in the organization's structure. Quality teams are generated from the top down and are empowered to act on their own recommendations.

    Quality Circles and quality teams are methods for using groups in the decision making process. The next method, self-managed teams take the concept of participation one step further.

  11. Self-Managed Teams: Self-managed teams make many of the decisions that were once reserved for managers, such as work scheduling, job assignments and staffing. Unlike quality circles, whose role is an advisory one, self-managed teams are delegated authority in the organization's decision-making process.
  12. Before choosing a group decision-making technique, the manager carefully evaluates the group members and the decision situation. Then the best method for accomplishing the objectives of the group decision-making process can be selected.

    For example: -

    1. The need for expert input would be best facilitated by the Delphi Technique.
    2. If the goal is generating a large number of alternatives.
    3. Decisions that concern quality or production would benefit from advice of quality circles.
    4. If group members were reluctant to contribute ideas, the nominal group technique would be appropriate.
    5. A manager who wants to provide total empowerment of a group should consider self-managed.

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