Decision Making by Groups

In a cooperative endeavor, one person may appear to have made the decision but in fact may have performed only one step in the process. Executives usually make decisions in a social environment. A may provide a fact, B may provide a premise; C may provide a value judgment; D may supply one complete alternative; E may supply a second alternative. Even if all are not present at the time of the final choice, each has had a definite part in the process. In fact, organization may be viewed as an interrelationship of decision centers. Cooperation decision making is a process by which a group attempts to develop a composite organization mind.

In large firms facing complex problems, decisions emerge from a series of meetings in which executives jointly approach problems. These group meetings may be called conferences, committees, boards, task forces, or merely staff meetings.

A committee may be defined as any group interacting in regard to a common, explicit purpose with formal authority delegated from an appointing executive. Some of the disagreement among managers about the use of committees is a result of a failure to discriminate among the purpose to which a committee can be assigned. Thus a critical factor in successful use of committees is the explicit statement by the appointing authority as to its expected functions. In making this statement the appointing authority should identify which of the following purposes of committees he is assigning in each case:

1. For fact-finding, investigation and collecting information.
2. To avoid the appearance of arbitrary decisions and to secure support for a position.
3. To make a decision – a choice among alternatives.
4. To negotiate between conflicting positions taken by opposing interests.
5. To stimulate human beings to think creatively, to generate ideas, and to reinforce thoughts advanced by others.
6. To distribute information – to brief members of an organization on plans and facts.
7. To provide representatives for important elements of an organization.
8. To coordination different parts and subgroups of an organization toward common, overall goals.
9. To train inexperienced personnel through participation in groups wi0th experienced members.

Operating executives usually have strong opinions on the answers to these questions; however, these opinions range all the way from outlawing any idea of group decision making to continual use of groups in all steps.

Whether to use a committee or some other group method of decision making is a question that can be approached by looking at the following advantages:

1. A decision can be approached from different viewpoints by individual specialists on a committee.
2. Coordination of activities of separate departments can be attained through joint interactions in meetings.
3. Motivation of individual members to carry out a decision may be increased by the feeling of participants in the decision making process.
4. Committees provide a means by which executives can be trained in decision making.
5. Committees permit representation of different interest groups.
6. Group discussion is one method of creative thinking; a fragmentary idea by one member may create a chain reaction in the minds of others present.

The disadvantages of committees, however, are:

1. Considering the value of the time of each individual member (as measured by his salary), committees are costly.
2. The length of time required to make a decision by a committee makes its use inadvisable if a decision must be made promptly.
3. Group action may lead to compromise and indecision.
4. A superior line executive present at a meeting may make the decision individually, with subordinates attempting to appear competent by proposing ideas they believes will make a good impression.
5. Committee decisions may be reached by a method in which no one is held responsible for a decision; “buck passing” may result.