Making decisions in groups

Do managers make a lot of decisions in groups? Many decisions in organizations, especially important decisions that have for reaching effects on organizational activities and personnel, are typically made in groups. There are organizations that does use at some times use committees, task forces, review panels, work teams, or similar groups as vehicles for making decisions. Why? In many cases, these groups represent the people who will most affected by the decisions being made. Because of their expertise, these people are often best qualified to make decisions that affect them.

Studies tell us that managers spend a significant portion of their time in meetings. Undoubtedly a large portion of that time is involved with defining problems, arriving at solutions to those problems and determining the means for implementing the solutions. It’s possible, in fact, for groups to be assigned any of the eight steps in the decisions making process.

What are the advantages of Group decision making?

Individual and group decisions have their own set of strengths. Neither is ideal for all situations. Let’s begin by reviewing the advantages that group decisions have over individual decisions.

Group decisions provide more complete information than do individual ones. There is often truth to the saying that two heads are better than one. A group will bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the decision process that an individual action alone cannot. Groups also generate more alternatives. Because groups have greater quantity and diversity of information they can identify more alternatives than can an individual. Quantity and diversity of information are greatest when group members represent different specialties. Furthermore, group, decision making increases acceptance of solution. Many decisions fail after the final choice has been made because people do not accept the solution. However, if the people who will be affected by a certain solution and who will help implement it, participate in the decision they will be more likely to accept the decision an encourage others to accept it. And, finally this process increases legitimacy. The group decision making process is consistent with democratic ideals, therefore, decisions made by groups may be perceived as more legitimate than decisions made by a single person. The fact that the individual decision maker has complete power and has not consulted others can create a perception that a decision was made autocratically and arbitrarily.

What are the disadvantages of group decision making?

If groups are so good, how did the phrase a camel is a racehorse put together by a committee become so popular? The answer of course is that group decisions are not without heir drawbacks. First, they are time consuming. It takes time to assemble a group. In addition, the interaction that takes once the group is in place is frequently inefficient. Groups almost always take more time to reach a solution than an individual would take to make the decision alone. They may also be subject to minority domination, where members of a group are never equal. They may differ in rank in the organization, experience knowledge about the problem, influence on other members, verbal skills, assertiveness and the like. This imbalance creates the opportunity for one or more members to dominate others in the group. A minority that dominates a group frequently has an undue influence on the final decision.

Group think: The withholding by group members of different views in order to appear to be in agreement.

Another problem focuses on the pressures to conform in groups. For instance have you ever been in a situation in which several people were sitting around discussing a particular item and you had something to say that ran contrary to the consensus views of the group, but you remained silent? Were you surprised to learn that others shared your views and also had remained silent? In this form of conformity group members withhold deviant minority or unpopular views in order to give the appearance of agreement. As a result, groupthink undermines critical thinking in the group and eventually harms the quality of the final decision. And, finally ambiguous responsibility can become a problem. Group members share responsibility but who is actually responsible for the final outcome. In an individual decision, it is clear who is responsible for the decision, the responsibility of any single member is watered down.