Group Decision Making Methods
Getting great minds to think alike!
What group decision making methods do you use? If you’re unsure how to answer that question, then this article will help you think through some relevant approaches.
All groups have to make decisions, but it’s often unclear how to make them. The first step though is to think through your own preferences as a team leader or manager, what do you want to achieve? Then consider the nature of the situation and the expectations of team members. Wherever possible, decisions should be made at the lowest level possible. The closer to the action the better, where knowledge of the situation is greatest. Before discussing some group decision making methods there is an important question to address…
Why Make Group Decisions?
Involving a group in making decisions or solving problems and using group decision making methods has several advantages:
Everybody has the opportunity to bring their experience, knowledge and skills to the situation.
Those closest to the situation often know valuable information.
Participation in decision making makes for better decisions.
Group and team members are more likely to ensure a decision works if they have been part of making that decision.
First Things First
Even if you have decided to involve others in the decision making process and apply some group decision making methods, firstly you’ll need to consider your own preferences, and the situation you are in. Typically, a team leader adopts styles across a continuum.
- Directive – the leader decides and tells the group/team
- Consultative – the leader makes the decision and consults, persuading and gaining support
- Participative – the situtaion is explained with everyone being encouraged to participate
- Delegative – the leader gives the responsibility for the decision to the group/team, providing support where needed.
The approach you adopt will be affected by both your own preference, and by the situation you are in. For example, a crisis situation may require immediate or decisive action. Such a situation may not allow the time for consultative or participative syles and you may need to use a directive approach.
Your approach may also be affected by group or team characteristics or dynamics. For example, experienced or knowledgeable groups or teams are far more likely to require a participative or delegative style than teams made up of novices.
Some useful things to consider when deciding how to involve others include:
- the amount of time available to deal with the issue;
- the extent to which the group is affected by the decision;
- whether people need to think through how decisions may affect them and their areas of work;
- the amount of expertise and knowledge the group members bring to the decision making process;
- the importance of the group’s commitment to the decision.
Now let’s consider some common group decision making methods. These include decision making by:
Consensus - the group has complete agreement on the decision;
Authority - the leader makes the final decision;
Majority - everyone votes or states their preference, the majority option is the decision;
Minority - a few people advocate their view strongly and the rest of the group either go along with the decision, or the minority group block or veto other decision options.
No Response - where decisions go unnoticed because they are not recognised as decisions.
In addition, there are two group decision conditions to watch:
Group Think - where a group suppresses dissent and conflict so that decisions are not challenged;
Risky Shift - where a group tends towards extremes, either being overly cautious or taking greater risks than an individual making the decision might.
Evidence to Support Group Decision Making Methods
There is ample evidence to support the value of group decision making. Ohio State University management professor, Paul C. Nutt, has researched and written widely on the subject of decision making. For example, his study of some 400 decisions, across a range of organisations, revealed that decisions which draw on participation to foster implementation succeed more than 80% of the time.
Yet participation was used to implement only 20% of the decisions researched. There is thus clearly much to be said about the importance of group decision making and the use of group decision making methods, yet much to be done in terms of benefiting from it!
It would appear that group decision making methods are an underused yet powerful approach to getting better decisions.