Everything you need to know about the techniques and methods of group decision making. Group decision making refers to the process where the group as a whole makes the decision.
In group decision making, group members consider all the possible solution of a problem and select the most feasible option.
One of the more obvious applications of communication concepts is in the area of group decision making. We communicate information, and information is used in making of decisions.
Moreover, group decisions require transmitting of message between members, and the effectiveness of this communication process will significantly impact the quality of group decisions.
Various techniques have been developed in the area of decision-making which have made the decision-making process more rational and scientific. Efforts have been made by the social scientists to develop strategies to make group decision making more and more effective.
Some of the techniques of group decision making are:-
1. Delphi Technique 2. Nominal Group Technique 3. Brainstorming Technique 4. Dialectic Decision Methods 5. Decision-Tree 6. Meetings 7. Consensus Mapping
8. Fish Bowling Technique 9. Didactic Interaction 10. Marginal Cost Analysis 11. Cost Benefit Analysis 12. Operations Research 13. Linear Programming 14. Committees and Committee Meetings 15. Command Meetings.
Techniques and Methods of Group Decision Making: Delphi Technique, Nominal Group Technique, Brainstorming and a Few Others
Techniques of Group Decision Making – The Delphi Technique, Nominal Group Technique, Brainstorming, Dialectic Decision Methods and Decision-Tree
Group decision making techniques include:
(i) The Delphi Technique:
Members with expertise and relevant information concerning an issue are selected to make the decision regarding that issue. Questionnaires are sent to the group members who record their answers in writing.
The group members do not meet face-to-face. Replies of all the members to the questionnaires are summarised and feedback to them are sent for review. They are asked to make the decisions again in view of the additional information. This process is repeated until a satisfactory decision is made.
This technique is mostly used for the decisions relating to demand forecast, project market trends, identify future problems, predict the future state of finance, production etc.
Success of this technique depends on:
a. Seriousness of the group members
b. Expertise of the group members
c. Availability of adequate time
d. Written communication skills of the members
e. Level of involvement and motivation of the members
f. Level of effectiveness of summarisation of responses
g. Use of information technology like e-mail, voice-mail and chatting.
The advantages of Delphi technique include:
a. Ego problems and related issues of face-to-face interaction can be avoided
b. Efficient use of expert time
c. Avoidance of interpersonal problems
d. Enough time is given for reflection and analysis by respondents, and
e. Utmost care can be taken.
(ii) Nominal Group Technique:
Group members have minimal interaction prior to making a decision.
The steps involved in nominal group decision making are:
(i) Group members are brought together and presented with a problem.
(ii) Members develop the solutions independently and write them on cards.
(iii) They share their ideas with each other in a structured format (all members get an opportunity in a round table format).
(iv) Members ask questions just to get clarifications during a brief session.
(v) Group members individually select the best alternative and inform through a secret ballot.
(vi) The group decision is announced.
Advantages of this technique are:
a. All members get equal opportunity for participation.
b. No member can dominate the discussion.
c. Decision can be taken in the right time due to control of time.
d. Expertise of each member is used independently.
e. Ego problems and interpersonal problems are solved.
Disadvantages of this technique include:
a. The procedure is too rigid.
b. Members may be frustrated.
c. Members cannot have interpersonal relations.
d. Group cohesiveness cannot be ensured and
e. Ideas cannot be cross-fertilised.
(iii) Brainstorming Technique:
This technique is used to encourage creative thinking in groups of around eight members.
Brainstorming is built on the following lines:
a. Generate as many ideas as possible.
b. Be creative, free-wheeling and imaginative.
c. Build upon (piggy back), extend or combine earlier ideas and
d. Withhold criticism of others’ ideas.
The success of this technique depends upon the members’ ability to listen to others, use this interaction as a stimulus to spark new ideas and feel free to express them. Further, even the idiotic and impracticable ideas should also be encouraged. More number of ideas should be encouraged so that eventually higher quality ideas would be generated.
Advantages of this technique include:
a. Group members would be enthusiastic, involved immensely and emotional.
b. Broader participation of the members.
c. High task orientation and also high relation orientation will be maintained.
d. Members have a sense of belongingness and the final product is the team effort.
Disadvantages of this technique are:
a. Some members may fear that their ideas may be looked down by others.
b. Criticism of ideas kills creativity.
c. Some people may dominate the process of decision making.
(iv) Dialectic Decision Methods:
This method ensures generation of alternatives seriously, detailed discussion on each of the alternatives and selecting the alternative or developing a new alternative. The incomplete discussions, analysis and making the decisions quickly, discourage some group members from participating in the group decision making. This technique solves this problem.
Alternative solutions are generated in the decision making process. Each of these alternative decisions is evaluated before ranking the solutions. The decision tree is a model in the form of a graphic tool that charts the steps to consider in evaluating each alternative solution in the decision making.
The main points of the decision tree are:
a. Using the information acquired in preparing to make the decision.
b. Recognising the sequential nature of the decision making process.
c. Decision tree is a graphic outline of the future choices that the decisions made in the present will lead to.
d. Decision tree helps managers to evaluate and arrange the information in order and
e. Decision tree enables managers to introduce a degree of quantifiability.
The company has to make a decision whether to make or buy the wipers.
It is observed from the figure that the car manufacturing company has to take a decision whether to make the wipers or to buy them from other companies. The company has three chance events for each of these two alternatives. Managers make the decision based on the information and quantified data provided in the decision tree.
Techniques of Group Decision Making – 4 Commonly Used Techniques of Group Problem Solving (With Steps)
We can use groups to solve the problems, and that groups have potential to work better than an individual. Now the question is – how groups can be used in the process of problem solving (decision making).
Some commonly used techniques of group problem solving are discussed below:
The very fact that a group has to take decision requires meeting of group members. Traditional method to take decision in a meeting requires placing the problem before the members, inviting their views thereupon and opting the solution that is supported by majority of members.
However, the style of meetings can vary enormously- from informal to formal; from highly controlled to very free; from impersonal to personal. Whatever the style, it is the leader/chairperson who can ensure that the meeting achieves its objectives.
Generally Command meetings (a meeting between boss and subordinates) are highly controlled where the purpose of meeting (in fact) is conveying of message from the boss to subordinate rather than seeking solution by participation. The participants of such meeting are not supposed to exceed their so-called limits. This can be termed as autocratic style of meeting.
Another style of meeting is Committee meeting which is conducive to a democratic decision process. Here the participants are not blended according to their category. They are free to express their views. Making committees for decision-making is a very common process adopted in business world as well as political world.
Basic Steps of a Meeting:
1. Open the meeting by introducing the objectives, the agenda, the participants, and the procedure (order of speaking etc.)
2. Facilitate and moderate the meeting by making sure that everybody gets a chance to speak, interrupt speakers who talk too much, and encourage speakers who talk too little.
3. Summarize by making sure that everybody knows what has been discussed and agreed. Conclude the meeting by closing the meeting and making sure that the actions/decisions are clear to everybody.
4. Lot of meetings fail because the participants are unsure of the purpose and therefore dissatisfied with the results. An effective meeting depends on communicating the purpose satisfying expectations clarifying the outcome in terms of action.
Brainstorming is an idea generation process. Under this technique, group members are encouraged to generate ideas to solve the given problems. These ideas may range from wild ideas to most sophisticated ones. The objective is – not to restrict the thinking process by putting limitations. It operates on the premise that “The best way to get good ideas is to have lots of ideas.”
Brainstorming is useful for:
1. Generating many ideas in a short time
2. Encouraging creative, spontaneous thinking
3. Helping people temporarily suspend judgment
4. Expanding or piggy-banking on ideas
Basic Steps for a Brainstorming Session:
1. Identify a problem for discussion. The problem should be in the form of a question – What? Where? When? How much?
2. Generate as many ideas as possible. Quantity is the goal. Think creatively – be wild. Wild ideas are great because they beget wilder ideas. It is easier to tame a wild idea than to think up new ideas.
3. Defer judgment. Do not criticize or evaluate. That comes later.
4. Record all the ideas.
5. Discuss unfamiliar terms or ideas. Get clarification on ideas that may be unclear.
6. Establish some criteria for selecting the “best” ideas, then evaluate each idea against those criteria.
7. For the idea(s) chosen, outline the steps needed to implement them. List forces (e.g., situations, people and events) that work for or against implementation of this solution.
Note that brainstorming is merely a process for generating ideas. Other techniques we have discussed go farther by actually arriving at a preferred solution.
3. Nominal Group Technique:
The Nominal Group Process is a technique where goals are set and the problems are identified before the group. The members independently work upon the problem and note down their ideas without any discussion thereon. Thereafter these ideas are collected and discussed by the group for clarity and evaluation.
Basic Steps for Using Nominal Technique:
1. Form groups of five to eight participants. Have the people introduce themselves to everyone in their group.
2. Each group needs to select a group leader and a recorder.
3. The group leader gives the participants a written statement of the problem. The problem statement should be open-ended such as-
“The main purpose of this organization is …
“The best way to increase jobs in this community is to …”
“We can’t get new people to join our organization because …”
4. The leader should avoid any detailed clarification of the problem, such as providing specific examples.
5. Participants silently write down their ideas on index cards without discussion with others.
6. The recorder writes the idea on newsprint for everyone in the group to see.
7. Discussion and Clarification. After all the ideas have been recorded, encourage each group to discuss the ideas comparing, clarifying, and defending their statements. Agreement or disagreement with an idea may be encouraged, but the discussion should be controlled by the leader to insure that a heated debate does not develop.
8. Each group needs to choose three to five top priority ideas. Groups are free to devise their own means for coming to a consensus on the top priorities. Members may want to “vote” using small round self-adhesive labels or by assigning points for votes, i.e., five points for a first place vote, three points for second, and one point for third.
9. Tally the votes. This should bring a sense of closure to the Nominal Group process.
4. Delphi Technique:
This technique has emerged out of modern day requirements where concerned persons find it difficult to gather physically to constitute decision making group. A problem is identified and people give their views independently thereon which are reconciled at a central place and such reconciled views are again commented upon the members individually. This process is repeated till an optimal decision is reached.
Basic Steps for Using Delphi Technique:
1. Identify the problem and design a questionnaire thereon.
2. Circulate this questionnaire to the different members of the group.
3. Collect the completed questionnaire.
4. Compile its results at a central location.
5. Send a copy of results to every member, and ask them to rethink and give their views on results.
6. Collect these views and again process them and come out with a new result. Again send these results to every member and repeat the same process until consensus is reached.
This technique is useful when the group participants are at diverse physical location and it is very time consuming and expensive affair to call them physically at a central location. However, all this process itself is very time consuming and it is not necessary that it will lead to consensus. It may happen that due to lack of interaction among members they are not able to reconcile their diverse views and unanimity is not obtained.
Techniques of Group Decision Making – Brainstorming, Nominal Group Technique, Delphi Technique, Consensus Mapping, Fish Bowling Technique and Didactic Interaction
Efforts have been made by the social scientists to develop strategies to make group decision making more and more effective. For such techniques are brain-storming, nominal group technique, delphi technique and consensus mapping.
A brief description of these follows:
Brainstorming technique was originally adopted by Alex Osbom (May 24, 1888 -May 13, 1966) in 1938 in an American company for encouraging creative thinking in groups of six to eight people. According to Osborn, brainstorming means using the brain to storm the problem. In brainstorming, the participants should be connected with the problem directly or closely.
It is based on the following four basic guidelines:
(a) Generate as many ideas as possible.
(b) Be creative, freewheeling and imaginative.
(c) Build upon piggyback, extend, or combine earlier ideas.
(d) Withhold criticism of others’ ideas.
There are two principles that underlie brainstorming. One is deferred judgement, by which all ideas are encouraged without criticism and evaluation. The second principle is that quantity breeds quality. As more ideas come forth, it facilitates to develop the higher-quality ones.
The success of brainstorming depends on each member’s capacity and willingness to listen to others’ thoughts, to use these thoughts as a stimulus to spark new ideas of their own and then feel free to express them. Brainstorming sessions last from ten minutes to one hour and do not require much preparation.
Although brainstorming technique is found useful for all types of decisions, it is particularly useful for simple and well-defined problems. It stimulates members to generate new ideas for solving a particular problem.
2. Nominal Group Technique (NGT):
The two disadvantages of group decision making are- (i) it is time-consuming and (ii) the decisions are influenced by the dominant members. The nominal group technique (NGT) minimizes these problems. In the NGT, a nominal group exists in name only. The members have minimal interaction prior to making a decision.
The NGT follows the following process:
(a) Members are brought together and presented a problem.
(b) Each member develops solution or ideas independently and writes them on cards.
(c) Each member presents his/her ideas to the group in a round-robbin procedure.
(d) When the presentation of ideas by each member is over, brief time is allotted to clarifications of ideas or solutions.
(e) Group members individually rank their preferences for the best alternatives by secret ballot.
(f) Based on above, the group decision is announced.
The advantages of the NGT include the integration of both group creative and individual creativity and the equal participation by all members in group decision making. The disadvantage of the NGT is reported that the members do not have the opportunity to benefit from cross fertilization of ideas.
3. Delphi Technique:
The name Delphi indicates a shrine at which the ancient Greeks used to pray for information about the future. In Delphi technique of decision-making, members are scattered over large distances and do not have face-to-face interaction for decision-making. Members are selected because they are experts or have relevant information to share;
A typical approach involved in decision-making works as follows:
Firstly, a small group of members designs a questionnaire which is administered in a larger group. The results so obtained are then tabulated and used in developing a revised questionnaire. The questionnaire is then completed by the larger group. The results of the first round are fed back to the respondent group to use these in their subsequent responses. The process is repeated several times until the response converse satisfactorily or a consensus is reached.
The effectiveness of the Delphi decision-making technique depends on adequate time, participants’ expertise, communication skill and motivation of the members to immerse themselves in the task.
The major advantages the delphi technique offers include:
(a) Elimination of interpersonal problems among panelists.
(b) Efficient use of expert’s time.
(c) Adequate time for reflection and analysis by respondents.
(d) Diversity and quantity of ideas generated.
i. The main criticism of Delphi technique lies in its time consumption and cost involved.
ii. It lacks scientific basis or support.
iii. This technique eliminates the sense of motivation that arises in a face to face interacting group.
4. Consensus Mapping:
Consensus mapping is yet another technique of group decision-making. In this technique, an attempt is made to arrive at a decision by pooling the ideas together generated by several task subgroups. It begins with developing ideas. The ideas so generated by the task sub-groups are developed and narrowed in smaller number of ideas.
Then, all ideas are consolidated into a representative structure called ‘strawman map’ for the all ideas generated by the subgroups. Strawman map is further narrowed down to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.
Consensus mapping technique is found best suited for problems that are multi-dimensional, have interconnected relationships and involve many sequential steps in problem solving.
5. Fish Bowling Technique:
Fish bowling is similar to brain storming, but it is more structured and to the point.
The functioning of this technique is as explained below:
(i) In this technique, the decision making group of experts is seated around a circle with a single chair in the center of the circle.
(ii) One member of the group or the group leader is invited to sit in the center chair and give his views about the problem and his ideas about the solution of the problem.
(iii) The other group members can ask him questions but there is no irrelevant discussion or cross talk.
(iv) Once the member in the center chair has finished talking and his view point is fully understood, he leaves the center and joints the group in the circle.
(v) Then the second member is called upon to sit in the center chair and offer his ideas and opinion in the light of the views expressed earlier.
(vi) The members can ask him question based upon the new ideas presented by the member in the center chair as well as the ideas discussed by the previous central member.
(vii) The exchange will continue between the central person and the group members till the chair is vacated.
(viii) This process will continue till all the members have expressed their views.
(ix) After all the experts have discussed their views, the entire group discusses the various alternatives suggested and pick the one with consensus.
6. Didactic Interaction:
This technique is applicable only in certain situation. But when such a situation arises, it is an excellent method. The type of problem in such a situation should be such that it results in a Yes-No solution. For example, to buy or not to buy, to sell or not sell etc. Such a situation requires an extensive and exhaustive discussion and investigation since a wrong decision can have very serious repercussions.
The steps involved in this technique are:
(i) The whole group required to make the decision is split into two subgroups, one favouring the “Yes” decision and the other favouring the “No” decision.
(ii) The first group will list all the ‘pros’ of the problem solution and the second group will list all the ‘cons’.
(iii) Both the groups meet and discuss their findings and the reasons.
(iv) After the exhaustive discussion, the groups switch sides and try to find weaknesses in their own original viewpoints.
Techniques of Group Decision Making – 7 Methods of Group Decision Making: Marginal Cost Analysis, Cost Benefit Analysis, Operations Research and a Few Others
Various methods have been developed in the area of decision-making which have made the decision-making process more rational and scientific.
Some of these methods are discussed below:
Method # 1. Marginal Cost Analysis:
This technique is also known as Marginal Costing as under it the additional revenue from additional costs is compared. The profits are maximum at the level where marginal cost resulting from the addition of one more unit is equal to marginal revenue (i.e. revenue derived from sale of one more unit). In other words, profits are maximum where MC = MR. Breakeven analysis is the modification of this technique which tells the management the point of production where there is no profit and no loss.
Method # 2. Cost Benefit Analysis:
It is a technique for choosing from among alternatives to identify a preferred choice when objectives are less specific. It is used to compare alternatives where the optimum solution cannot be conveniently reduced to monetary terms.
Method # 3. Operations Research:
Operations research involves scientific analysis of decision problems. It facilitates decision-making by supplying quantitative information to the decision-maker. The object of operations research is to provide the managers with a scientific basis for solving organisational problems involving the interaction of components of the organisation.
It involves the construction and testing of model. Several techniques of operations research have been developed e.g. probability theory, games theory, network analysis etc. for analysis of problems.
Method # 4. Linear Programming:
It is a technique devised for determining the optimum combination of limited resources to achieve a given objective. It is based on the assumptions that there exists a linear relationship between variables and that the limits of variations could be ascertained. It is very helpful where input data can be quantified and objectives are subject to definite measurement.
It has been extensively used in managerial decision-making for production, planning, warehouse location, allocating machine capacities, determining transport route etc.
Method # 5. Brain-Storming:
Brain-storming means use of brain to storm a problem. In this technique a small group of persons is stimulated to creative thinking. A problem is posed and ideas are invited. Later these ideas are critically examined and the best ideas are selected. No evaluation of ideas is done during discussions to encourage freewheeling.
Method # 6. Delphi Technique:
This technique is used for a systematic probing of the minds of the people who possess the necessary expertise in the pertinent or related areas. Under this technique, a panel of experts is appointed who are physically separated and unknown to each other. Suggestions are invited anonymously.
These suggestions are compiled and composite feedback is provided to panel members inviting further suggestions. The process of giving suggestions continues till a convergence of opinions begins to emerge. Hence, quality decisions are taken when this convergence takes place.
Method # 7. Decision Tree:
The decision tree is a graphic method used for identifying the available alternatives and risks and outcomes, associated with each alternative. Each outcome is evaluated in terms of the desired results and the outcome, which gives the maximum value, is the one which is finally selected out of alternative courses of action, either in the domestic market or in the international market.
Although decision tree is simple in essence, yet it may get complex in application. The main difficulty in analysing decision tree is that even with simple two or three branch forks, the tree can be quite complex; it may turn into a bush. Secondly, there is often inconsistency in assigning probabilities’ for different events.
Inspite of the above limitation, a decision tree offers a solution of decision situation better than any other technique.
Techniques of Group Decision Making – Committees and Committee Meetings, Command Meetings, Brain-Storming Sessions, Nominal Group Technique and Delphi Technique
Technique # 1. Committees and Committee Meetings:
As the advantages of group decision far outweigh those of individual decision, it is common practice for people in an organization to form groups for decision-making. Most of these groups are face-to-face, interacting groups getting together to take part in a ‘semantic exchange’. They are known as committees.
By definition “a committee is a group appointed by the parent organization, which meets to investigate a problem and, later, to formulate its report and recommendation”.
There are various kinds of committees – standing committees, executive committees, advisory committees, ad hoc committees and so on. Each of them has its terms of reference well laid out. A standing committee is a permanent committee empowered and entrusted to take management decisions. Its members may periodically change or rotate as per the constitution adopted by the organization.
An advisory committee consists of experts in a particular field or fields, or people deemed to be qualified/experienced enough to advise the organization in crucial decision making. Such a committee is generally elected from amongst the members of an organization at an annual general meeting. Its powers are laid down by the parent body to which it is supposed to report periodically. Its functions relate to the broad organizational goals. An ad hoc committee is constituted for a particular purpose after the fulfillment of which it is dissolved.
The working of a committee can be spelt out in the following stages:
(i) Get a clear factual perspective, or collect data,
(ii) Explore attitudes and sentiments of the members,
(iii) Combine the logical and psychological elements,
(iv) Arrive at a decision in the light of the factors cited above,
(v) Have a faithful record of the deliberations and decisions arrived at.
No group decision-making/meeting can proceed without a leader. The terms ‘leader’, ‘chairman’, ‘chair’, ‘chairperson’ are used interchangeably now-a-days. It is, however, more common to use the term ‘leader’ in the context of an informal group discussion, and ‘chairman’ in the context of a committee/conference/public meeting/formal discussion.
As a manager one has to chair both formal and informal discussions. The roles of the leader for both occasions are separately stated but more often than not they get easily combined. That is how formal meetings are often rounded off as informal ones, and informal meetings lead to serious, business-like, formal discussions. Whatever be the situation, the onus of piloting the discussion lies on the shoulders of the chairman.
Given below are some useful guidelines for a group leader/chairperson:
(i) Understand the ‘group personality’. Every group has a personality of its own. Even if the members are drawn from different backgrounds/fields of activity/branches of the organization, they tend to acquire certain characteristics that they share with one another.
This way we get what may be called a sort of unity in the midst of diversity, a homogeneity arising out of heterogeneity. Once we belong to a group we tend to achieve a certain amount of conformity, and our opinions and actions are influenced by group opinion. This tendency gives the group, as well as the individual members of the group recognition and approval.
Every group wields considerable power. Needless to say that a group is always stronger than an individual. By the sheer social force of the group we develop a sense of belonging, turn to the group for support, take up matters of vital importance with higher authorities or the ‘powers that be’ through the group.
Every one, now-a-days, is familiar with the power of, ‘Consumer Forums’, ‘Residents’, ‘Welfare Associations’, and of course, the workers’ unions.
A chairperson cannot afford to overlook ‘group prejudice’. We may not admit that we have strong likes and dislikes, prejudices and predilections. In a group of likeminded people these prejudices become not only stronger but clearly expressed binding factors.
Every group cherishes certain values or ideals. These values/ideals have to be shown proper respect/regards. A clear understanding of the group values will provide a basis for predicting or foreseeing the programmes or actions that the group is likely to support. It will also help the leader to understand one group’s aggressiveness to another.
Any change is met with some degree of resistance. Much will depend on the group’s attitude to social/technological/structural change. It is also useful to know how the group itself would like to bring about a change or, perhaps, they would like the status quo to continue.
So, it is very important on the part of a leader/chairperson to be familiar with the personality traits of the group on the deliberations of which he is going to preside.
(ii) The importance of planning and purpose has been talked about. It is, therefore, obligatory for the leader to get the agenda of the meeting circulated fairly in advance. It will help the members to come prepared.
(iii) Encourage participation and invite contributions from all the members. It requires very careful, deft handling of the entire group decision-making situation. The members have to be shown their importance, and enthused to speak.
(iv) On whatever is spoken by a member, the manager must be in a position to give expert comments. It means, therefore, that he must be well informed. He need not be, and cannot be a specialist. But a very good general awareness is an invaluable asset.
(v) In order to save time and to give time to as many members as possible to speak, the chairperson must keep summarizing. For this purpose he has to have clear thinking and very good communication skills.
(vi) Ability to interpret, from one language to another, is also an important asset for a manager. Care has to be taken to keep the spirit of the original. Now that almost all business is going global, ability to communicate in more than one language is becoming increasingly important.
(vii) No meeting can be successful unless the chairperson learns to control the members, the discussion through meaningful interruptions/interventions, and insisting on relevance.
(viii) Emotional build up should be kept to the minimum. Human beings are guided by logic but do get carried away by emotions. No meeting can be successful if emotion is allowed to get the better of reason. A chairperson has, therefore, to be a very cool-headed person working with a positive approach to all kinds of situations and persons.
(ix) A chairperson has to be impartial. Every member has to be given equal importance and attention.
(x) With all these positive traits, the leader has also to stick to business.
Technique # 2. Command Meetings:
The term ‘command meeting’ is self-explanatory. It is used to describe a meeting between a manager and his subordinates. It was first used and developed by Wilfred Brown, the former chairman of the Glacial Metal Company. Here the element of corporate responsibility, that is the very life or essence of committee meetings, is missing.
In a command meeting the manager alone is responsible for decisions, and the subordinates are obliged to give him the benefit of their opinion. But then, in this context, the term ‘industrial democracy’ loses its meaning.
The difficulty is that subordinates in a group setting, under the command of their boss, often feel compelled to act as the opposition, while actually the aim of the manager/leader is to share information with them and clear up mis-understandings, state policies of the company, and spell out instructions.
In a command meeting, it is for the manager to decide where and when the meeting should take place, and what procedure is to be followed. Naturally, the responsibility solely lies with the manager. Many subordinates go to the meeting with the idea of sharing their feelings and ideas.
In this way they may feel morally committed to the decisions made at the meeting. But they are under no obligation to implement the decisions of a command meeting.
Both committee and command meetings discussed above are the most common forms of group decision-making in face-to-face interacting groups. But these group decision making techniques often lead to two byproducts or phenomena that have come to be known as ‘groupthink’ and ‘groupshift’. Considerable amount of attention has been paid to them by researchers in organizational behaviour. We may touch upon them in brief.
‘Groupthink’ is a phenomenon related to norms. It relates to the situations in which group pressures for conformity; deter the group from critically examining unusual, minority, or unpopular views. Groupthink has been called a ‘disease’ that attacks many groups and can dramatically hinder their performance. The unwritten laws of groups working under the pressure of ‘groupthink’ are conformity and an illusion of unanimity.
‘Groupshift’, on the other hand, is a phenomenon in which group members tend to exaggerate the initial position they held. In some situations, it has been observed, caution dominates and there is a conservative shift. It can also be regarded as a special case of groupthink.
The decision of the group reflects the dominant decision-making norm that develops in the course of discussion. Now, whether the shift will be in the direction of greater caution or more risk will depend on the dominant pre discussion norm.
In order to reduce many of the problems inherent in traditional interacting group on account of ‘groupthink’ and ‘groupshift’, brainstorming, nominal group, and Delphi techniques have been proposed.
Technique # 3. Brain-Storming Sessions:
The group decision making technique known as ‘brainstorming’ was developed in 1939 by an American advertising agency. Since that time it has been widely used by business, government, and military institutions.
The principles underlying brain-storming can be stated as follows:
(i) No ideas are criticized,
(ii) Free-wheeling is encouraged – the more outlandish or unusual an idea the better,
(iii) The emphasis is on quality of ideas.
Brainstorming is a clever device meant to overcome pressures of conformity that obstruct the development of creative ideas. It is infact, an idea generation process that encourages all alternative approaches, and withholds criticism.
In a typical brain-storming session, six to ten people sit around a table. The group leader clearly states a problem. The group members then ‘free wheel’ as many alternatives as they can come forward with in a given length of time. Without any criticism, all alternatives are recorded for discussion and analysis.
Even the most bizarre idea is not criticized, and the members are encouraged to “think the unusual”. It is basically a process of generating ideas.
Technique # 4. Nominal Group Technique:
The nominal group technique, as the term itself suggests, restricts discussion or interpersonal communication. The group members are only physically present as in a traditional meeting, but they operate independently.
(i) Members meet as a group, but each member independently writes down his ideas on the problem, before any discussion takes place.
(ii) Then each member presents his idea to the group, either by writing on a flip chart or chalk board. No discussion takes place until all ideas have been recorded.
(iii) After this, the group discusses the ideas for clarity and evaluation.
(iv) Each member silently, and independently, rank orders the ideas.
(v) The final decision is taken on the basis of the idea with the highest aggregate ranking.
The advantage of the nominal group technique is that it permits the group to react formally without restricting independent thinking as happens often in the interacting group.
Technique # 5. Delphi Technique:
Delphi technique is similar to the nominal group technique except that it does not require the physical presence of the group’s members. In fact, it does not allow the group members to meet face to face.
The steps of this technique can be stated in the following sequence:
(i) The problem is identified and members are asked to provide solutions through a series of carefully designed questionnaires.
(ii) Each member anonymously and independently completes the first questionnaire.
(iii) Results of the first questionnaire are compiled at a central location, transcribed, and reproduced.
(iv) Each member receives a copy of the results.
(v) After viewing the results members are again asked to give their solutions. The results trigger new solutions or cause changes in the original position.
(vi) Steps 4 and 5 are repeated as often as necessary until consensus is reached.
As in nominal group technique, the Delphi technique saves the group members from one another’s undue influence. Since it does not require the physical presence of the participants, the Delphi technique can be used for decision-making among groups geographically scattered over distant places.
For example, SONY has used this technique to get feedback from its managers posted in Tokyo, Brussels, Paris, London, New York, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro and Melbourne as to the best worldwide price for one of its products.
The singular advantage of Delphi technique is that it avoids the problem of getting the executives together at one place and thus saves the huge amount of money spent on travel etc.
Delphi technique has its drawbacks also. In the first place, it is extremely time consuming. Where a speedy decision is needed this technique cannot be used. The responses to the questionnaire may not be satisfactory. Moreover, this technique lacks the rich harvest of alternatives and creative ideas that come up in face-to-face interaction.
One may ask which of these techniques is the most effective. Each of these techniques has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is all a matter of the criteria laid down for the group and what the organization seeks to achieve. Traditionally we have been used to the face-to-face interacting group meetings.
They are indeed good for building up group cohesiveness and interpersonal relationships. Brainstorming sessions encourage free and unusual ways of thinking, and keep the social pressures to the barest minimum.
Nominal group technique also encourages independent thinking and discourages group or social pressure. The Delphi technique makes demands on our intelligence to design questionnaires and to give carefully thought out answers/responses to them. As the respondents to the questionnaires are placed wide apart, the Delphi technique minimizes interpersonal conflict. So, offhand, it is difficult to say which technique is the best or most effective.
All these techniques are decision making techniques, and their results are binding on the organization. There are certain other group activities in which a lot of information is gathered, shared, generated, passed on, processed.
But the conclusions/inferences/decisions of these group activities are not binding in the first instance. On the other hand, their outcome may, and very often does, lead to more intensified group decision making processes through special committees, advisory committees, action groups and so on.
Conferences/colloquiums/conventions, seminars and workshops are such activities that the organizations are now more and more resorting to. Their decisions are recommendatory rather than mandatory.