In most organizations managers frequently face situations in which they must involve other people in the decision making process. This is especially true for non-programmed decisions with much uncertainty regarding the outcome. The increased complexity of many problems that modern organizations face requires specialized knowledge in numerous fields, usually non-possessed by one person. This increases the use of the collective or group decision making.
Approaches to group decision making
There are several approaches groups can use to make decisions. These approaches represent continuum from leader-based decisions to decisions made with full participation of group members Although there are many approaches that a group can utilize, groups usually use consultative democratic or consensus) decision making.
In consultative decision making, one person has authority to make the decision but asks for the suggestions and opinions of others and takes these opinions into account when making the decision. The ideas, suggestions, and recommendations of others give the decision-maker better information upon which to base the decision.
In democratic decision making, a group votes on a decision using a majority rule . Group members vote on their preferences, either privately or publicly. These votes are then used to select a decision, either by simple majority (more than 50 % of voters), supermajority (e.g. two-thirds of voters) or other voting system. Although voting is a popular decision-making style, it can cause problems for a group. Voting can prematurely close discussion on a problem that has not been fully resolved. This can lead to a lack of commitment from the losing minority because those who disagree with the vote may be unwilling to support and implement the decision after it has been made.
The consensus approach to decision making requires discussion of a decision until all members have agreed to accept it. This approach tries to avoid "winners" and "losers". Consensus decision making might be time consuming but it is the best way to fully use the group resources. The consensus approach should be used for important decisions requiring the full support of the group for implementation.
There are several techniques for increasing the creative capability of a group. One of them is brainstorming
Brainstorming is a group problem-solving technique in which a group of people meet to generate creative ideas and solutions related to a specific problem. Every participant is encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as possible, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. During brainstorming sessions, people should avoid criticizing or even analyzing ideas. Judgment and analysis at this stage hampers the idea generation and limits creativity. The purpose of the sessions is to generate, not to evaluate, ideas. Analysis, discussion, or criticism of the ideas is allowed only when the brainstorming session is over and evaluation session begins.
Nominal group technique is another method used in problem solving sessions to encourage creative thinking without group interaction at the idea generation stage. Each member of the group writes down his or her ideas which are then discussed and ranked one by one by the group. More specifically, the procedure of nominal group technique includes the following stages.
1. Introduction and explanation: The moderator explains the purpose and procedure of the meeting to the participants.
2. Silent generation of ideas: Each group member silently thinks of and writes down as many ideas as possible in a set (period of time without consulting or discussing the ideas with others.
3. Presentation of the ideas: The moderator invites participants to share the ideas they have generated. He records each idea. The process continues until all ideas have been presented. At this stage no discussion is allowed, not even questions for clarification, and participants are encouraged to write down any new ideas that may arise from what others share. This process ensures all participants get an opportunity to make an equal contribution and provides a written record of all ideas generated by the group.
4. Group discussion: Each idea is discussed in turn. Participants are invited to seek verbal explanation or further details about any of the ideas that colleagues have produced that may not be clear to them. The moderator’s task is to ensure that each person is allowed to contribute and that discussion of all ideas is thorough without spending too long on a single idea. It is important to ensure that the process is as neutral as possible, avoiding judgment and criticism.
5. Voting and ranking: This involves prioritizing and ranking the recorded ideas through voting. The meeting concludes after a specific outcome (decision) is reached.
The nominal group technique is particularly useful:
When some group members are much more vocal than others.
When some group members think better in silence.
When there is concern about some members not participating.
When all or some group members are new to the group.
The Delphi method is a structured communication technique, which was originally developed in the early 1950s as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts ).
First applications of the Delphi method were in the field of science and technology forecasting. Later the Delphi method was applied in other areas, especially those related to public policy issues, such as economic trends, health and education. It was also applied successfully and with high accuracy in business forecasting.
The term originates from Greek mythology. Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. In Classical Antiquity (an oracle was a person or agency considered to provide wise counsel or prophetic predictions of the future, inspired by the gods.
The Delphi method works as follows. A series of questionnaires are sent to selected experts – the Delphi group - in two or more rounds The group does not meet face-to-face. All communication is normally in writing (letters or email). The responses are collected and analyzed by a facilitator to determine conflicting viewpoints on each point. The summary of the responses is sent to the panel members together with a new questionnaire. The experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel and explain reasons for their judgments. Thus, after each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the previous round. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the "correct" answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus).
Usually all participants remain anonymous. Their identity is not revealed, even after the completion of the final report. This prevents the authority (personality, or reputation of some participants from dominating others in the process.