Group Decision Making
There are instances that a person has to be in a particular group or organization where decisions are to be made and one should contribute in order for the group to come up with the best decisions. Business, community and religious organizations as well as social workers and medical organizations are just few of the common groups whose decision making are very significant to be able for these organizations to come up with the best decisions and be able to accomplish their objectives. There are particular decisions that are needed to be decided by a group of persons rather than an individual. As a cliché said, two heads are better than one. However, in a team different individuals have to interact with other individuals with different ideas and approach, thus sometimes creating conflicts. It is then important to determine the different factors that influence group decision making and how to improve decision making in a group.
Factors that Influence Group Decision Making
For this paper, proposed are three factors that influence group decision making: (1) group diversity; (2) group size; (3) goals and objectives of the group and (4) interdependence.
Group diversity, according to Jackson (1996) improved the quality of group performance and decision-making thus the more diverse a group, the higher the quality of a group and the better the decisions made. Contrary to the notion that a group functions better when they share the same ideas and perceptions, a group actually become more functional and productive when it is composed of individuals with different characteristics and skills, providing the group with more resources. This is because each member in a group commonly takes on particular task different from the others. For example, in a business organization, there is a manager, a supervisor, operators, human resource personnel and others with particular tasks to perform which make that organization highly functional. Enayati (2002) added that “differences provide a space to build on each other’s strengths and can be a means to reduce competition and enable cooperation”. That is, when a group is diverse, each member brings different ideas that complement other members’ point of view. Even the groups which are in common fields are needed to still be diverse: medical groups needed to have nurse, surgeon, pediatrician and others; and a school needs different types of teachers having particular subject specialization.
Also, the lesser the diversity of a group, the more probable social loafing will occur. Social loafing is defined as the tendency for individuals to exert less effort when working in a group than working individually (Williams et al, 1981). This is because the tasks of every member are clearly identified depending on their individual skills and characteristics thus their contributions are also identified, making them exert effort as they do when they work individually.
Group size influence decision making because it determines how many individuals contribute to the group and share their knowledge to be able to solve problems and make decisions. Group size also helps in deciding on which member should perform a specific function and how many particular members should work on certain tasks to maintain productivity and efficiency. That is, it is not necessary that the more the members who perform a task the faster and more efficient a group is. It still depends on the identified function and objectives of the group because there are tasks that are easier and more practical to be performed by smaller groups.
Moreover, group size also affects group decision making because more members contribute ideas and oppose other ideas which sometimes slowed down decision making process. Brainstorming which is a common technique in group decision making also tend to be of negative effect when the group size is significantly larger. According to Dennis & Valacich (1993) production blocking in brainstorming groups increase as the size of the group increases because not all members can take their turn to speak or share their ideas, suppressing more relevant and more important ideas. Thus, to eliminate or lessen production blocking, verbal and face to face brainstorming has been replaced by written and “electronic” brainstorming. For example, when deciding on which policy to implement, questionnaires are given to members to determine their ideas and solicit their suggestions.
The goals and objectives of the group is important to be identified because these are what shapes every decisions made by the group. The tasks, the policy and the ideas and alternative solutions must all be chosen in line with the objectives of the group as a whole. The goals must be clearly understood by members for them to have an awareness of why the group exists and which direction it is going. Having clear goals and objectives make members functional and productive because it serves as a guideline for choosing its members. Practically, a group select its members based on the objectives of the group to ensure that each member can contribute to the problem solving and decision making processes in the group. Members are also selected such that they will easily fit into the group and make the group more cohesive. Losh (2002) added that “group goals not only provide a vision to motivate members and charge them with idealism but also may also facilitate group performance”.
Additionally, interdependence is the term that describes the reliance of each member to one another, promoting cooperation and better alignment of each member of the group. Positive interdependence results to better decision making, ensuring that the solutions and decisions made as well as the alternatives are decided and approved by each member of the group. Interdependence also provides identity to the group members, making them feel a sense of belonging. However, so much interdependence can also lead to groupthink, which is defined by Irving Janis (1972 on Enayati, 2002) as the result of aiming for agreement or consensus more than making the right decision. Groupthink makes a group more coherent and promotes loyalty but exclude other ideas that do not conform that of the group, eliminating the advantages brought about by group diversity and failing to recognize the effectiveness of other ideas.
Similarly, when members of the group extremely insist their decisions or ideas, intensifying brainstorming or discussion, group polarization occurs. Group polarization is caused by group members competing with one another to endorse the socially most desirable viewpoints (Festinger 1954 on Enayati, 2002). Because these members are very persuasive, they tend to influence other members thus, it eliminates positions of the other members making the decision polarized which is not necessarily the right decision for the group.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The factors mentioned above are just the basic because there are still other things to consider which are also related to the ones already mentioned. To improve group decision making, it is important to have a good communication among each member of the group. Communication is related to group diversity, size, goals and interdependence. First, the negative effects of group diversity such as cultural differences and conflicting ideas can be resolved through good communication. According to Enayati (2002), communication is an essential process in the development of group culture. It also facilitates effective interaction among group members, while group culture and group interaction provide cohesiveness of the group. Secondly, the goals of the group are also facilitated by good communication while communication interdependence can only be achieved when each member of the group has good communication and relationship among each other.
Therefore, group decision making is dependent on four factors which are: group diversity, group size, group goals and group interdependence. At the center of these four factors is communication which enhances group decision making.
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Jackson, S.E., 1996. The Consequences of Diversity in Multidisciplinary Work Teams.
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