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Decision Making Essay

1. introduction
1.1 What is Decision Making?
According to James Stoner, “decision making is the process of identifying and selecting a course of action to solve a specific problem”. In other words, decision making is defined as a process to identify problems, generate alternative solutions, select the best solutions available and implement them. Decision making is an essential aspect of modern management. It is a primary function of management. A manager’s major job is rational decision making. Rational decision making refers to making decisions based on facts, opinions and reasonable reasons. Generally, decisions that are made based on facts and opinions are the best decisions. Nevertheless, not all decision makers can make decisions that are rational. This is due to the limitations that exist in the environment or within the decision maker.

1.2 What is Decision Making Environments?
Every decision is made within a decision environment, which is defined as the collection of information, values, alternatives, and preferences available at the time of the decision. A good decision is not only influenced by the experience, skills and efficiency, but also the adequacy and validity of the information obtained that are related to the business environment (Abu Mansor et al., 1999). If we could obtain sufficient information, it will be easier for us to forecast situations that might occur in the future. Thereafter, the process of decision making will be easy and accurate. Generally, there are three information situation in the process of decision making.

(i) Decision making in certain condition – Able to obtain complete information to facilitate his decision making.

(ii) Decision making in uncertain condition – Does not have any information, the manager need to use his experience and discretion to make a decision.

(iii) Decision making in risky condition – Obtain incomplete information, only give some insight in predicting what will occur.

1.3 Types Of Group Decision Making
Generally, there are three main methods of group decision making, which are brainstorming, nominal group technique and Delphi technique.

Brainstorming is a technique that involves a group of people, usually between five to ten, generating ideas in the form of free association. This technique encourages the generation of ideas as much as possible without any criticism. In the early stage, all ideas no matter good or bad is accepted without evaluated for the purpose of motivating all members in the generation of ideas. After all ideas has been collected, evaluation will be made by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the ideas given.

Nominal group technique is similar to brainstorming except that the approach is more structured. This method gathers information by asking individuals to respond to questions posed by a moderator, and then asking participants to prioritize the ideas or suggestions of all group members. The process prevents the domination of the discussion by a single person, encourages all group members to participate, and results in a set of prioritized solutions or recommendations that represent the group’s preferences.

Delphi technique, this technique is the modification of the nominal group technique, except that it involves obtaining the opinions of experts physically separated from each other and unknown to each other. This insulates group members from the undue influence of others. Generally, the types of problems handled by this technique are not specific in nature or related to a particular situation at a given time.

2.1 Detailed Explanation & Steps
The nominal group technique is a method of decision making whereby group member propose and evaluate their ideas individually before sharing them with other group members. The steps involved are as follow:

Step 1 – Member form the group in name only and operate independently, generating ideas for solving the problem on their own, in silence and in writing. Members do not interact with each other so the strong personality domination is avoided. This is done to provide adequate time for thinking and reflection, social facilitation from seeing other working on the same task, sufficient time for generation of ideas. It also encourage individual creativity.

Step 2 – Each member will read out his or her ideas to everyone in the group for sharing. These ideas are usually written on the whiteboard for review and reference by all group members. This will increase group members ability to deal with large number of ideas.

Step 3 – A discussion is held to evaluate the advantage and disadvantages of each idea. This step provides an opportunity for clarification and elimination of misunderstanding, present the logic behind the idea or disagreement.

Step 4 – After all ideas are discussed, they are evaluated for their merits and drawbacks and each participating member is required to vote on each idea and assign it a rank on the basis of priority of each alternative solution.
The idea with the highest aggregate ranking is selected as the final solution to the problem.

2.2 Application of Nominal Group Technique in a Real-Life Situation The nominal group technique is used effectively for many situations. For instance, if it is a non-profit group that is working a project, several people may be trying to come up with the best way to garner donation on a website for the holiday season. Someone may suggest the idea that showing a positive outcome for charity through a visual image is the best way to encourage donors. Another person may feel that showing the stark imagery of the existing problem will encourage donors. Still others might propose that showing the work in progress is best.

With the nominal group technique, everyone is then given a chance to state which is best and why it is best before the votes are in. For example, someone may feel that by showing the positive outcomes for charity will more attract the donors as it helps a lot of unfortunate people. Some people also believe that today’s social problems can be demonstrated to improve everyone’s sympathy and lend a helping hand to help them. After this, only the strongest choice will remain; each individual group then ranks their preference numerically. The one that ends up highest overall ultimately is chosen.

Second example, The Ministry of Health for the government of Temasek wanted to analyse the State of the health delivery service. The evaluation staff elected to use the Nominal Group Technique and brought together a diverse group of physician, rural health technicians, public health personnel, field personnel, and a cross section of clients (from different income and social classes).

From the silent generation of ideas in writing, each participant to need contribute their ideas on “What are the barriers to receiving adequate health care in our country?” The ideas generated by the participant included no money pay for services, lack of adequate facilities, not enough doctors and not enough trained personnel. 2.2 Application of Nominal Group Technique in a Real-Life Situation(CONT) During discussion, each participant clarified their ideas such as since trained personnel can replace many function of the physician, then doctors and trained personnel deserve separate consideration. Lastly, each participant will need to vote for the three most significant barriers to receive adequate health care.

The nominal group technique is effective, but it is not ideal for use in every situation. For instance, it should not be used when some members of the group are extremely outspoken and others are quite shy. It is not ideal for use if there are a lot of people who work better independently and without clearly expressing their opinions except for work done. In general, it should not be used if there is an issue or consideration that a good percentage of group member will not desire to freely express their ideas. If the group is just getting to know one another, it can also be an ineffective tool because the trust and comfort levels will be low.

2.3 Nominal Group Technique Advantages
By using nominal group technique, there are a lot of advantages. First, it can create an oppoturnity for all members to generate a greater number of ideas than traditional group discussion. Because when during traditional group discussion, as members in the group express their idea by taking turns, sometimes, an idea that had spontaneously arisen might be lost while a member waits to speak. This will restricts the production of ideas.

Second, it can also diminishes competition and pressure to conform, based on status within the group. For example, when everyone is very active to voice their ideas in the group discussion, meanwhile someone cannot to provide any ideas. Commonly, this is due to stress and nervous feeling that make them cannot focus and think properly.

Furthermore, nominal group technique encourage everyone to contribute and prevents people from dominating the discussion. This allows everyone’s opinion to be heard and judged equally. The written generation of ideas encourages the commitment of the member in taking part in the planned action too. This can eventually help everyone to further understand the problem by listening all the group member ideas and opinions carefully.

In addition, voting is anonymous, there are opportunities for equal participation of group members and distraction (communication “noise”) inherent in other group methods are minimized. In some situation, some members are try not to propose ideas due to numerous reason such as friendship, to avoid conflict, afraid of being boycotted and others. In the end, the discussion cannot be made rationally and it affects decision making. Thus, anonymous voting can solve this issue.

2.3 Nominal Group Technique Advantages (CONT)
Besides, it can also motivates all members to get involved because they sense they are personally affected. Each of everyone’s ideas will get a sense of priority concerns that are represented among the group members. This naturally will make people feel that their ideas are being taken seriously and respected. They can obtain input from people of different backgrounds, experiences, and ages and this can help to taps into expertise that might otherwise not be used.

2.4 Nominal Group Technique Disadvantages
Every coins have two sides. Nominal group technique also has weaknesses. Because no verbal interaction is allowed, there is less of an opportunity for powerful individual to control the group. The ideas may be ill informed or impractical, it must be explained that the process being carried out is not being done so in a hypothetical sense but is a realistic problem requiring realistic solutions. In many group such a tendency results is important dimensions of the problem never emerging in the group because some individuals will only contribute an idea if it is well-developed and completely thought out.

Since each individual must identify dimensions on his own, aspects which never would have been considered are more likely to be considered. In a normal interacting group some members prefer to confine their participation to reacting to the ideas of others. Since this is not an option available to the members of nominal group, a greater number of ideas will probably be aired than would otherwise be true. In an interacting group, the dimensions identified first are the most obvious ones and, quite often, the group does not progress beyond them. In the nominal group, balanced participation issues a greater breadth of ideas.

Also, the disadvantages of the nominal group technique are that it constrains the cross fertilization of ideas such as one person’s idea does not lead to a spark to ignite the next person’s idea or improvement. One way to overcome this is to have a second round of idea generating after the first wave of ideas have been submitted. The process also critized as being too routine and mechanical in its nature and that is restricts ideas to one particular problem domain and discussion point.

2.4 Nominal Group Technique Disadvantages (CONT)
The nominal group technique is a good stand-alone technique for simple issues but must be combined with other technique when the issue is more complicated or affects people outside the sphere of influence within the group. For example, this technique is best for small group meetings like fact finding, idea generation and search of problem and solutions, whereas is not suitable for routine business, bargaining, problem with predetermined outcomes and settings where consensus is required.

Compare to Brainstorming and Delphi technique, I will prefer to use nominal group technique decision making method. This is because the nominal group technique has the potential to reduce the magnitude of group problems because it embodies those characteristics that are essential for that goal to be accomplished. It provides for balanced participation. There is no evaluation during the process and hence the climate will not be a threatening one. The group is not allowed to dwell on the most obvious aspects, therefore, a diversity of suggestions is usually forthcoming. Used in conjuction with the problem-solving steps, the nominal group technique will result in greater group productivity as well as more satisfaction to the participants.

Whereas Brainstorming decision making method is very time consuming. In a group, member have to listen to others and may spend time repeating their ideas until they get sufficient attention. Going through the protocol, processing and ordering the ideas can become a complex procedure. This also depends on the number and order of the generated ideas. In addition, certain team member may dominate the discussion. Members with the ability to express their ideas faster and more effective gain the general attention of the group. Some form of leadership can be formed in this way within the group, which might make others feel intimidated. Sometimes, people who are not very skilled at controlling their non-verbal reactions and might influence the creativity of others with their posture, gestures or facial expressions. On the other hand, attempting to control their non-verbal behaviour might inhibit their own creativity.

The Delphi technique requires sustained involvement from the members. Member dropout is, therefore, a risk. The viewpoints and judgements that are collected through the Delphi technique are subjective in nature. Thus, the extent of accurancy and comprehensiveness of the data may, in some instances, be uncertain. Furthermore, if the Delphi technique is conducted through postal mail, the time required for the process can be lengthy, particularly if the panel of expert members is located in a variety of different countries. If you decide to use the Delphi approach with postal mail, you should expect to allocate between one to three month for data collection. It also required skills in written communication. People will easily get confuse or misunderstand of the ideas if they have a weak written communication skills.

In a nut shell, Nominal Group Technique will be my first choice if the situation is suitable.

Aaron Marquis, Demand Media (n.d) Different Techniques in Group
Decision-Making Available:
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/different-techniques-group-decisionmaking-34816.html [Retrieved on February 28,2014]

Carolyn Brahm, Brian H. Kleiner, (1996) “Advantages and disadvantages of group decision- making approaches”, Team Performance Management, Vol. 2 Iss: 1, pp.30 – 35 [Retrieved on March 3, 2014]

John A. Sample (1984) Nominal Group Technique: An Alternative to Brainstorming Available: http://www.joe.org/joe/1984march/iw2.php
[Retrieved on March 2, 2014]

Pak. J. Commer. Soc. Sci (2011) Nominal Group Technique and its Applications in Managing Quality in Higher Education Vol.5 (1), 81-99 Available : http://www.jespk.net/publications/46.pdf
[Retrieved on March 5,2014]

Smriti Chand Management (n.d) What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Decision Making? – Explained! Available:http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/management/what-are-the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-group-decision-making-explained/3503/ [Retrieved on March 5,2014]

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