Managers in today’s business environment are faced with numerous often-unplanned events that require decision-making. In the past it was more common for a manager to decide the course of action individually or within formal groups.
Important decisions in the business circle are now deemed too risky or important to be made entirely by one person. A manager must seek the right advice from several different sources.
Today it is often common for many managers to seek involvement from lower level employees in the decision making process whenever it can be done.
However it is not always possible just to ask a colleague what they should do. Most decisions will require a process of a greater degree of subordinate participation; these decisions can be made through a variety of different ways such as committees, task groups, departmental participation and so forth.
It is said that making decisions in a group allows for every angle to be looked at and every possible idea to be created with every decision from a group offering the best solution this method of decision making.
However like many techniques it has its positives and negatives.It can be time consuming and may not offer an answer to the problem that satisfies everyone.
This essay hopes to discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of group decision-making using several theories and some real life case studies.
We will see how participation in decision-making affects companies decisions; we will look at several helpful models i.e. vroom-jago model and all referencing it to real life situations and quotes from famous persons in the field
Circumstances Of Group decision.
Managers as part of their job are faced with many decisions in which they have to undertake, it is up to the managers themselves to decide in what kind of way they want to make the decision and solve the problem. However groups can offer an essential feature in decision making for an organisation. As Coghlan points out:
“Membership of teams and groups shape perception and participation in organisational change.. Groups and teams play a key role in the process of planned organisational change. The change process typically involves teams in the organisational’s hierarchy responding to the change agenda and adapting to it in terms of its tasks and processes” (Coghlan)
Coghlan statement clearly leads us to believe that groups are critical in making important direction changing decisions for the company.
Evidence supports this statement and we will look at this a little later as we discuss the advantage and disadvantages.
First we will look at how managers come about making the decision to use group participation.
A manager may decide to use group decisions in several circumstances and the contingency model by Vroom and Yetton as well as the Vroom and Jago decision model can prove useful in helping management decide when to encourage group participation.
In he contingency model by Vroom and Yetton there are five key management styles as described by Vroom that a manager can undertake to make decisions. This is shown in appendix 1.
We can see from this that the amount of participation that a manager involves in a decision varies greatly. It would not be logical for managers to always involve group decision-making on smaller problems such as whether to refund a customer (if it was something worth 10) this would be a waste of time and resources for the company and could easy be dealt with on the stop with a programmed decision by the staff.
Group decisions as described by Coghlan can be very useful for important or company changing problems or opportunities. It would not be wise to let one person decide whether to invest 4 billions pounds to merge with another company. This is a case when it would be wise for the company to go for the style as vroom described as decision style “GII” i.e. where you share a problem with your subordinates as a group and implement any solution that has the entire support of the group.
The Vroom and Jago decision model goes onto produce a decision tree for choosing a appropriate decision-making method.This decision tree allows the manger to move along the branches by answering the questions at each point. This leads to one of the five decision making styles as described in the Vroom Yetton model. However it has to be said that this model as well as models in general are neither right nor wrong they must be seen as guidelines or as a reference. However the Vroom-Yetton, Jago model must be seen as a useful tool in the aid of decision-making although it is not perfect.
Looking at appendix 2 we can see that the model looks a little complex however once you reach the starting point QR we can see that the model is simply a set of high, low yes, no answers that guide you to an eventual decision style. This model has been criticized as being not perfect. However it is not possible for me to say these critics are not right or wrong only this model is neither. However support is growing for this model as more examples of its uses come to light.
Advantages, Disadvantages To Group Participation.
In today’s empowered work places managers involve all workers in decision making as a rule rather than choice. However companies must understand that participative decision-making does has its disadvantages as well as it obvious advantages.
It is seen that in business two heads are better than one. This can be true in some circumstances as it offers an advantage in terms of offering a boarder perspective to establish the problem and sort out its causes and effects. It also enables the company to have more ability and facts at its disposal therefore allowing for greater scope to sort out any potentially tricky problem.
Group discussion leads to the evaluation and correction of possible decisions, plus group discussion also helps to back up and support a decision that an individual may not wish to take on his or her own due to the risk involved.
And finally group discussion allows for more satisfaction from the workers, as they feel involved with the project and decision that their work place is taking.
Group decisions however can tend to be time consuming, everyone must be consulted on the problem and then they must all find the time to jointly diagnose the problem and decide a solution.
Groups may also have the problem of not using the best solution for the problem, although the group discussion allows for more ideas some members may not agree on the best solution and therefore a comprise solution will have to be used to gain group wide acceptance. A boarder instant of this would be the risky shift phenomenon, this suggests that instead of groups taking fewer risks and making safer decisions the reverse is often the case. There is a tendency for groups to make more risky decisions than an individual may take. Another point is that people inclined to make risks are more influential within the group than say the more conservative members, therefore good ideas could be lost.
Group think is another problem that must be considered within a group. Group think tells us that pressures on individual members to conform and reach consensus mean that minority or unpopular ideas maybe suppressed. Members who oppose the group are stereotyped as being weak, stupid, and argumentative. As People may not wish to question any ideas of the group, bad ideas may filter through.
One other big problem to group think as see we see in the example of Napster is that it can lead to a inherent morality of the group which in turn can lead to members to be convinced of the logical correctness of what it is doing and to ignore ethical or moral consequences of decisions ( more harsher examples of groupthink would be Pearl harbour, Vietnam, Mullins99)
The final problem is people do not feel the same sense of responsibility for group decisions or their outcomes. “A decision which is everyone’s is the responsibility of no one”(Mullins,98)
An example of disadvantages of group decision-making and group think can be seen by www.napster.com. Even when it was clear that their practice of providing free mp3’s of the latest musical material was wrong they decided as a group in the face of the courts to continue their practice. This was because their group norms supported them doing so and that they were the most sought after website on the Internet. However group members of Napster had to compromise all their values so as to keep dissent and as there was no clear reasonability everyone agreed to this illegal practice. If some members would have voiced their concerns and beliefs earlier in the process and put an end to the practice before the courts took over they could have save themselves much time and money.
However lets go back to advantages of group decision-making and look at the techniques used to promote it and stimulate creativity.
Management have realized that encouraging employee participation in solving problems can be extremely advantageous toward the company. Frontline workers are constantly in touch with the needs, wants and concerns of the companies customers, it allows them fuller insight into how to possibly solve problems that concern the company’s consumer base.
When I first worked at Matalan they operated a system by where you could post any ideas you had on how to improve the operation of the store and its service to the customers. If you idea was put into practice you would receive a financial reward. This system received many replies and allowed for many improvements to be implemented around many Matalan stores.
There are many different ways in which can pursue employee participation. The most common and well-known participation tool would be brainstorming.
Brainstorming is a decision-making technique in which group members present spontaneous ideas and suggestions for solving the problem concerned. It allows any ideas regardless of how impractical they may seem. This in turn hopefully promotes freer and more creative thinking. Brain storming works on involving everyone, and encouraging communication, listening, and information sharing in the hope that it maximises ideas/possible solutions to problems and also minimises the risk of overlooking any points of the problem under question.
An advancement of the brainstorming technique is the Delphi technique this is based on anonymous inputs from individual members of the group and then management assess the responses until a consensus is reached. This can be time consuming but overcomes the limitations of brainstorming and the systems of group think.
Now Lets take for example many common marketing departments; it is now commonplace for them to have basketball hoops, televisions, computers games, and other stimuli within the room. Management hope this will promote a relaxed environment within the group in the hope that it will allow for more creative thinking and brainstorming within the marketing group
Other techniques used for group decision making include signing a devils advocate. The devils advocate challenges the assumptions and assertions made by the group to prevent any premature consensus. (Daft,00) This it hopes forces the team who created the idea to solve the problem to examine and explain any risks that maybe associated with it.
Another similar approach would be multiple advocacy. Multiple advocacy, involves several advocates and allows for the presentation of several different points of view on the idea in question. It allows minority and unpopular opinions, decisions are therefore based on solid augment and the understanding of all the pro’s and con’s.
As we can see there are circumstances where group decisions are more necessary than others and it is up to the managers to decide which situations would be best to involve group decision. Although the decision of when to involve group decisions is entirely up to the manager there are models available such as vroom to help give guidance should they need it.
Group participation offers a variety of different advantages for solving problems and tasks. It allows for the group as a whole to participate toward solving the task and allows for more creative thinking than would be given by an individual. Groups cover all angles of a problem and enable any ideas to be looked at in detail before being implemented.
However like all good things it has its disadvantages. Group participation includes such problems as groupthink and risky-shift phenomenon. These tell us that support can be given to ideas just to enable group harmony or because individuals don’t wont to gain a reputation. It also includes the point that people inclined to take risks are more influential within the group.
Whatever the disadvantages and advantages of group participation and performance, groups will always form part of the pattern of work organisation. It is merely a matter of judgement for the manager as to when, and how best, to use groups in the execution of work.