The case study we are addressing this week involves how a team and Project Manager avoid Groupthink and its pitfalls. In order to understand what group think is you have to refer to Irving Janus who coined the phrase back in 1972. He related that Group Think is when a group makes a decision based on group pressure; it can lead to faulty decisions. Janus, 1972) Some of the symptoms that Irving Janus documented of group think are Illusion of invulnerability, Collective rationalization, Belief in inherent morality, Stereotyped views of out-groups, Direct pressure on dissenters, Self-censorship, Illusion of unanimity, and Self-appointed ‘mind guards’. (Janus, 1972) In our book, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers states that there are three (3) key symptoms that take root and they are Over Estimation of the Group, Closed Mindedness and Pressure towards Uniformity. These will be the 3 areas I am going to focus on.
Over Estimation of the Group Now that we know what group think is we can move on to how a team and Project Manager might avoid the mistakes and downfalls of Group Think situations. (Thompson, 2008) When a team is falling into a group think methodology a Project Manager must be able to recognize the signs before any decisions are made and set in motion. If the group is making statements that start with we feel, we think, or we suspect it is a good indicator that they just don’t know or are just following along with the consensus of the group.
Group think can cause problems when everyone goes with the flow especially on a wrong decision. In using group think methodology management has to weigh the pros and cons of the group’s decision from all sides. Sometimes a little more research prior to implementing a group think decisions should be done or a devil’s advocate should be assigned into the group think matrix in order to prevent team members from being led down a garden path.
The one thing I have noticed when in a group think situation, the group always looks for someone to be the mouthpiece for the group, this person usually has strong leadership skills but can be short sited and very opinionated which rubs off on the group as a whole. Some team members tend to have difficulty explaining or relating what is on their mind in a group setting, they rather tell their ideas one on one because they are an introvert by nature! They would rather have the extrovert take charge and be the one who voices the opinions or decisions of the group. They tend to stay out of the lime light.
Project Managers should encourage team members to bring out concerns or objections to issues that are being discussed and/or considered, he/she should not influence the team with his or her own preferences to the issue, he/she should play the devil’s advocate and guide conflict in a positive manner, the group should be allowed to be evaluated by other groups and critiqued in an unbiased manner, splitting the group into different sub groups to bring out and investigate different alternative solutions or methods that could be used, call meetings with the group to discuss and evaluate any decisions prior to instituting them and develop alternatives for each methodology prior to giving final approvals. (Thompson, 2008)
A good Project Manager should keep his group focused on the project at hand, have weekly meetings to check progress of his team to ensure that discussions are being conducted that is giving the group the necessary conflict for them to evaluate potential risks and dangers involved with the decisions they are recommending. The Project Manager should make the team aware that they can bring up ideas or doubts about any issue without the fear of being ridiculed or rejected by other team members. The ultimate goal is for the Project Manager to make his team work as a team through having all members contributing their knowledge and skills in making the project a success.