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Complex Thoughts

Decision Making

Each decision making method has its uses and is appropriate under certain circumstances. Each also has its particular consequences for the group’s future operation. An effective group understands each method of decision making well enough to choose the method that is best for…

  • the type of decision to be made
  • the amount of time and resources available
  • the history of the group
  • the nature of the task being worked with
  • the kind of climate the group wishes to establish
  • the type of setting in which the group is working

DECISION BY AUTHORITY WITHOUT GROUP DISCUSSION

The president calls an unscheduled emergency meeting.

ADVANTAGES
  • Useful for simple, routine decisions
  • Good if very little time is available
  • Helpful if group members lack the skills and information
    to make the decision any other way
DISADVANTAGES
  • Advantages of group interaction lost
  • One person is not always a good resource
  • No commitment to implementing the decision
  • Resentment and disagreement may result in sabotage and
    deterioration of group effectiveness

DECISION BY EXPERT

The treasurer decides with which bank to open a checking account.

ADVANTAGES
  • Useful when the expertise of one person is so far superior that little is gained from group discussion
  • Can be used for simple, routine decisions  
DISADVANTAGES
  • Not enough interaction between members for them to gain from each others resources
  • No commitment to implementing the decision

DECISION BY AVERAGING INDIVIDUAL OPINIONS

The vice president calls members of the executive board and asks,
“What is a good weekend to have our retreat?”

ADVANTAGES
  • Useful when it is difficult to get group members together to talk 
DISADVANTAGES
  • Difficult to determine who the expert is
  • No commitment to implementing the decision
  • Unresolved conflict and controversy may damage group effectiveness in the future

DECISION BY AUTHORITY AFTER GROUP DISCUSSION

The membership chairperson solicits input on potential recruitment efforts; however, he/she makes the final decision what events to hold.

ADVANTAGES
  • Uses the resources of group members more than some other methods
  • Gains some benefits of group discussion    
DISADVANTAGES
  • Does not develop a commitment to implement the decision
  • Does not resolve the controversies and conflicts among group members
  • Members compete to impress the designated leader or tell the leader what they think he/she wants

DECISION BY MINORITY

The fundraising committee decides to send letters to alumni members soliciting donations.

ADVANTAGES
  • Can be used when everyone cannot meet to make a decision.
  • Helpful when only a few members have any relevant resources
  • Useful when broad member commitment is not needed to implement the decision   
DISADVANTAGES
  • Does not utilize the resources of many group members
  • Does not establish widespread commitment to implement the decision
  • Full benefit of group interaction is not obtained

DECISION BY MAJORITY VOTE

The organization holds an election for new officers.

ADVANTAGES
  • Can be used when there is insufficient time to decide by consensus
  • Can be used when complete member commitment is not necessary for implementation
  • Closes discussion on issues that are not highly important to the group  
DISADVANTAGES
  • Usually leaves an alienated minority
  • Encourages either-or thinking
  • Full commitment to implement the decision is absent
  • Full benefit of group interaction is not obtained

DECISION BY CONSENSUS

The organization establishes goals for the upcoming year.

ADVANTAGES
  • Produces an innovative, creative, and high-quality decision
  • Elicits commitment by all member to implement the decision
  • Uses the resources of all members
  • Useful in making serious, important and complex decisions to which all members are to be committed
DISADVANTAGES
  • Takes a great deal of time and psychological energy, and high-level member skill
  • Time pressure must be minimal and there must be no emergency in progress

MAKING CONSENSUS DECISIONS

Perfect consensus means that everyone agrees what the decision should be. Unanimity, however, is often impossible to achieve. There are degrees of consensus, all of which bring about a higher-quality decision than majority vote or other methods of decision making. These are the basic guidelines for consensual decision making:

  1. Avoid arguing blindly for your own opinions. Present your position as clearly and logically as possible, but listen to other members’ reactions and consider them carefully before you press your point.

  2. Avoid changing your mind only to reach agreement and avoid conflict. Support only solutions with which you are at least somewhat able to agree. Yield only to positions that have objective and logically sound foundations.

  3. Avoid conflict-reducing procedures such as majority voting, tossing a coin, averaging and bargaining.

  4. Seek out differences of opinion. They are natural and expected. Try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can improve the group’s decision because they present a wide range of information and opinions, thereby creating a better chance for the group to hit upon more adequate solutions.

  5. Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when discussion reaches a stalemate. Instead, look for the next most acceptable alternative for all members.

  6. Discuss underlying assumptions, listen carefully to one another, and encourage participation of all members.

             

ADAPTED FROM COUGAR CLUES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA–MORRIS, AND JOHNSON AND JOHNSON’S JOINING TOGETHER: GROUP THEORY AND GROUP SKILLS

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