The group decision making process is a participatory event where multiple people can engage collectively to analyze the problem, and then develop a solution together. This process makes it possible to evaluate and consider several different courses of action that may be possible. The number of people that define a “group” varies based on the circumstances involved, but most organizations limit the number to seven or less.
These groups can be formal in nature, although many organizations prefer to keep the experience informal as a way to encourage creativity. Some groups are given the designation to come up with a specific goal or process that can help the larger team move forward. Others are tasked with a brainstorming session that benefits the individuals in the group alone. The decisions can be either structured or unstructured when results are achieved.
It is possible for the structure to lead toward an improved outcome when a variety of conditions that pertain to the chemistry of the group are satisfied.
There are several group decision making process and cons to evaluate if you are thinking about including this process with your team. Here are the key points to consider.
List of the Pros of Group Decision Making
1. It promotes the sharing of information between group members.
The most significant advantage of the group decision making process is that it removes silos on your team. People are encouraged to share information with one another because every opinion is valid with this structure. It becomes possible to take into account a wider range of information because there are multiple views involved in each discussion. Everyone has the chance to contribute their unique expertise and experiences to the final solution.
2. It creates the foundation of a better decision.
When a group comes together to make a decision collectively, then the judgment of everyone involved makes that process more intelligent and creative then if someone were tasked with doing it on their own. People are able to ask questions, collaborate, and discuss multiple ideas together as a way to identify strong solutions and complete recommendations.
This design makes it possible to observe a problem from different perspectives, which is the foundation of a better decision. Even if a leader is tasked with making the final choice, this advantage can help that person have more wisdom available to them for the process.
3. It can lead to a central position.
When the group decision making process is a primary component of any decision that must be made, then it typically moves the solution from an extremist position to a centrist one. The ideas which come under discussion have all of the pros and cons of each one evaluated to determine what the best course of action should be. This process eliminates the potential for a single individual to guide an entire team down a path that everyone sees as being wrong without being able to do something about the situation.
4. It creates more investment in the mission and vision of the team.
When people have an opportunity to take ownership over a decision or situation, then they are more likely to invest themselves in the final outcome. There is a greater commitment to the decisions made through the group decision making process because this effort encourages people to make an investment. It creates a spirit of cooperation that leads to a higher team moral over time. Even if the outcome doesn’t meet expectations, the group is willing to come together to create a better overall result.
5. It promotes higher levels of job satisfaction.
When teams commit to a group decision making process, there is generally a higher rate of job satisfaction found at the individual level. When people are happier about going to work, then there is a direct correlation to the quality of communication that occurs in the workplace. Everyone gets the opportunity to learn from one another, thereby increasing the amount of knowledge they can use in every-day life. That makes it possible to cross-train in some situations to continue high levels of productivity even if someone is absent.
6. It involves intelligent risk-taking opportunities.
Some people are unwilling to take risks when they have to do it on their own because of the potential for failure. When you place these individuals into a group decision making process, then they have more security to find an innovative solution because the risk factors involved are spread throughout the team. It makes it easier on each person involved with the group to become familiar with the problem, which allows for a potentially profitable decision to occur that some would be unable to find on their own.
7. It encourages collective thinking as a strength.
Making decisions as a group is very different than making a choice as an individual. It makes it possible to find a diverse set of views that can create a positive outcome for everyone involved. Even when there are extreme views being offered as part of the group decision making process, the desire to compromise on a mutually beneficial outcome creates new opportunities that may be otherwise unavailable to everyone.
8. It increases the soundness of the organization.
Whenever there is a decision that must be made, change is going to happen at some level. If there is one thing that most workers do not like about their workplace, it is the need to adapt to changing circumstances. When you can put everyone together in a room to discuss the problem that an organization faces, then it increases the soundness of its structure. There is a better chance that the team will come up with a cost-effective solution within a structure that is acceptable to everyone involved.
List of the Cons of Group Decision Making
1. It takes more time to reach a decision when using this process.
The group decision making process is less efficient from a timing perspective because there are multiple voices involved. Each person has the opportunity to contribute their perspectives and experiences to the greater conversation. That requires more time than what a single person would require because there is more coordination, discussion, and participation. Unless there is a leader who can facilitate this process effectively, it is easier for teams to get lost in the minutia of details instead of dealing with the overall situation.
2. It can make everyone think that they carry a leadership role in the organization.
Every organization relies on the leadership team to make effective decisions for everyone working on the mission or vision of the company. When you incorporate a group decision making process, then each person on that team is given a sliver of that leadership role. Although some individuals accept this responsibility in the form intended, many use this process as a way to expand their real or perceived power in the team environment. That can lead to reduced creativity because it discourages some team members to share their thoughts and opinions.
3. It can lead to a lower level of responsibility and accountability.
When you put together a group to brainstorm a solution, everyone will be fast to except credit for a successful experience. If there is a bad decision that comes from this process, then it is easier for the individual members to deny any personal responsibility for the outcomes that were achieved. Being in a group situation makes it a simpler process to blame others for poor results.
4. It can contribute to a process that is called “groupthink.”
Although the goal of the group decision making process is to come up with several different opinions to consider, there can be obstacles in place to this outcome. People often fight for their own ideas or opinions, which can create a bully pulpit during the discussion process. If one person stands out in a group that is apathetic, then there won’t be any other perspectives that become available. Some people will also agree with an idea that they don’t actually like because they want to avoid conflict within the group.
5. It relies on the expertise of each member to be successful.
If you put people together in a group situation, then that does not guarantee that you will have a successful collaboration experience. The benefits that are available through the group decision making process only calm when there is enough experience and expertise in the group to solve the problem. When people can only offer opinions instead of facts to the discussion, then the possibility of a poor outcome increases under this situation.
The group must have the ability to recognize what the problems, obstacles, and solutions are to be effective when brainstorming a situation.
6. It can be a process that leads to polarization.
There are times when a group decision may be inadequate for the solutions that are necessary for a problem that is under consideration. The individuals involved may move toward an extreme solution instead of taking a centrist approach. When this occurs, then the risks that the entire team will face in the future increase. Although there is the potential for massive rewards because of this process, it can also provide destructive elements to the culture of the workplace.
7. It creates a cost consideration that must come under evaluation.
Because there is more time involved with the group decision making process, companies must make a salary investment in this structure that may cause their costs to rise. It requires time and money to find relevant information, arrange meetings, have discussions, and arrive at a consensus of relevance. If the budget is a significant factor in the choices that are being made each day, then an individual decision might be the better choice to pursue.
8. It can be influenced by interpersonal conflicts.
Some people may choose not to participate in the group decision making effort because they have a personality or ethical conflict with other members of the team. When there is disagreement or disharmony involved with this process, then it is possible that the group may not arrive at a decision. This disadvantage is particularly powerful when the disruption occurs between leaders.
9. It can produce conflicting goals for an organization.
There can sometimes be conflict between the goals of a group and the overall mission that an organization wants to achieve. When this disadvantage occurs, the group may decide to pursue their own goals instead of trying to create a benefit for the overall company. The group decision making process can sometimes come to the conclusion that self-improvement is a better solution than organizational betterment.
The pros and cons of the group decision making process encourage teams to compromise and share ideas in ways that help everyone. Although there is no guarantee of success from this process, when there are more people involved, then there are usually fewer risks to worry about at the end of the day. It encourages ownership without placing undue pressure on a specific individual to find the correct choice.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.