GROUP DECISION MAKING

organizational behavior  GROUP DECISION MAKING

Overview

Group and organizational effectiveness hinge on minimizing process losses, achieving process gains, aligning group goals with organizational goals, and having the appropriate level of group cohesiveness. Three types of groups that are especially important in many organizations include the top management team, self-managed work teams, and research and development teams. This chapter makes the following points:

a.  Actual group performance often falls short of potential performance; process losses result from coordination and motivation problems in groups. Process gains cause the potential performance of a group to rise, and they enhance group effectiveness.

b.  Social loafing, a motivation problem that leads to process losses, is the tendency of individuals to exert less effort when they work in a group than when they work alone. Social loafing occurs for two reasons: (a) individuals in a group think that they will not receive positive outcomes for performing at a high level or negative outcomes for substandard performance because individual levels of performance cannot easily be identified and evaluated; and

(b) individuals think that their own efforts are unimportant or not needed. Social loafing can be eliminated or reduced by making each individual feel that he or she can make an important and worthwhile contribution to the group, and by keeping group size small.

c.  Group tasks can be characterized in terms of the nature of interdependence between group members. Thompson describes three types of task interdependence: pooled, sequential, and reciprocal. The nature and causes of process losses and process gains depend on the type of task involved and the degree of interdependence among group members.

d.  Group cohesiveness is the attractiveness of a group to its members. Group size, the similarity/diversity of group members, competition with other groups, success, and the exclusiveness of the group help to determine the level of participation and communication within a group, the level of conformity to group norms, and group goal accomplishment. Group goals aligned with organization goals, lead to an optimal level of group cohesiveness that results in high performance. When group goals are not aligned with organization goals, group cohesiveness is dysfunctional for an organization.

e.  Four kinds of work groups that have the potential to affect organizational performance dramatically are top-management teams, self-managed work teams, research and development teams, and virtual teams.

Deciding When to Use a Team

Use a Team When:

  • Many perspectives are needed
  • Acceptance of the decision is critical
  • The problem is complex or unstructured
  • Individuals judgments are unreliable
  • Individuals are unwilling to take necessary risks
  • You want to develop team members’ team-related skills

Be Cautious About Using a Team When:

  • The issue is unimportant
  • Individuals don’t want to participate
  • Individual risk preferences are too high
  • Time is of the essence
  • Group norms are unacceptable

Guidelines for Dealing with Problem Behaviors

  • Choose team members carefully.
  • Offer training.
  • Provide clear goals.
  • Clearly define member responsibilities.
  • Use peer evaluations.
  • Reward superior performance.
  • Don’t let social considerations overwhelm concern with the task.
  • Remove problem team members as a last resort.

Group Decision Making

Advantages

1.  more knowledge through pooling of group resources

2.  Increased acceptance & commitment due to voice in decisions

3.  greater understanding due to

4.  involvement in decision stages

Disadvantages

1.  Pressure in groups to conform

2.  Domination by one forceful member or dominant clique

3.  Amount of time required, because group is slower than individual to make a decision

Group Problem Solving Techniques

  • Consensus presenting opinions and gaining agreement to support a decision
  • Brainstorming process to generate a quantity of ideas
  • Nominal Group Technique process to generate ideas and evaluate solutions
  • Delphi Technique process to generate ideas from physically dispersed experts
  • Computer-Aided Decision Making

Group Problem Solving Techniques

Consensus

Presenting opinions and gaining agreement to support a decision

  • In these groups, members meet face to face and rely on both verbal and nonverbal interaction to communicate with each other.
  • Interacting groups often censor themselves and pressure individual members toward conformity of opinion.
  • Brainstorming, the nominal group technique, and electronic meetings have been proposed as ways to reduce many of the problems inherent in the traditional interacting group.

Brainstorming

“Process to generate a quantity of ideas”

Group members actively generate as many ideas and alternatives as possible, and they do so relatively quickly and without inhibitions.

  • It is meant to overcome pressures for conformity in the interacting group that retard the development of creative alternatives.
  • In a typical brainstorming session, a half dozen to a dozen people sit around a table.
  • The process:
  • The group leader states the problem clearly.
  • Members then “free-wheel” as many alternatives as they can in a given length of time.
  • No criticism is allowed, and all the alternatives are recorded for later discussion and

analysis. One idea stimulates others, and group members are encouraged to “think the unusual.”

The nominal group technique

“Process to generate ideas and evaluate solutions” A form of structured group decision making that enables everyone to participate and have his/her ideas heard without hostile criticism or distortions. A structured voting procedure is used to prioritize responses to the nominal question.

  • Restricts discussion or interpersonal communication during the decision-making process
  • Group members are all physically present, but members operate independently.
  • Specifically, a problem is presented, and then the following steps take place:
  • Members meet as a group but, before any discussion takes place, each member independently writes down his or her ideas on the problem.
  • After this silent period, each member presents one idea to the group. Each member takes his or her turn.
  • The group now discusses the ideas for clarity and evaluates them.
  • Each group member silently and independently rank-orders the ideas.
  • The idea with the highest aggregate ranking determines the final decision.
  • The chief advantage of the nominal group technique is that it permits the group to meet formally but does not restrict independent thinking, as does the interacting group.

Delphi Technique

  • For groups who do not meet face to face.
  • Leader distributes topic or task
  • Each member responds
  • A leader collects responses and sends back to team and solicits feedback.
  • Process is repeated until there is resolution on the issue in question.

The computer-assisted group

The computer-assisted group or electronic meeting blends the nominal group technique with sophisticated computer technology.

  • Up to 50 people sit around a horseshoe-shaped table, empty except for a series of computer terminals.
  • Issues are presented to participants, and they type their responses onto their computer screen.
  • Individual comments, as well as aggregate votes, are displayed on a projection screen.
  • The major advantages of electronic meetings are anonymity, honesty, and speed.

Social loafing

A motivation problem that leads to process losses is the tendency of individuals to exert less effort when they work in a group than when they work alone. Social loafing occurs for two reasons:

(a) individuals in a group think that they will not receive positive outcomes for performing at a high level or negative outcomes for substandard performance because individual levels of performance cannot easily be identified and evaluated; and

(b) individuals think that their own efforts are unimportant or not needed. Social loafing can be eliminated or reduced by making each individual feel that he or she can make an important and worthwhile contribution to the group, and by keeping group size small. In groups, individual performance is difficult to identify. There is a strong potential for social loafing, the tendency to exert less effort in a group. Social loafing can impact work-group effectiveness.

Social loafing occurs because workers feel that high-level performance goes unrewarded. This occurs because individual performance goes unidentified, and low-level performance goes unpunished. Motivation theories suggest that performance is high when outcomes are based on individual performance. Workers in a group believe that their efforts are unimportant and that others can do the work.

Social loafing results in performance below the group potential. Lack of motivation makes some workers exert less effort than if they worked individually. Social loafing by one leads to reduced effort by others. The sucker effect occurs when members, not inclined to social loafing, reduce efforts because they refuse to become the “suckers” of social loafers. This reflects the equity theory of motivation; inequity leads to restoring equity by changing inputs or outcomes.

Social Facilitation

The presence of group members stimulates individuals, who feel that others will evaluate their performance and give them positive or negative feedback. Social facilitation refers to the effects that the physical presence of others has on an individual’s performance.

Audience effects are the effects of passive spectators on performance, whereas co-action effects are the effects of others when individuals perform the same task. This research indicates that the presence of others has positive and negative effects on performance. The type of effect depends on how well the task is known. When others are present and the task is well learned or performed repeatedly in the past, performance is enhanced. When others are present and the task is difficult, novel, or complex, performance is impaired.

People realize that the presence of others interferes with performance and isolate them. Organizations can help workers benefit from, rather than be harmed by, social facilitation effects. They can provide private offices or special furniture for performing difficult tasks, and meeting rooms and tables for performing tasks that benefit from the presence of group members.

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