Section 1: Benefits and Problems of Group Decision-Making in Organisations
In a globalised market, organisations with the capability to recognise and understand as well as rapidly respond to emerging issues and opportunities are likely to have the greatest chance of retaining their competitiveness and profitability in the long term (Chakraborty et al., 2013). Group decision-making is a process of arriving at a response to issues and opportunities based on the participation of several individuals working as a collective (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013). Reaching a group decision is not easy. Due to the important role of group-decision making to the success and longevity of the organisation, the discussion provides a clearer understanding of the benefits and problems of group decision-making. Problems have to be managed effectively in order to optimise the benefits to the organisation.
Benefits of Group Decision-Making in Organisations
Group decision-making contributes a number of benefits to the organisation. These benefits affect group and organisational outcomes.
First, group decision-making integrates individual knowledge to generate a pool of collective knowledge that is always superior to each member’s knowledge resource (Chakraborty et al., 2013). Greater information resource of the group leads to strategic and quality decisions that target the achievement of goals and objectives with long-term impact (Kooij-de Bode et al., 2009). Group decision-making channels individual knowledge to serve as tool for achieving the intended organisational outcomes (Lightle et al., 2009). Group decisions best address the issues and goals related to competitiveness, growth, and sustainability (Chakraborty et al., 2013).
Second, group decision-making facilitates the consideration of different perspectives for a better comprehension of an issue and the range of available solutions. Groups are characterised by the diversity of the perspectives of the members (Emich, 2014). Diversity of group members can emerge from different aspects. Human capital diversity describes the differences in the perspectives of group members because of their varying levels of knowledge, expertise, and personalities (Martin-Alcazar et al., 2012). Socio-demographic diversity refers to the different perspectives of group members by reason of their gender, age, ethnicity, income, and educational attainment (Kooij-de Bode et al., 2009). In the context of international business, diverse perspectives of group members can also arise from members based in different countries with varying cultural norms (Zhang et al., 2007). Multiple perspectives enable a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues and opportunities that would likely translate into better responses.
Third, group decision-making creates a venue conducive to creativity (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013). Brainstorming, which is usually part of the group decision-making process, encourages individuals to develop creativity through no criticisms, open sharing of idea, encouragement of as many ideas as the members can give, and building on the ideas of other members. Creative individuals are known to show stronger reasoning abilities, reliance on a broad range of knowledge and experience of the group, motivation, and inventiveness (Goncalo and Duguid, 2008). As a result, the decisions of groups that are comprised of creativity individuals are likely to be optimal and responsive.
Fourth, group decision-making eases the implementation of decisions because of increased acceptance of the decisions by individuals who participated in the process. Group members take pride in their efforts towards bringing about the resulting decisions (Alper et al., 1998). Individual members and the group align with the decisions they make (Goncalo and Duguid, 2008). An implication is the stronger motivation of individual group members to create good decisions as a source of accomplishment and pride. In effect, group decision-making facilitates the creation of productive and quality decisions and leads to greater work satisfaction and stronger employee commitment (Alper et al., 1998).
Fifth, group decision-making provides a process for training managers and employees. Group decision-making is a complex process involving a broad range of skills, including leadership, communication, problem-solving, negotiation, and conflict resolution (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013). Involvement in group decision-making provides opportunities for members to practice and develop these skills, which are also applicable to other work processes. In raising an idea, an individual member has to communicate the idea, explain its impact on the issue being addressed, negotiate with other members who have other ideas, and contribute to resolving conflicts that may arise. Group-decision-making creating opportunities for employees and managers to gain more experience in group dynamics, build knowledge about group structure and functioning, and acquire and hone work-related skills (Martin-Alcazar et al., 2012).
Sixth, group decision-making creates opportunities for managers and employees across different departments to socialize and meet their social needs (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013). Newcomers to the organisation often experience anxiety and uncertainty in dealing with new work demands, environment, norms, and people. Socialisation is the process through which newcomers become acquainted with the organisation (Emich, 2014). Apart from the standard orientation process, newcomers can also learn more about the organisation and adjust to the organisational culture through the group decision-making process. In large organisations, group decision-making also addresses the social needs of members. A task force, for example, is a group involved in making decisions on a specific issue with members from different departments contributing a wide range of input into the decision-making process. A task force is a means for meeting members of the different departments that may not be possible without the creation of the decision-making group.
Problems of Group Decision-Making in Organisations
While group decision-making offers a number of benefits to organisations, problems are inevitable in this complex process. Problems that affect the decision-making process and its outcomes also have broader impact on the organisation.
First, groups may succumb to the tendency towards polarisation by taking more risks and making more extreme decisions (Emich, 2014). In individual decision-making, the person making the decision is likely to be more cautious in taking risks because he/she becomes liable for the consequences. There is a tendency for individual decision-makers to make non-extreme decisions. In group decision-making, liability for the consequences of the decision accrues to the group and distributed to its individual members. As a result, there is a tendency for groups to assume greater risks and make more extreme decisions. Although extreme decisions are not automatically detrimental to the organisation, an extreme decision involving high risks that does not succeed can backfire on the group and have serious consequences on the profitability and growth of the organisation (Goncalo and Duguid, 2008).
Second, collective decision-making is also prone to group think, which describes the situation when group members put more weight on consensus and unanimity with the effect of blocking the realistic assessment of the alternative courses of actions and decreasing the possibility of coming up with quality decisions (Tasa and Whyte, 2005). Group think can be identified through the views of the group as a closely knit unit operating on its own, narrow-mindedness relative to input from outside the group or interpretation of situations, and strong pressure for members to conform to the preferences of the majority and/or the leader (Schultz-Hardt et al., 2002; Tasa and Whyte, 2005). This problem is also more likely to emerge in groups that are isolated from the rest of the organisation, faced threats to the continuity of the group, and experienced recent failures (Schultz-Hardt et al., 2002). When group think occurs, the decisions made by the group are likely to create more or new problems for the organisation, rather than addressing issues and taking advantage of opportunities.
Third, effective information pooling and sharing is a challenge to groups involved in decision-making. Information in decision-making involves those common to the group members and those known only to one or some members of the group. Ideally, groups collect and use both types of information in order to make optimal decisions (Schultz-Hardt et al., 2002). In practice, groups often fail in eliciting and sharing information unknown to most of the members or succeed in collecting information known to individual members but fail to put these information to good use in the decision-making process (Kooij-de Bode et al., 2009). This becomes a problem when the hidden profile situation occurs. Members of the group may share common information leading to an inferior decision, while individual members carry private information that result to a superior decision (Lightle et al., 2009). In failing to include private information into the pool of information used in decision-making, the group is likely to make the inferior decision. Additional conditions have to be implemented in order for groups to effectively share common and private information before making decisions (Alper et al., 1998).
Fourth, group decision-making can become more complex than decision-making by a team leader or manager. In comparing the decision-making of the whole group and a representative of the group, group decision-making involves lower psychological trust and reciprocity. Psychological trust is reliance on the belief that other members of the group will adhere to their roles in the group decision-making process. Reciprocity is the exchange of or mutual benefit. (Song, 2008) Anxiety towards the intention and interest of group members can complicate the decision-making process by requiring the implementation of measures for trust-building before moving to the consideration of the problem and the alternative solutions. In the case of problems that require immediate decisions, group decision-making may not be able to deliver an optimal decision in a timely manner.
Fifth, group decision-making has the potential to create greater disturbance in the organisation. Deviance in the group could foster creativity and result to fair decisions, but it could also lower the confidence of members in group decisions and require greater work, especially in decisions over hard issues. If deviance is perceived to be unhelpful, the group will likely be divided resulting to the failure to arrive at an optimal decision or to a poor decision. Blame attribution and conflict over the failure of the group can hamper the operations of the organisation. (Rijnbout and McKimmie, 2012) Personal attitudes can also get in the way of optimal group decisions. Individual positive affect facilitates better information exchange by prevailing over individual negative affect (Emich, 2014). Otherwise, negative affect can influence the behaviour of group members and people outside the group that could lead to bad decisions, inefficiency, and low productivity.
Consideration of the benefits and problems of group decision-making in organisations showed that the process is complex and its outcomes can be positive and/or negative. Group decision-making can lead to quality and optimal decisions when collective information and diverse perspectives are considered. Group decisions are accepted and easier to implement. The group decision-process can foster creativity and provide opportunities for skills training and social benefits. However, group decision-making is also prone to the problems of polarisation, group think, ineffective pooling and sharing of information, greater complexity, and conflict. In order for the organisation to realise the full benefits of group decision-making, measures should be implemented, through the HRM system, which would prevent, address or ease the impact of the problems.
Section 2: Reflection
As a freshman, I was initially overwhelmed by essay writing assignments. Bringing together different ideas to create a coherent and responsive essay was the hardest part. Understanding the basic concepts and their application in the real world gave me a better grasp of how different ideas relate to each other. Knowledge of the fundamentals made essay writing a lot easier. Remembering the numerous rules of English grammar was a challenge during my first year at university. Not having enough time to read through and edit my work led to more grammatical errors. Greater effort at time management and practice through oral and written communication helped me improve. Researching is tedious but very rewarding. I had difficulty finding good and reliable sources of information online and offline. I learned that use of the right keywords in the library database search bar can get more accurate hits. This made the research process less tiresome. I always feel good when I find that books and journal articles that contain the exact information I need for class. It took me some time to become familiar with the strict structure and format of citations and references, including the use of italics and bold letters, capital and small letters, and periods, commas and apostrophes. I have memorised some of the format for common sources, such as books and journals. I still consult guides from time to time, especially for uncommon sources, such as conference papers and pictures. With continuous practice, I should be able to lessen errors.
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