It is common to believe that group decision-making is superior to that of the individuals (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Groups are supposed to increase creativity and quality of the decisions, to promote understanding and acceptance, as well as to enhance the accuracy of the final solution. Groups should give a more objective view of the problem and reduce the bias of the decisions made (Lunenburg, 2012). However, this is not always the case and group work can also be biased and skew organizational decision-making.
The company that I worked for put a lot of emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Group decisions were considered superior and most of the projects were organized as team activities. In order to eliminate bias, it was important to create cross-functional groups, where people came from different backgrounds and had different perspectives on the issue. The groups always had a coordinator, who was responsible for the project and structured the work of the team in the most effective way. Supervisory role was not related to ones seniority, but to the relatedness to a particular project.
Since over time people in a group tend to think alike, it was important to form teams with different members for the new tasks in order to foster creativity and to avoid group thinking. The problem of the majority rule was addressed by giving an opportunity to all members to present their opinion during open discussions. Furthermore, conflicts and pressure on individuals were closely monitored by the coordinator. The ability to work well in a group was a part of the appraisal system in the company, therefore people tended to be attentive to the opinions and ideas of their teammates.
Although such system addressed some problems of the group decision-making, it created others. Thus, close supervision and monitoring of the conflict situations led to a so called Abilene Paradox, or the avoidance of objections (Sims, 1994). In this way, organizational decisions were always skewed towards the least controversial opinion, which was easily acceptable by all people. Additionally, since only the group coordinator was responsible for the results of the project, groups tended to take riskier decisions in most of the situations, which were biased by the limited consideration of risks (Sims, 1994).
Lunenburg, F. C. (2012). Educational administration: Concepts and practices. (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology:
Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Sims, R. R. (1994). Ethics and organizational decision making: A call for renewal. (pp. 49- 59). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.