How to Improve Group Decision Making

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Decisions are challenging enough to make independently, let alone in a group. Once you add more than one opinion into the picture, making a decision can become a drawn-out, frustrating process. Usually, group decisions require that all or most teammates agree on a matter until they can move forward with their project. It’s preferable to have everyone on board to avoid any tension between team members; however, this is not always possible, especially when team leaders get the final say.

Regardless, decisions must be made quickly to stick to the project timeline as closely as possible. For general pointers on how to avoid delays caused by decision making, team leaders can implement the effective group decision-making techniques below.

Make Sure Everyone Gets It

Before anyone immediately speaks up, the details involving the decision need to be clear. No one should provide their opinion without first knowing what exactly the decision is regarding and who or what it impacts. Not only do the particulars of the decision need to be spelled out, but potential conflicts with no obvious resolution can also be highlighted, too. If a decision requires the group’s input, it means that the matter is significant enough and relates to the main objective of a project. Otherwise, a rather inconsequential decision can be made quickly and the need for getting all teammates involved.

Start Analyzing and Identifying Missing Information

After the goal has been properly defined, and the group understands the significant hurdles and final objective, it’s time to start looking at possible solutions and strategies. At this stage, teammates will want to conduct a thorough examination of the available data and resources. Understanding the “why” behind the decision can help generate solutions. After all the facts are fleshed out, it will be easier to detect what details are missing.

Set the Lowest Attainable Bar

Describe which details for a decision are non-negotiable. For example, the solution has to be possible given the team’s resources, particularly their budget and skills. Regardless, the answer has to propel the group closer to their objective instead of causing other issues that require additional fixing.

Combine and Generate Ideas as a Group

Get all teammates together in the group to openly discuss options. Consider different angles and approaches to making a decision. While it is possible to repeat group decision-making techniques used in the past, this stage allows teammates to present ideas on nontraditional methods. No opinion should be shut down or evaluated to encourage people to develop ideas. You don’t want teammates to fear speaking up, meaning there shouldn’t be any critiquing at this stage.

Consider All Options

After all, ideas have been put forward, the most feasible options can be shortlisted after weighing each option’s pros and cons. This process isn’t as simple as it seems since specific pros and cons are not evenly weighted. For example, one solution may have a single pro but five cons, yet that single pro outweighs all of the cons. To simplify this process, the team leader can create a prioritized list of pros and cons.

Take Action

Ideally, the decision will be made unanimously based on the assessment completed in the last stage. However, this is usually not the case. Either at an earlier stage or during this stage, it will have to be determined what percentage of the group or which group members will have the final say in the decision. As mentioned, a unanimous decision is preferred in most cases, which is when every group member agrees. The following are other group decision-making techniques for finalizing a decision:

  • Consensus: Each person ultimately gives the green light, yet some may hold reservations but decide to agree for the team’s best interests and to keep the project moving forward.
  • Majority Rules: A decision is made when more than half of the group agrees. It’s easier to arrive at a majority than a consensus, yet the risk is not having the team’s full continual support.
  • Expert Decision: The group delegates a decision to an expert or another subgroup. This type of process is good for teammates who are not too invested in the decision because it is outside of their scope.
  • Executive Decision: The team leader gets the final say. Usually, they receive input from all teammates and then use that information to find a solution. Ideally, the team leader makes the final decision that aligns with the group’s mission and vision.
  • Default Decision: If no decision-making technique is implemented, the result is forced action to arrive at a conclusion. This method is best to avoid at all costs since it would mean that a decision is being made without thoroughly considering its implications.

Review and Assess

Most managers fail at group decision-making techniques partly because they forget to track their decisions. Avoid failure by monitoring the decision’s impact. If the decision is off to a good start, keep going. If not, go back to the drawing board and implement the second-best option and repeat the monitoring process. Ideally, the first selected solution will work properly; however, this final stage can often be one of a lengthy trial and error process until a permanent solution is implemented.

Decision making is one of the most challenging parts of working in a group. Although applying group decision-making techniques can be challenging, they can lead to a more beneficial outcome than an independently made decision. While a team leader might be tempted to come to a decision themselves to keep the project moving, It can be helpful to receive the input of others to get as many ideas as possible on how to approach a specific issue.

Of course, group decision-making techniques take time to implement. No decision is immediate, especially when they involve multiple people. A time tracking software can help simplify the decision making process. For example, some group decision-making techniques are inefficient and take too much of the group’s resources that could be better used elsewhere. actiTIME can be used as a means to highlight these issues by providing a visual representation of the team’s time. With help from actiTIME, team leaders and teammates can begin to shift their decision-making process to be more time-efficient.

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