Group Decision Making involves the type of participatory process which requires individuals to collaborate in analyzing problems, considering and evaluating alternatives, and proposing the best possible solution. Group decision making techniques need to consider the group dynamics like nature, size, structure, purpose, etc. and need to be separated from teamwork as it might not always be a collective effort.
Group Decision Making Methods
Each group decision making process is designated to make better the process of decision making in organizations. Some of the common decision making methods include: Brainstorming, Storyboarding, Nominal Group Technique, Dialectical Inquiry, and Delphi.
Brainstorming includes the group members’ informal and verbal suggestions, ideas, alternative propositions, and course of actions. The structure of brainstorming is usually informal and this technique is one of the methods of decision making employed during the initial stages of the process. The problem is discussed during this method to ensure all team members completely understand what they need to work on. Finally, a group facilitator or leader keeps track of the ideas while differentiating the phases of ‘alternative generation’ and ‘alternative evaluation’. The process of evaluation doesn’t occur until the group members are tired out of ideas. While brainstorming offers a productive method of generating ideas, it offers very limited assistance in evaluating the effectiveness of the ideas. Moreover, it is not clear whether all team members are contributing to their optimal levels. So, brainstorming needs to offer anonymity either in the form of online posting or written suggestions to make sure each member has a chance to express his views.
Storyboarding is a more structured technique than brainstorming. This technique focuses on recognizing and highlighting the major issues by breaking them down and independently brainstorming for each issue. Storyboarding requires the entire story including the background and current standing of the issue in front of the entire team. This technique deploys two stages: Creative and Critical. Throughout the storyboarding process, brainstorming technique is followed with rigorous brainstorming performed during creative thinking session and evaluation of ideas in critical session. The critical stage necessitates the reduction of ideas on merit and practical basis. Storyboarding is ideal for analyzing problems and generating alternatives to the issue.
Nominal Group Technique requires a more formal presentation of list of all ideas of proposed solutions by the group members in written format. Generally the group members are encouraged to record their ideas privately followed by ideas or alternatives sharing until all solutions are exchanged. Verbal idea exchange is usually limited to requests for clarification without further allowance of evaluation or criticism at this stage. Once all solutions are listed, the group is expected to discuss or rate/rank the viability of each proposal based on their preference. Empirical research provides some evidence on the effectiveness of nominal group decision making in generating a greater number of alternative decisions of higher quality.
Dialectical Inquiry is the group decision making technique that stresses the consideration of alternatives. It usually bifurcates the group into opposing views to debate on their approaches on the given issue with the proposed advantages and disadvantages. A similar approach to dialectical inquiry is called The Devil’s Advocate which requires a single person to highlight the issues and possible problems with the proposed solutions. Such problem solving method makes sure the group considers all possible ramifications of the proposed decision.
Delphi technique is gaining popularity in the virtual workplace. This technique is a group decision making technique for the team members located at different physical locations. The individuals involved for group decision making process are usually selected for their problem solving expertise or knowledge in that particular area. Each individual is requested to provide input, ideas, or alternatives to the solution, independently. The solutions may be received through fax, e-mails, online discussion boards or even electronic bulletin boards. After each stage in the process, the individuals are asked questions about their solutions and eventually after a few more rounds the group settles the decision.