Work Culture

7 Ready To Implement Group Decision Making Techniques For Your Team

By on June 14, 2019

Deliberately or not, group decision making happens in every team. Most teams look at the process of group decision making to improve the quality of decisions. But they tend to overlook its potential for enhancing the company culture & collaboration.

This article explores 7 different techniques to use in group decision making. It lays down the ground rules, advantages, disadvantages of these group decision making techniques.

1. Hartnett’s CODM Model

The Consensus Oriented Decision Making (CODM) Model was developed by Tim Hartnett. It intends to improve group decision making by involving everyone in developing a solution. CODM Model encourages participants to come up with creative ideas without fear of judgment. This model can be useful in complex projects or problems where the solution is not clear. And the best course of action is yet to be decided.

How to Use the Model

The model uses a seven-step process:

  • Framing the problem
  • Having an open discussion
  • Identifying underlying concerns
  • Developing proposals
  • Choosing a direction
  • Developing a preferred solution
  • Closing

Step 1: To begin, identify the problem to be solved. Also, agree on how the group will decide in later stages. This step determines the level of agreement required to proceed with proposals and decisions. For example, do you need everyone in the group to agree unanimously with the final decision? Or can a simple majority decide?

Step 2: Encourage open discussion, and invite all members to generate and contribute ideas. Note down all ideas that surfaced.

Step 3: Identify your project constraints. Identify key stakeholders who will be affected by the group decision. And then list possible underlying concerns for each one of them.

Step 4: Use the ideas generated in the 2nd step to generate proposals. These proposals should address the underlying concerns from the third step. Present each idea. Encourage everyone to contribute. Help the group focus on one idea at a time, without criticism.

Step 5: In this step, the group will decide on the best proposal to continue forward. Present each proposal from the 4th step. Request group participants to highlight the pros and cons of each of these proposals. Using the decision rule agreed to in the 1st step, agree on the best proposal.

Step 6: This step’s goal is to further improve the final proposal. Review the underlying concerns identified earlier to be sure all concerns have been addressed. Encourage group members to bring up more issues with the proposal. And amend the final proposal as appropriate.

Step 7: Ensure there still is consensus to move forward with the decision. This step is an opportunity to request the group’s cooperation in implementing the agreed-upon final decision.

Advantages of the Model

  • The CODM Model holds the potential for producing better quality decisions. It does so since it elicits the entire group’s creativity to develop proposals.  Moreover, it tries to address all stakeholders’ concerns.
  • This model can build better groups/teams. Simply because it focuses on improving members’ relationships through successful collaboration. CODM also tries to strengthen group cohesion through widespread agreement.
  • Overall organizational culture improves because participants gain communication and collaboration skills.

Disadvantages of the Model

  • The success of the CODM Model lies in part in the skillfulness of the project leader. This project leader must be able to effectively encourage everyone’s creative participation.
  • This model tends to work best in smaller groups. As the group starts getting bigger, it becomes difficult to get a widespread consensus.
  • CODM may take longer than other group decision making techniques to reach decisions. This is because it focuses on exploring all ideas and reaching a consensus.

2. Stepladder Technique

This is a step-by-step approach that manages how members enter the group decision making process. The stepladder technique combines elements of individual and team decision making. It encourages all members to contribute on an individual level before other group members can influence them. The use of this technique results in the group hearing many different viewpoints. The technique works best in groups of four to seven people.

How to Use the Technique

Before beginning the group decision making process, agree to certain ground rules:

  • Allocate sufficient individual problem-solving time to each member before they join the core group.
  • Require entering members to speak first, presenting all ideas before hearing the core group’s possible solutions.
  • Allot adequate group discussion time to discuss issues immediately after an entering member presents ideas.
  • Delay any final decisions until all group members are present.

Once you establish the ground rules, begin the Stepladder Technique.

  • Before meeting as a group, present the problem to all members. Each member thinks about the problem and possible solutions, forming their own opinions independently.
  • A core group of two members meets, and they discuss the problem.
  • Add a third group member to the core group. This third member presents her ideas to the core group before the other two members share the ideas they already have discussed. After all three members present their ideas, they collectively discuss their options.
  • Add a fourth group member to the group, following the same process as above.
  • After all group members are brought into the core group and presented their ideas, the entire group reaches a final decision.

Advantages of the Technique

  • The Stepladder Technique equalizes the participation of group members and promotes accountability.
  • It requires the participation of all members. And since each member has an uninterrupted presentation opportunity when entering the group it gives shy, less vocal participants a chance to voice their opinions.
  • With each member independently coming up with ideas before group discussion, a greater variety of possible solutions could result.
  • Additionally, the use of the Stepladder Technique can be useful in preventing groups from prematurely arriving at solutions.

Disadvantages of the Technique

  • This technique loses effectiveness after nine or 10 participants.
  • The Stepladder Technique can be time-consuming and redundant for the initial two participants.

3. Bain’s RAPID Framework

The RAPID framework is developed by the American management consulting firm Bain & Company. This framework aids the group decision making process by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the participants who are providing input as well as delineating who has responsibility for making the final decision.

How to Use the Framework

The primary roles involved in this group decision making technique are Input, Recommend, Agree, Decide and Perform (RAPID is an acronym from these roles). Before beginning the decision making process, the following roles are defined and assigned.

  • Input. People who provide the data that is the basis of the decision have input responsibility. They give their own judgments about the proposed solutions, but though they have a right to provide input into recommendations, they do not have the veto authority.
  • Recommend. The person with this role leads the process and is responsible for gathering, assessing the relevant facts. This person also has the responsibility to propose alternative courses of action.
  • Agree. Some people must agree to a recommendation, and they must sign off on a recommendation before it can move forward. Executives with legal or compliance responsibilities often have this role.
  • Decide. Eventually, one person will decide and accept accountability for the decision.
  • Perform. The perform role goes to the individual or group members that will execute the decision.

Advantages of the Framework

  • The use of this framework reduces confusion about roles and responsibilities.
  • This framework saves time on important group decision making since it involves the right people in the process and clearly outlines what is required to proceed with the decision making.
  • Greater transparency in decision making tends to result in greater buy-in from the organization.

Disadvantages of the Framework

  • The use of this framework is time-intensive, so it is best used for important decisions that affect the organization as a whole.
  • This framework reveals the actual power structure in the decision making for the organization, which might make some companies uncomfortable.
  • RAPID framework slows down the decision making process.

4. Brainstorming

Brainstorming involves group members verbally suggesting ideas and alternative courses of action. This happens in a relatively unstructured brainstorming session.

How to Use the Technique

  • At the beginning of the brainstorming session, describe the situation in as much detail as necessary to give group members a complete understanding of the issue or the problem to be solved.
  • Solicit ideas from all members of the group.
  • Record all ideas presented on a flip chart, marker board, or similar presentation medium.
  • Do not allow group members to evaluate any of the ideas until all suggestions are presented.
  • Group members then discuss the proposed alternatives and evaluate the feasibility, desirability, utility, and possibility of the different suggestions that were presented.

Advantages of the Technique

  • Brainstorming is useful for generating a large number of potentially creative ideas.
  • Brainstorming sessions can produce synergy, with ideas transforming and expanding in response to interaction with others’ ideas.
  • This is ideal for smaller groups of less than 15 people.

Disadvantages of the Technique

  • This technique potentially limits the contributions of less vocal group members or those who fear the ridicule or judgment of other members.
  • Though useful for producing a variety of ideas, brainstorming does not provide much guidance in processes for evaluation of these alternatives or in the selection of a proposed course of action.
  • If limits are not placed on the number of ideas or time allowed for discussion, then brainstorming sessions can be time-consuming.

5. Charette Procedure

The Charette Procedure modifies the use of brainstorming for larger groups, reaping the benefits of brainstorming while allowing all participants to have a voice. This procedure makes brainstorming with groups of 15 or more focused and productive.

How to Use the Procedure

  • Divide the large group into smaller groups. Up to six members generally are the ideal limit for smaller groups, but this will depend on the size of the overall group.
  • Each group selects a person to act as the recorder.
  • If multiple topics will be discussed, then assign each group one of the topics.
  • Provide around 15 minutes for the groups to separately discuss their topic. During the discussion, the recorder documents all ideas raised during the small group brainstorming session.
  • When the time is up, the recorders move from one group to another.
  • The recorders share the ideas of their first group with the new group.
  • Discussion within the small groups continues, with recorders again documenting the session.
  • The process continues until a full rotation finishes, with each recorder spending time with each group.

Advantages of the Procedure

  • The Charette Procedure manages brainstorming sessions for larger groups.
  • The procedure can effectively work when brainstorming ideas for complex problems or multiple topics.
  • Using this procedure reduces the length of brainstorming sessions.

Disadvantages of the Technique

This procedure does not provide guidelines for the evaluation of the proposed ideas or methods for ultimately making a decision.

6. Nominal Group Technique

The Nominal Group Technique is an alternative form of group brainstorming that provides a structured method to encourage everyone’s contribution.

How to Use the Technique

  • The nominal group technique requires group members generate their ideas in writing, without discussion with each other.
  • Take turns sharing ideas. Group members choose one idea from their list and take turns reporting their ideas to the group. A facilitator records each idea as presented, without any group discussion of any idea.
  • Discuss ideas: The group discusses the ideas shared. Members are allowed to clarify, criticize, or defend each idea.
  • Vote on ideas: Each member privately and anonymously votes on the ideas according to whatever ranking or preference system decided upon.
  • Calculate the group decision: The group ranks for the ideas presented are calculated based on the vote. The final decision is the outcome of the voting process.

Advantages of the Technique

  • The Nominal Group Technique can be used with groups of any size, though larger groups should be separated into smaller groups of about six to nine people.
  • Decisions can be made quickly. from the resulting prioritized list of responses.
  • The technique allows more passive participants to voice their opinion.
  • Nominal Group Technique combines individual and group decision making elements.

Disadvantages of the Technique

  • This technique minimizes discussion so ideas might not fully develop.
  • It can be less stimulating for participants and affect group dynamics.
  • The technique lacks the flexibility to address more than one problem at a time.

7. Delphi Method

The Delphi technique is a process of reaching a group consensus from a panel of experts. Experts provide individual responses to multiple rounds of questionnaires, shaping their answers in response to the aggregated results of the group. The Delphi technique is a good choice when face-to-face interaction is difficult, anonymity is preferred, and you are concerned one or two people might dominate the group discussion.

How to Use the Method

  • Develop the questionnaire: Define the research problem and identify questions to ask. Consider piloting the survey with a small group to make sure the questions will elicit appropriate answers to address the research problem.
  • Select the participants: Choose participants with some expertise in areas related to the research problem. Selecting participants with an interest in the problem will help minimize attrition and help garner thoughtful responses.
  • Issue the questionnaire: Send the questionnaire to the selected participants, with a deadline for its return and instructions to comment based on their personal opinion, experience, or previous research.
  • Collect and combine responses: All comments are returned to the facilitator, who reviews the responses, analyzes content to group similar themes, and summarizes for communication back to the participants. This process is referred to as “controlled feedback.”
  • Complete additional rounds: The aggregated responses are sent to all participants, who are asked to respond. The experts’ responses likely will shift based on the information from other participants. At the end of each subsequent round, participants return the questionnaires to the facilitator, who reviews responses and compiles them. As many rounds can be repeated as needed to reach an acceptable level of consensus.
  • End the process: The process ends when the facilitator decides an appropriate level of agreement has been reached. Alternatively, an agreed-upon number of rounds may be set at the beginning of the process. Two to four rounds typically will be conducted, but there is no universally agreed cut-off.

Advantages of the Method

  • The Delphi Method allows the use of a diverse set of experts without needing to gather everyone together for a physical meeting. In other words, the method forms a committee without the typical obstacles, such as scheduling conflicts, travel and space requirements, and lengthy discussions.
  • Anonymous responses limits domination of the discussion by some individuals reduce pressure to conform to peers’ opinions and allow for the sharing of opinions without fear of repercussions.
  • Controlled feedback of the group opinion filters out “noise” and allows participants’ reconsideration based on others’ responses. Individuals’ responses shift over time until consensus is reached.

Disadvantages of the Method

  • The Delphi Method lacks clear methodological guidelines.
  • This method does not allow participant discussion in live interactions.
  • Survey fatigue is possible. Respondents asked the same or similar questions multiple times can waver in their continued commitment to participate.
  • Lengthy response times can slow the rate of discussion.
  • The facilitator can influence the decision.

Choosing the Right Decision-Making Method for the Problem

Different situations call for different group decision making techniques, depending on the importance of the decision to be made, its complexity, and timeline. When choosing which technique to use for your particular issue, consider the following questions for guidance:

  • Are you trying to generate ideas or reach a specific conclusion?
  • How many people will be involved in the group?
  • Can the group meet in person or via conference call or web conference?
  • Are any members likely to dominate others or will participants hesitate to voice opinions?
  • Does everyone need to agree with the decision?

Things to Consider while selecting the Group Decision Making technique

  • Be clear about the decision being made. What is the problem to solve or a choice to make? Who ultimately will be making the decision? How will the group influence and be influenced by the decision?
  • Respect participants’ time. Minimize the amount of time required in meetings, start and end meetings on time. Keep any discussions focused on the topic. Don’t involve people who have no relevance/interest in the group decision making process.
  • Be mindful of deadlines or other time restrictions. Stay aware of deadlines that must be met and structure the decision making accordingly.
  • Be sure all opinions are respected. When facilitating group interactions, do not allow participants to be dismissed, disregarded, or dissed.
  • Don’t allow one or two people to dominate all discussions. If some participants cannot be reined in, consider a decision making method that forces equal participation or anonymous interactions.

Choosing the right group decision making technique and the right people to participate should result in better decisions and improved team culture.

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