o There are at least two basic dimensions to group effectiveness: (a) efficient attainment of the organizational goals that gave rise to the group, and (b) sufficient satisfaction of needs of the individuals that they will continue to maintain and develop the group.
o Some characteristics of an effective group are (you should consider these as working hypotheses, and test them as you work and gain further experience):
o Decision-making groups are only one of many types of groups
o There is a broad spectrum of roles for decision-making groups, ranging from full autonomy to decide through receiving announcement of a decision from above. There is no one best role, with the "best" role being contingent on factors of the boss, subordinates, and situation. Tannenbaum & Schmidt (1958, Harvard Business Review) presented what was clearly the first contingency framework for leader roles in group decision-making, and probably was the first published reference to a "contingency framework" dealing with organizations. They described a continuum of leadership behavior, ranging from completely leader-centered to completely subordinate-centered, with a range of manager roles between, e.g.: (a) manager makes decision and announces it, (b) manager "sells" decision, (c) manager presents ideas and invites questions, (d) manager presents tentative decision subject to change, (e) manager presents problem, gets suggestions, makes decision, (f) manager defines limits, asks group to make decision, (g) manager permits subordinates to decide within limits defined.
o Both individual and group decision making have value. Their relative advantages in a particular situation are contingent on many factors. Some frequent advantages of group decision making are:
o Some frequent disadvantages of group decision making are:
o "Groupthink" is a label coined by Janis (1972) for conditions that can develop in very poorly functioning groups in which there is deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures. Three preconditions increase the likelihood of groupthink, according to Janis: (a) the group is very cohesive, (b) the group becomes insulated from qualified outsiders, and (c) leaders promote their favored solution. Typical symptoms are:
Janis coined the groupthink label after analyzing the Bay of Pigs disaster (an ill-fated invasion of Cuba in April 1961 by a small group of Cuban refugees - a mission started by President Eisenhower and reapproved for implementation by the Kennedy administration). The very ineffective (with our advantage of 20-20 hindsight) decision making by this group of some of the country's most experienced and capable public servants was in sharp contrast to the highly effective decision making by this same group in managing the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 (when U-2 photographs revealed Russian missiles and sites in Cuba, and Khruschev eventually backed down - after a tension-filled thirteen days during which many historians believe the world came closer to nuclear war than at any other time!)
There are, of course, many other visible examples of groupthink, for example, Admiral Kimmel's advisory group, in ignoring warnings of a forthcoming Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; President Johnson's advisory group in its decision to escalate the Vietnam War; and President Nixon's top decision-making group in the Watergate affair.
o There are many processes for reaching a decision in a group. One of the important (and more sophisticated) ones is decision by consensus. There is good support for the conclusion that consensus tends to result in higher quality decisions than other modes such as majority power (voting), minority power (persuasion and manipulation), and compromise. Consensus decision making requires more time and effort, but is worth this investment for important and precedent-setting decisions.
Consensus Decision Making
o Consensus is a decision process for making full use of available resources in the group, for resolving conflicts creatively, and for developing a solution that will be supported to a satisfactory degree by all group members (in contrast to producing a "we-they" polarized outcome in which 49% of the group are unhappy). Consensus can be difficult to reach, requires more time than many other methods of deciding an issue, and ordinarily would be the decision process primarily for more important decisions with long-term implications.
o There are various degrees of consensus - in practical situations, there will seldom be total accord. One way to categorize or select a degree of consensus is to consider a spectrum of questions about a decision-making outcome, and determine which of these levels all group members can answer "yes" to:
o Some guidelines for achieving consensus, in addition to the general guidance of trying to operate with the characteristics of a highly effective group:
Synergy is both a result and a symptom of an effective group. Synergy could be defined as "the combined action of two or more agents such that, acting jointly, they increase the effectiveness of one another and produce an outcome that is greater than the sum of their outcomes when acting independently," often summarized as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
Synergy almost always occurs in effective groups, particularly when the members are seeking consensus. However, merely having a group of individuals meeting together to produce a decision or solution does not necessarily mean that synergy will result. For example, if members lack a common goal, or individuals try to compete or "win" by having their ideas accepted by the group, or members operate from a win-lose or zero-sum mentality, or members have poor interpersonal communications, it is certain that the group's outcome will be less effective or desirable than it could be.
Groups can obtain synergistic results when their process of working heightens sharing, contributing, and constructive competition (i.e., stimulation). Winning becomes a group effort rather than an individual quest. Conflict is managed effectively to make it an asset rather than something to be avoided. Members look for bridges between ideas, for ways to build on and improve ideas already presented. When group members ensure that they have a common, clearly understood goal, stay on the topic, share ideas and opinions openly and directly, listen effectively to each other, and manage the group process explicitly, they are more likely to achieve synergy. When operating by consensus, the possibility of synergy is increased because the group reaches substantial agreement, rather than splitting into majority and minority camps and wasting effort in arguing and competing.
Synergy in a group is analogous to energy to an individual. The potential synergy of a group is always is greater than the sum of the combined energies of its members. Whether this potential is realized to produce better results than the group's most competent member could have achieved alone depends on the group and its process. Effective teams not only use their energy effectively, they create new energy.
|Last modified June 10, 2008||Copyright 1984-2008 Rex Mitchell|