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How to fine-tune group decision making

Check out some techniques and tips for making effective decisions

The group decision-making process is considered an important moment in the carrying out of projects and the solving of problems in any business. But making these decisions is easier said than done. And the more significant a professional’s responsibility, the greater the risks inherent in decision-making.

As difficult as it may seem to reach a consensus, sharing the responsibility for decisions with others is worthwhile and an excellent opportunity to bring together different mindsets, ideas, and perspectives to bear on a problem. It represents a chance to achieve optimal solutions and promote innovation.

Intuition or rationality?

Intuition cannot be explained – some people have it, while others do not. As an utterly emotional element, it can be impossible to control. While mainly used for personal choices, intuition may also be necessary for a professional context.

In the business world, where risks tend to be higher, and decision-making involves more people than in the personal realm, a rational approach is generally preferred, with clearly-defined problems, objectives, and strategies. But how reasonable should we be when making decisions?

Perspectives and challenges change over time, as do responses and solutions. Furthermore, our information about a given problem may be imperfect and full of variables, so our strategies will never give us absolute certainty over the results.

All decision making, whether alone or in a group, involves elements of intuition and rationalism. With this in mind, how can we make the group decision-making process more productive and manageable?

Nothing beats an approach based on sensitivity combined with a practical methodology. You may choose to make a decision tree, for example, among many other tools and techniques we will discuss in this article.

Tools and techniques for group decision making

  1. Brainstorm:

You may have heard of this technique before. Brainstorm is a technique that encourages people to say the first thing that comes to mind on a particular subject.

While these words or ideas may seem random initially, this tool will help you extract valuable insights from the team and give an overview of possible solutions.

Having pooled the team’s ideas, it’s just a matter of filtering the ones that make the most sense, assessing the positive and negative points, and working to improve those most likely to generate results.

Brainstorms work as follows:

  • First, assemble a group of up to 10 people – more than that, and it may become difficult to manage the discussion;
  • Next, the group leader should present the problem under discussion;
  • Then, everyone contributes their ideas and alternative measures for addressing the issue;
  • This can be done in several ways: simple verbal presentation to the group, adding post-its to a whiteboard, and adding to a list are among the most common;
  • At this stage, ideas should not be criticized, merely presented to other members of the group;
  • All suggestions should be registered by the leader and discussed and analyzed by the group after a break or even the next day. At this point, criticisms and additions to others’ ideas are welcomed;
  • Having discussed the ideas presented, the group should decide upon the best options – bearing in mind that this may be a combination of two or more ideas.
  1. Decision tree:The decision tree diagram is a well-known analytical tool that can help drive decisions, whether in a group or alone, by mapping the decision alongside probabilities, actions, and outcomes.

The decision tree can be a flowchart, where each node results in new branches, leading to a tree-like design. This tool can be used for different decision-making processes, including when deciding on something quickly.

  1. Delphi method:

This is a technique originally intended for more complex issues to be discussed by a group of anonymous experts. In the Delphi method, the objective is to reach as close a consensus as possible by highlighting the opinion and justification of each expert and collecting anonymous feedback from the group.

Experts should be strategically selected. The support group that will help in decision-making will be responsible for formulating questionnaires, defining objectives, establishing decision criteria and measuring results, finding similarities between opinions, and raising discussions on each relevant point.

Some of the principles of the Delphi method include the following:

  • The anonymity of participants;
  • Structured information flow;
  • Regular feedback.
  1. Vote:

Voting can be a handy and democratic decision-making tool when preceded by an in-depth analysis, a substantial range of solutions, and total commitment to the project’s success.

  1. Ranking of options:

This option is more extensive than merely voting according to a majority and involves ranking available options from most relevant to least relevant before establishing where team members agree and disagree. This tool helps generate productive discussions before a definitive solution is identified.

Carry out the necessary analyses, gather ideas, define the possibilities, and then ask each team member to rank the options according to established criteria. This group decision-making technique may take slightly longer than the others, but it can yield significant insights.

  1. Nominal group:In this technique, discussion group members present their ideas systematically and independently.

In the case of a marketing decision, for example, the group will comprise members from this area who can significantly contribute to a practical decision. Once the group leader has identified and presented the problem to the others, the decision-making process takes place as follows:

  • First, each member of the group writes down their ideas for solving the issue at hand;
  • Next, the written pictures are presented by their respective creator and placed on a board;
  • After these individual presentations, the group discusses each idea in turn;
  • Once the discussion is over, each participant must anonymously assign a score to each idea presented, usually between 1 and 10;
  • The idea that scores the highest among the group members will be adopted.

Groups of different sizes can use this technique.

  1. List of pros and cons:

This is a must-have tool for any decision-making process, regardless of other devices. Listing the pros and cons of each proposed solution is essential for deepening one’s analysis.

The team should also consider these pros and cons, which can be identified via brainstorming – as each member reflects on each point in turn, the team should move closer to a consensus.

Listen to your team 

While the tools above are essential to the decision-making process, listening to your team and valuing and recognizing professionals is fundamental, turning them into the co-authors of these decisions. Doing so encourages innovation and positively reinforces contributions that improve products and services.

We often use data, intuition, reports, expert opinion, and other sources when making decisions. All these elements are helpful, but have you ever considered the importance of listening to your coworkers?

The truth is that they are among the stakeholders in your business and, more often than not, the direct recipients of its guidelines. Despite this, many organizations do not effectively participate in their strategies.

This participation should take place in two dimensions. First, structure a procedure that makes communication viable and satisfactory. Then, the collected ideas and suggestions must be effectively considered in decision-making – that is, they influence its direction, even if they are not adopted.

Listening leads to a more participatory form of management and a feeling of recognition and appreciation of your team, who cease to be spectators and become decision co-authors.

Changing posture, creating a strategy, and structuring processes to listen to ideas, suggestions, and feedback reinforce an organizational culture of heightened trust between a team and its leaders.

Following these group decision-making tips in your organization will allow you to make decisions more intelligently and efficiently.

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