Group Decision Making Meaning, Definition, Characteristics

Table of Contents:

  • Meaning of Group Decision Making
  • Definition of Group Decision Making
  • Characteristics of Group Decision Making
  • Types of Group

Meaning of Group Decision Making

Decisions can be made independently or by a group together. When a decision is made independently by a person, it is known as individual decision making while when members of a group together make a decision, it is called group decision making. Group decision making is a type of participatory process in which multiple individuals acting collectively analyse problems or situations, consider and evaluate alternative courses of action, and select a solution or solutions from among the alternatives.

A group consists of two or more persons who come together to interact with each other, purposely for the accomplishment of common objectives. The members of the group are interdependent and are aware that they are part of a group. Groups exist in every organization and they affect the group behaviour of their members. They not only affect the behaviour of their members, rather they have an impact on other groups and the organisation as a whole. Such groups are created by the organisation as well as by organisation members for their satisfaction. Thus, these groups are essential for organisational functioning.

Definition of Group Decision Making

According to Robbins, Millett, and Cacioppe, “Group decision making is defined as the process of making a choice from among two or more alternatives via the interaction of two or more people”.

According to George R. Terry, “Decision-making is the selection based on certain criteria from two or more alternatives”.

The number of people involved in group decision making varies greatly typically falling within the range of two to seven participants. The members within a group may be demographically similar or quite diverse. Decision-making groups may be relatively informal, or formally designated and charged with a specific goal. The process used to arrive at decisions may be in a structured or unstructured format. The nature and composition of groups, including their structure, size, demographic makeup, and purpose, all affect their functioning to some degree.

External contingencies faced by groups, such as time pressure and conflicting goals, impact the development and effectiveness of decision-making groups as well. Depending upon the time, situation and nature of the problem, decisions can be made individually or in a group. Group decisions are much better than the individual decisions. As a result, today organisations form groups, teams, and committee to make decisions.

According to Stephen Robbins, “A group may be defined as two or more individuals, interacting and interdependent, who have come together to achieve particular objectives”.

According to Marvin Shaw, “A group comprises, of two or more persons who interact with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person”.

Characteristics of Group Decision Making

The basic characteristics of group decision making are as follows:

1) Joint Responsibility

All the members are together responsible for the decisions made by the group. Even if some of the group members disagree with the decision, they are still responsible for the decision made by the members of the group because of the principle of joint responsibility.

2) Active Interaction

There is active interaction among group members. This is possible through participation in decision-making. Therefore, active participation is the fundamental pillar of group decision making.

3) Related to Situation

It is always related to a situation. A manager may make one decision in a particular set of cases and another in a different set of situations.

4) Conflicting Opinions

It is common to have conflicting opinions in the group decision-making among the group members.

5) Common Issue

At least two decision-makers are acting jointly on an issue through the process of decision-making. The number of decision-makers in a group can be more than two. However, the number of group members is maintained at a manageable level so that effective interaction takes place among them to arrive at a decision.

Types of Group

Groups can be classified into the following types:

1) Membership Groups and Reference Groups

Membership groups are ones to which the individual belongs, e.g., clubs, cooperative societies, workers’ unions, etc. Reference groups are those with which an individual identifies or to which he would like to belong.

2) Primary and Secondary Groups

Primary groups are those characterised by intimate, face-to-face association and cooperation. There is also often a high level of interdependence among members. Primary groups are also the key means of socialisation in society, the main place where attitude, values, and orientations are developed and sustained, e.g., family and peer groups. Secondary groups are characterised by large size and individual identification with values and beliefs prevailing in them rather than actual interaction. These groups are those whose members are rarely in direct contact at all with other members of the group. These types of groups are often large and usually formally organised. For example, Trade unions and membership organisations such as the National Trust.

3) Interest and Friendship Groups

An interest group involves people who may come together to accomplish a particular goal with which they are concerned. Friendship groups are formed by people who have one or more common features. People coming from a particular region holding a particular viewpoint or speaking a particular language tend to form friendship groups.

4) In-Groups and Out-Groups

In-groups represent a clustering of individuals holding prevailing values in a society or at least having a dominant place in social functioning, e.g., members of a team, family members, etc. Out-groups are the masses or conglomerates viewed as subordinate or marginal in the culture, e.g., street performers for office workers, a hawkers for a surgeon.

5) Temporary and Permanent Groups

Groups are formed to achieve certain objectives. They have a very short life. After attaining the objectives, they are dissolved. Problem-solving and discussing ideas are the primary functions of temporary groups. Committees, meetings and small groups are examples of temporary groups. There are certain natural and permanent groups. They have group performances, group activities, job assignments and so on. A team is a permanent group. Trade unions and business associations are examples of permanent groups.

6) Nominal and Non-Performing Groups

Nominal groups are presented with problems to be solved. Group members share their ideas in a well-organized and structured format. Their alternative suggestions are discussed to arrive at more effective suggestions. This group can be considered nominal because the employees are members of the group for name sake only. Non-performing groups are only on paper. These groups are established and developed without any actual performance. These groups may have certain goals but there is a lack of effort in pursuing and achieving these goals.

7) Formal and Informal Groups

Formal groups are established by the organisation to accomplish specific tasks or specific goals. Examples of formal groups are departments, divisions, task forces, project groups, quality circles, committees, etc. Informal groups are those groups, which appear in response to the need for social contact. These groups are formed by the members themselves within the organisational structure. They are formed to satisfy the social needs on the job. Some of the common examples of informal groups are “tea or coffee groups” and clubs.

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