How good are you in making decisions? Part 2 – Difference of making decision individually or in a group

Decision making in group or individuallyAs we saw previously, the decision making process is actually very structured and the quality of our decisions depends on how good we are in following every single step of this process. While each step has its own predicaments and complications, we have outlined the main tools and techniques to overcome those.

However, in order to successfully manage this process, it is imperative to consider whether the decision is made by a single person or in cooperation with others. As no one lives in complete isolation, especially managers, a good call depends on decision-maker’s ability to navigate the process through all the reefs of working in a team. To achieve that, it is important to understand the main differences when it comes to individual vs. group decision-making.

I’m not going to renew anything to anyone by saying we behave differently when we’re on our own and when we’re in a group. What I’m going to provide you with is an answer to how differently we behave and how we can apply that knowledge when a decision needs to be made. So let’s start, then.

Due to the simple reason of time constrain, anyone in the meeting will be able to influence the decision making process only as much as he’ll be given the stage to do so, it all comes down to 4 distinctive scenarios:

You are making decision on your own

  • Your only partners here are the “voices in your head”, so as long as you follow the previously outlined decision-making process – you’ll be OK. An important thing to remember here, though, is that there is no one to help you to overcome possible judgment biases that we all suffer from to certain degree. So it’s a good thing to present your decision to someone whose judgment you trust even after it’s been made. This brings us to the next scenario…

You + one other person

  • This scenario still retains some flavor of intimacy, raising the value of the specific interpersonal conversation. Not being influenced by group dynamics, this kind of interaction lets you have a very deep and intensive analysis of the situation, based on clear insight on other person’s stand point. The very nature of the interaction depends on what role you have assigned to yourself and your counterpart to play in the decision-making process (I’ll elaborate on possible roles in my next post about decision-making).

You + two to four other persons

  • The difference of this scenario from the previous one is that here we have a much more complicated dynamics going on between the group members, with everyone having to trace the reactions of others, especially yours as the decision owner, constantly comparing those reactions to their own position. This could also mean that some participants might want to prove themselves in front of others, especially you as a manager, sacrificing some practical rational for the decision-making on the way. On the other hand, this size of the group still makes it possible to have a productive discussion, where everyone can have a sizeable amount of time to present their views. As a thumb rule, 4 people besides the manager are a limit until which people can still behave as individuals and not start building coalitions. Off course, this limit could differ depending on group facilitator’s ability, but it’ll still be around this number of people. This is also a maximum number of people to have a meeting with inside your office (which is your territory physically and emotionally). Larger meetings tend to be held in meeting halls.

You + more than four other persons

  • As opposite to the first two scenarios, this is an extensive approach, when your intention is to have as many contributions as possible, but with a limited volume of input by each and every one. In this kind of interaction you might have a better representation of different opinions, but it will be harder to analyze each direction to its depth. However, this interaction is ideal to presenting and pushing for hard decisions or when the goal is to convey a message without particular interest in feedback. 

Most decision making techniques can be used in any type of these scenarios; you can successfully brainstorm with yourself and with 50 other people. But in order to leverage the effect of the technique to its fullest potential, the manager needs to understand all factors that influence the process, to recognize the developing patterns, hence being able to prevent unwanted behaviors and achieve desirable results.

In each scenario remember to consciously surf through each phase of the decision-making process (Recollection, Mapping, Reasoning, Justifying) I described in my previous post and everything will be fine 🙂

In the next post we’ll review the Manager’s role in the decision making process, which may finally answer the question of “WHAT MANAGERS DO?” we started with.

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