There are many ways to make a decision in a group environment, whether you find yourself in a personal or professional situation. One of the most popular methods to use is the group decision-making method. Instead of forcing one person into a leadership role where they decide for everyone, this process gives a topic to an entire group where a fusion of each opinion and set of experiences allows for a collective decision to occur.
When group decision making is the processed used to create forward momentum, then the final outcome cannot be changed by a single member of the group. Everyone must come together, no matter how much or little they agree with the eventual decision, to implement or overturn the choices being made in each scenario.
Group decisions must consist of at least two people, but it is a process that does not have an upper limit. It is a way to assign accountability to multiple parties in a group, manage conflict escalation, and identify alternatives that may not be possible with individualized choices.
There are several advantages and disadvantages of group decision making to consider before finalizing any choice.
List of the Advantages of Group Decision Making
1. You will receive more diversity in the availability of opinions.
This advantage speaks to the diversity that is in your group. Whenever you bring in people from different educational backgrounds, family environments, and personal experiences, then you will receive a wide array of perspectives that can help you to reach a better overall decision in almost any situation. People who come from unique situations will always have different ideas than a group of individuals who all have a similar life story to share.
When you can engage the help of a number of people who can all come up with different ideas, then there are several new alternatives that can become available that wouldn’t be present otherwise.
2. It promotes greater interest and participation from the rest of the team.
You need to have dedicated and interested people on your team when decisions need to be made because that is the only way that you can get some buy-in for the process. This advantage is necessary in the personal and professional choices that may be necessary. When people are asked to engage in a process that could impact their needs, then they are typically willing to look for innovative ideas, efficient plans, and active participation to create a successful outcome that works for everyone.
Even if you do not have a group of experts on your team that can address the specific needs of an upcoming project, their feedback to your ideas can help you to see things in a different way if you’re willing to keep an open mind.
3. You’ll create more understanding and positivity within the team.
People are resistant to change when they don’t understand why a shift in perspective is necessary. There are times when the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, after all. It is also essential to realize that without communication and discussion, any decisions that do get made will encounter resistance when there is no explanation as to why a new series of events is suddenly necessary.
By engaging the entire group in a discussion about what needs to happen, you will create more acceptance of the final outcome. You may receive some interesting or exciting suggestions or opinions that could move you in an unexpectedly better direction because there is a fresh perspective available.
4. It creates an opportunity to create collective contributions.
The average decision made by a single individual can be partial or biased in its outcome. These choices usually work in the favor of the person who is in charge of implementing the solutions that are necessary. By moving the final choice to a group scenario, there is less power in the leadership’s influence over everyone else. It is a process that removes the barriers of discussion monopolies that can force people into a specific outcome which might not be the best solution in those circumstances.
By reducing the risks of bias and partiality, it becomes possible to reach an outcome that can favor a majority of the people in the ground.
5. You can take advantage of team building opportunities.
Active participation in the decision-making process creates a unique team-building opportunity for the entire group. You are inspiring healthy debate and passionate discussions about important topics when you embrace this concept personally or professionally. Some of those conversations might be difficult, but any action that works to proactively coordinate the efforts of team members can result in an efficient outcome.
This process also creates a secondary advantage where the skills of each team member can slowly transfer over to others in the group, creating individual benefits as the organization continues to improve at the same time.
6. It promotes the idea that collective thinking is an advantage.
Group decision making is beneficial because it offers a diverse set of views that work toward a creative, positive outcome for each person involved with the process. It sets the stage for compromise because it can reduce the impact of extreme views while the group can also strive toward a meaningful result that might be outside of the usual framework of what they do. The entire process becomes advantageous to the teams willing to go through this investment because the eventual outcome is to create something that is mutually beneficial to everyone.
7. Group decision making can increase the strength of an organization.
Change happens whenever a decision is made, whether it is by a single leader or an entire group. When people can come together to discuss the issues that they will face when change occurs, then the resiliency of the organization and the team will increase. The chances that a cost-effective answer that works within an acceptable structure will be discovered increase when this advantage is present.
By increasing the strength of the entire team, the organization benefits too because the executive leadership is only as good as the people who are working at an entry-level position. This advantage eventually leads to a higher job satisfaction rating up and down the chain-of-command because there are more opportunities to learn from one another.
8. It is a process that allows a team to take advantage of a smart risk-taking opportunity.
Many people are unwilling to take a risk because of the potential exposure they have to the final outcome. When you place these individuals into a group setting, then the risk levels spread out to each team member instead of residing with a single person. That makes it more likely for the entire group to take a chance on an innovative solution instead of remaining with the status quo.
Organizations benefit from this process because innovation typically leads to better revenues. By encouraging smart risks where the payoff benefits are greater than a potential loss, it is easier for the entire team to find new ways to grow.
List of the Disadvantages of Group Decision Making
1. The group decision-making process can take a significant amount of time to complete.
When you have a lot of time available before a decision must be made, then engaging with the entire group can create many advantages. If you need to reach a conclusion rapidly, then an individual choice instead of a group one is a better solution to pursue. That’s because it takes more time for team members to reach a consensus when compared to a supervisor who can make a unilateral decision for everyone.
Every member of the group adds a time need to the decision-making process. That means a two-member group will reach a choice faster than a 200-member group, but both will be slower than the team who relies on their leader to make the choice for everyone.
2. You can receive irrelevant opinions and ideas with the group decision-making process.
Everyone will bring their unique ideas to the table when you encourage a group discussion. This process can provide a number of benefits, but it can also turn into a choice where each person works harder at protecting their best interests instead of promoting the general welfare of the team. It is a disadvantage that can highlight the disparities found in the group, which can eventually lead to a reduction in efficiencies or quality in the final choice.
People can also bring ideas to the table that they think are based on expertise, but are really evidence of a lack of knowledge. You can have people fighting for irrelevant opinions that have nothing to do with the subject at hand because everyone thinks that their stance is the correct one.
3. Some people refuse to share their perspectives during group decision making.
There are times when people decide to remain silent during a group discussion because they have nothing that they want to add to the conversation. They have decided before this process that they’re going to “roll with the punches” and follow whatever outcome occurs. This disadvantage can create a room full of silence where the leader is still expected to come up with the final decision.
Some team members might decide to stay silent because of social pressures as well. It can be a negative component of this process that can lead teams toward the wrong decision because there are too many loud voices that drown out the softer, quieter tidbits of expertise that get shared.
4. Groups can have a different priority than what the decision requires.
The group decision-making process creates a number of ideas that come up for discussion. It is not unusual for everyone to focus on a specific number of them, sometimes just 1-2 alternatives, instead of trying to look at the bigger overall picture. Their focus can be based on what their best interests are in that situation, the popularity of the people proposing the idea, or other factors that may not be consequential to the final result.
This disadvantage can lead to a limitation of choices instead of an expansion of them. Groups can find themselves stuck to only a few ideas because of their stubbornness. It is a process which results in less efficiency instead of more when it occurs.
5. The final choice can go against the outcomes of an organization.
Most group discussions will eventually get to a point where the decisions carry out the mission, vision, and objectives of the organization. Then there are the times when the choices made and carried out by the group does not always accomplish the goals that are necessary in the situation. If there is not agreement in the group with the desired wish of the organization, either personally or professionally, then it can lead to disruptive behavior in the future. This process results in fewer goals reached, movement away from the mission, and objectives that have no bearing on what the final outcome must be.
6. Groups reduce the amount of accountability that occurs in the workplace.
When one person makes a decision for everyone, then the positive or negative accountability that occurs because of that process can ensure the appropriate outcomes can happen. If a group makes a decision that fails, then there is uncertainty on who to blame. Is the whole group responsible for the outcome? What about the people who objected to the final decision, yet they still get lumped in with everyone else despite their opposition?
When groups decide to take more risks when employing this process, then there is a possibility that a greater, more valuable reward becomes possible. It also means people will be quick to assign blame instead of taking responsibility for an outcome that fails to live up to its full potential. Leaders in this situation are the most likely to use this disadvantage to shift the blame to someone else.
7. It can result in an overuse of authority.
Group discussions are designed to create more unity and harmony within the workplace environment. The idea is that by getting people onto the same page at the earliest possible stage, it becomes easier to reach the objections, goals, and vision of the organization. This process is similar to what occurs in the family environment as well.
There are times when an opinion can be influenced by someone in authority over them, which allows a leader to dominate the discussion. This disadvantage can cause some members of the group to become less involved with team activities, which increases the risk of more silos.
8. Group decision making can cause everyone to see themselves as a leader.
Organizations require people to be in leadership positions because there needs to be individuals in charge of team development, project implementation, and mentorship. When the group decision-making process is a top priority, then there can be times when multiple members of a team can start thinking that they are in a leadership role with their company. Most workers will use the little bit of power they’re given in this process to benefit themselves and their organization, but it can also cause a few people to think that they are in charge.
When you have team members outside of the supervisor or manager handing out assignments, enforcing company policy, and even trying to manage disciplinary actions, then this disadvantage can reduce the amount of creativity that is available in the workplace.
9. People in a group can decide to “go with the flow.”
One of the most significant problems with the group decision-making process is that team members can decide that their top priority is to avoid conflict instead of fighting for their ideas. This disadvantage can quickly lead to a problem that is call “group think.” You can spot it happening when the loudest voice in the room is the one getting all of the ideas to pass. Discussions don’t need bullies to create a successful outcome. An organization needs people to be brave enough to support their concepts while providing evidence that it could be a meaningful solution.
Because of the dynamics of this disadvantage, it is not unusual for teams to begin polarizing around 1-3 central figures. People who disagree with the outcome get lumped into “outsider” categories by all parties. It becomes an us vs. them conversation over time instead of a discussion of ideas.
Verdict on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Decision Making
Group decision making can be an effective way to encourage team members to share their experiences, education, and perspectives in a safe environment to further the goals of a personal or professional team. You can take advantage of multiple opinions to find a better choice.
This process can also be easy to manipulate, especially if one of the participants is a leader who can control the professional outcomes of the discussion participants. Teams must take risks to find results, and it is important to note that some leaders may not appreciate that concept.
The advantages and disadvantages of group decision making can help leaders to structure conversations that lead toward improved outcomes. It can also create a deafening silence where no one on the team cares about what happens because there is no credit or accountability for the results.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.