Group decision making – when does a group actually decide?

There is an interesting blog called “Rethinking Complexity” that I occasionally read. Recently there was an article I found interesting that discussed decision making in groups. The nub of the article is that there is an inflection point when “diverging” thoughts (such as idea generation around the issue at hand) become “converging” thoughts, when the groups starts to move towards concluding and deciding.

When a group reaches that point can be absolutely critical. Too soon and not enough options are explored; too late and there is insufficient time to properly converge and decisions are made in haste. Two further points are important. One is how much time is actually available to go through the process and the second is how critical is the decision. (my colleague, Peter Bryant, Professor of Entrepreneurship at IE has classified these decision types in a paper – but that is for another article).

When taking all these aspects together, it is clear that the leader / facilitator / coach of the decision making team has a very critical role in deciding when that inflection point should take place. That needs to be based on judgement of when the optimal inputs have been made (and absorbed) and when convergence must take place.

The article does not take the idea much further, but I believe when thinking about the practical aspects of  this, there are two “take-aways” to remember:

  1. There are many times when the process will not be as linear as: diverging – inflection – converging – decision. Often an iteration back to diverging may be necessary, if after converging, it becomes clear that the correct solution cannot be reached. This may be disruptive and time-consuming, but often necessary.
  2. The team leader must plan and make that inflection point call, consciously and deliberately, rather than let it happen through group pressure or simply running out of time. If this is done well, within a well thought out decision process, the iteration mentioned in 1 above is less likely to be necessary.

As mentioned, the article does not actually reach the same conclusion but has some more detail about the inflection point. It may be found at:
When a group makes up its mind

At Genesis, in our support of our clients when taking strategic decisions, we work to optimally reach this inflection point. If you would like to discuss this, or other aspects of the decision process such as behavioural issues or available technologies, please drop us a line.




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