Group Decision Making
Since two heads might be better than one
Decisions are now being made increasingly
More by groups, teams, or committees
Leading to higher-quality decisions
That are more accurate and creative
As there is increased diversity of views
With more complete info and knowledge
On pooling the strengths of the individuals.
The downsides of group decision making
Are that they may consume more time,
Pressures may be there to conform,
With chance for domination by a few,
Yet there being ambiguous responsibility
Without accountability of any single bloke
For final outcome of the decision made.
Two phenomena are peculiar to this
Namely, groupthink and groupshift.
Groupthink is censoring of one’s views
Due to pressure to conform to the group
So that minority or unpopular views
Never get aired in group meetings.
Some other drawbacks of groupthink
Are overconfidence, righteousness,
Rationalization of their assumptions,
Stereotyping of non-group members.
To avoid the pitfalls of groupthink
Make one member the devil’s advocate,
Exercise an impartial leadership,
And actively encourage dissenting views.
Groupshift is the effect on the individual
As he makes a decision within the group
Different from what he would do individually,
With group decisions generally being riskier,
Initial positions of each getting exaggerated
As the responsibility in group is diffused
Freeing the individual from accountability.
Decision making in groups can be stimulated
By a variety of techniques as the need be.
Traditional method is interacting group
Where meetings are held face to face
But since it has the risk of biases mentioned
Newer techniques have been employed.
Brainstorming avoids pressures for conformity
And aids development of creative alternatives
By generating all the possible alternatives
Withholding criticism of them in the interim
So that one is encouraged to think the unusual
In a freewheeling airing of views in fixed time
Which later are brought up for discussion.
Nominal group technique is a novel variation
Where initially the discussion is disallowed
Between the individual members of the group
Who write down their ideas about the problem
Then each presents one idea to the group
Discussion ensuing after all are done,
Following which each group member
Ranks the ideas silently and independently,
And one with highest overall rank accepted.
Nominal group technique is being wedded
To the recent surge in computer technology
Leading to impersonal electronic meetings
Advantages being anonymity, honesty, speed.
Teams differ from groups in crucial ways
Important among them being
Teams engage in collective work
That requires interdependent effort
While groups are loose relationships
Between two or more people
Who do not have a common purpose.
Teams are now the order of the day
Be it at Xerox or Australian Airlines,
With eighty percent of workplaces
Using teams to accomplish the tasks.
Teams are necessary and advantageous
Where tasks require multiple skills
And wide range of experience
That no single individual may have
To the extent needed for the task.
Teams do not form in one fell swoop
But go through a five-stage sequence
To come to full maturity and functioning,
They being forming, storming, norming
Performing and adjourning, in that order.
Forming stage as the name indicates
Is when the team comes together
For the first time, with uncertainty
About the group’s purpose and structure
And who will exercise the leadership
Which slowly gets to be understood
When stage of storming gets underway
As team conflicts are slowly resolved
And a consensus on leadership arrived at
Which allows the team to move forward
To the stage of norming, the third one,
Where norms are agreed upon amicably
And the group starts to become cohesive,
Which allows it to move on to performing
In which stage the work actually is done
And if the team is a temporary one
It is dissolved in the stage of adjourning.
Punctuated-equilibrium model is applicable
To temporary teams with strict deadlines
Where the first meeting sets the agenda
Followed by the first phase of relative inertia
Where very little gets accomplished per se
And as half-way mark to deadline approaches
The team experiences sort of a mid-life crisis
Realizing that time is limited, work is pending,
Resulting in a flurry of activity to get moving
This transition gets it to the second phase
Characterized by a new equilibrium or inertia
As it executes the plans made during transition
And towards the end there is more hurrying
As the team embarks on stage of completion.
What, you may ask, makes for effective teams
For one thing, they need a clear purpose
Where team members know the action plan
Guided by formal and shared leadership
And everyone participates in the deliberations
In comfortable, informal and relaxed manner
Where consensus is reached on the decisions
After listening and civilized disagreement
With everyone free to express his opinion
Then rules are laid out and work assigned
To team members having style diversity
Who mobilize resources from outside
And accomplish the assigned task on time
Tiding over problems with self-assessment.
Team leader needs to be good at delegation
Should be able to motivate team members
And help them become better at what they do
Always keeping open lines of communication
And be very savvy when it comes to discipline.
Conflict in the workplace is a fact of life
With people differing in goals and needs,
Often leading to ugly personal animosity.
Yet when it is handled constructively
It spells personal and professional growth,
Resolving many unsuspected problems
And conferring many additional benefits
Like increased understanding and cohesion
And leading to improved self-knowledge.
But if not handled effectively and wisely
Lead it can to dislike and team breakdown
Spiraling into negativity and recrimination.
Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument
Helps identify the style of conflict resolution
Which can be competitive or collaborative
Compromising, accommodating or avoiding.
Competitive style of conflict resolution
Stems from knowing what you want
And taking a firm stand based on power,
Which can be really useful after all
To take fast decisions in an emergency,
To take decisions that are far from popular,
And standing up against exploitation;
But there is a downside to this style
Which can leave people with resentment,
Dissatisfaction and very bruised egos
If used in situations that are less urgent.
Collaborative style of conflict resolution
Is employed by highly assertive people
Who nonetheless cooperate effectively
Acknowledging the importance of others,
Which style is important if views abound
Or there is a history of previous conflicts.
Compromising style of conflict resolution
Gives in partially to everyone’s demands
With everyone needing to forgo something,
Which style is handy when costs are high
If conflict is not resolved fully on time
As equals stand head to head
And a deadline is fast approaching.
Accommodating style of conflict resolution
Is used by one cooperative and unassertive
Wherein you give in to the demands of others
Often at the expense of your own needs
When things matter more to the other party
Peace is more valuable than mere winning
And you expect to cash in later on the favour,
But all said and done this is unsatisfactory.
Avoiding style of conflict resolution
Seeks to avoid the conflict at all costs
By delegating the decision to someone else
By accepting second-best default decisions
To avoid the hurting of anyone’s feelings
Which is not exactly an effective approach,
But this kind of style can be of some use
If any other approach will not yield results
Or the controversy is too trivial to matter.
Which style of conflict resolution you adopt
Should be dictated by the situation you are in
Inclining to lean on an instinctive approach
And even mixing and matching the styles.
There is another theory of conflict resolution
The so-called interest-based rational approach
Which would have you follow these rules:
Remember good relationships are top priority,
Keeping people and problems separate helps,
Pay attention to the interests being aired,
Learn to listen and talk only when necessary,
Look for objective and observable facts,
And explore options together for a new one.
Sticking to above rules defuses the situation,
Preventing antagonism and dislike.
To resolve festering conflicts
Resort you should to negotiation
And just about everyone does it
To a greater or lesser extent –
Labour unions with management,
Managers with employees and peers,
Salespeople with customers,
Purchasing agents with suppliers;
So learn you should negotiation skills
Lest you be left behind in the race.
Negotiating parties bring to the table
Issues, positions, and interests
Issues being items for discussion
Positions being stands on the issues
And interests being underlying concerns
Affected by the negotiation resolution.
Proper understanding of interests
Leads to flexible negotiation resolution
Without actually giving in to the positions.
Two general approaches to do the same
Are distributive and integrative bargaining.
Distributive bargaining is a zero-sum game
Gains of one party being losses of the other
As in labour-management negotiations
With labour demand for wages increase
Seen as cost increase by the management.
Integrative bargaining is a win-win situation
And by far the more preferable one
Wherein both parties stand to gain
Leading to better long-term association
As in labour-management close discussions
To reduce costs, leading to wage increases.
To get better and better at negotiation
Follow this simple model of its process.
To start with develop a strategy of your own
By doing background research on the issues
And being clear about what you want from it
So that once your goals are well-defined
You can set your target and resistance points
And best alternative to a negotiated agreement
So that you can move into the bargaining zone
In between the two parties resistance points.
Once the negotiation gets fully underway
Define the ground rules for the negotiation
Such as its scope, bargainers and timeframe
Following it up with explanation, amplification,
Clarification, bolstering and justification
Of the demands brought to the table,
Though this need not be confrontational.
With each party being crystal clear
On where the other is coming from
Bargaining can begin in right earnest
Hashing out an acceptable agreement
With concessions by both parties
Then round it off with a formal agreement
Making sure procedures are laid down
For its implementation and monitoring
Though sometimes a handshake would do.
Who wouldn’t like to have a mentor
One who is a trusted advisor and confidante
But to be a mentor yourself
Now, that requires some skills
So here are some tips to help you
For to someone or the other
Mentor you will be
At some point or the other in your career.
First, let the skeptics on mentoring be assured
That mentoring has definite advantages
For both the mentor and mentee
And thereby indirectly to the organization
Say as part of succession planning strategy.
Mentor has a feeling of great satisfaction
Seeing the mentee grow in self-confidence
With a clear sense of what they are wanting
Out of their personal and professional lives
And have an expanded sense of self-awareness.
Dealing with the mentee on a long-term basis
The mentor can impact his overall development
By maximizing his skill development
And unlocking his true but hidden potential.
Easier it is to mentor someone
Not immediately in your management chain
Enabling you to take a detached, overall view.
Without a desire to help the mentee
You will not be good at mentoring
So, motivate yourself if need be
That mentoring can help your own growth.
Once you have set foot in this arena
Be confident and assured in manner
Critiquing and challenging non-threateningly
At the same time listening actively
To understand better the mentee’s psyche
And probe gently with open-ended questions
That set the mentee thinking deeply
And always round-off the session with feedback
To communicate that you have understood
And add your own interpretation to the summary,
Which makes the mentee start seeing things
From newer and different perspectives.
It is worth bearing in mind
While you do need to transfer to the mentee
Your knowledge, skills and insights,
Doing so in a gradual and phased manner
With the right amount of nurturing and support
Will make the mentoring more successful.
Every group or organization requires a leader
Who can inspire and galvanize the team
To voluntarily strive to achieve the goals
And not meander around rudderless.
Isn’t that the manager’s job, you may ask
And there is a certain ring of truism to it
Since the four-fold function of a manager,
Planning, organizing, influencing, controlling,
Does involve a fair bit of leadership skills
But the main difference that is touted
Is that a leader exercises his influence
Not by virtue of an office or authority
But by virtue of his personality and skills.
In the nineteen-thirties it was theorized
That leadership sprang from inborn traits
That could scarcely be acquired by all
Leading to that oft-quoted phrase
“Leaders are born, not made,”
But after research, come the fifties,
The theory had to be abandoned
With very little evidence in its favour.
Then came on the scene another attempt
To underpin the how’s, why’s, wherefore’s
Of how leadership is acquired and exercised,
Shifting attention from personality traits
To the more plausible behavioural traits –
Ohio State studies hypothesized
That leaders into two categories fall:
Those exemplifying an initiating structure
By which is meant the leader’s focus
Is on getting the task accomplished,
Kind of a tough-minded approach;
And those exemplifying consideration,
Who perhaps tend to be tender-minded,
Paying attention to well-being and emotions
Of those that they are trying to lead.
Michigan leadership studies that followed
Took a slightly different tack
Dividing again the leaders into two groups:
Those with an employee orientation
Being concerned with interpersonal relations,
And those with a production orientation
Being focused on task and technical aspects,
Which led Robert Blake and Jane Mouton
To develop their creative “managerial grid”
Along those two axes, whether low or high.
Then when flower power was at its peak,
With hippies dotting the landscape
And generally bumming out on drugs,
Yes, the nineteen-sixties and early seventies,
Fiedler started talking about contingencies
And their relation to leadership
Saying behavioural theories may be true
But different situations need different responses
Person-oriented strategies succeeding in some
And task-oriented approaches working in some,
With the effective leaders being savvy enough
To know when to unleash the one than the other.
Then came along Robert House in early seventies
And proposed his path-goal theory, adumbrating
How important subordinates’ characteristics
And characteristics of the work environment
Are to the right exercise of leadership
Of which there are four styles one can adopt –
Directive, supportive, or participative,
And lastly one that is achievement-oriented.
Developed alongside were two more models:
Vroom-Yetton-Jago model would have a leader
Match the decision-making styles to the situation;
Hersey and Blanchard put the magnifying glass
On the task-related maturity of the subordinates
As determinant of the appropriateness or not
Of task-oriented or relationship-oriented leading.
In the seventies, many, including George Graen,
Said leaders are after all not so innocent and benign
And instead favour a few subordinates over others
Leading to in-groups and out-groups in work culture,
Which fact is borne out by a few empirical studies.
From nineteen-seventies, leading up to the eighties,
Transformational leadership theories were emerging
By people like House, Bass, Conger and Kanugo,
All of whom would have us believe in the leader
How he is charismatic and can do no wrong
And inspires the subordinates by his sheer presence,
Impeccable personal qualities and example he sets,
Leading to eventual success against all odds.
Then there are those dull and unromantic theories
That would demystify the persona of leaders
And place squarely at the heart of this debate
Certain substitutes for formal leadership, like
Characteristics of organization, task, subordinates
Which fill in for or negate influences of leadership.
If you ask me for my personal opinion on this issue
I would have to say that all theories broached above
Do have some kernel of truth tucked away in them
We have to draw our own lessons and conclusions
As to how best we can go about becoming leaders
If that is what we want to become sooner or later.