Decision Making

by Ian Moore

Group decision making

Never use one head when two will do.

Anon

You can effectively use each of the techniques on your own, but they can also be used in groups. A group adds a lot of richness to the techniques, but the different opinions can make it more difficult to reach agreement. The following approaches work well for gaining consensus within a group.

Populating your analysis

One of the great strengths of group decision making is the variety of perspectives and the richness this gives when you are populating your decision-making techniques with ideas. For instance, you can get the whole group to do a SWOT analysis very effectively and quickly, producing a much more comprehensive list of ideas than would an individual.

Also, in group decision making, you can involve all or some of the potential stakeholders. These are the people who will be affected, so having their buy-in at the beginning is a great advantage.

Tip

Rather than having people standing around discussing the ideas that go into the analysis, give each person a pad of post-its. Ask them to write down as many ideas as they can in five minutes (one idea per post-it). When they have finished, put them all up on a wall and get the whole group to organise them into themes. Next, give each theme a name. This name then goes into the analysis.

Weights

In techniques such as ‘decision trees’, people may disagree about the percentages that should be assigned to each option. This can lead to a very useful debate, but at some point people need to be able to agree to differ. One way of coming to a compromise is to allocate ‘error percentages’ to the percentages. For example if Joe thinks that the percentage should be 75 and Mary thinks it should be 25, you can settle on 50 per cent +/- 25 per cent.

When doing the analysis, you can use both ends of the percentages to produce a range for the decision-making technique, for example: use all the lowest percentages to create a final ‘worst case’ figure and all the highest percentages to create a final ‘best case’ figure. This will give you a feel for the variation in the decision-making process.

Voting

Note

The boss gets the same number of votes as everyone else!

Another way to resolve differences is to allocate votes. For example, give everyone ten votes, which they can allocate in any way they want. One person might want to allocate all their ten votes to one outcome while another may want to spread their votes across different outcomes – it is up to them.

When everyone has voted, the votes are totalled and the winner is the decision that is adopted.