What prerequisites help groups make good decisions and solve problems?

  • Whereas decision making refers to the passing of judgment or making up your mind, problem solving is a complex process in which groups make multiple decisions while trying to solve a problem.
  • Groups should take steps to prevent groupthink, which results in the deterioration of group effectiveness as a consequence of in-group pressure.
  • The first and most important task for all groups is to make sure that all members understand and support the group’s common goal. Group members should determine whether they are trying to answer a question of fact, conjecture, value, or policy.
  • In addition to being well-informed, groups need clear procedures that specify how they will make decisions and solve problems.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using various decision-making methods?

  • Although voting is the easiest way to make a group decision, some members win while others lose.
  • Consensus requires that all members agree to support a decision. Groups should look for and prevent false consensus.
  • Authority rule occurs when a single person or someone outside the group makes the final decision.
  • Different decision-making styles—rational, intuitive, dependent, avoidant, and spontaneous—have the potential to improve or impair group decision making.

Which problem-solving procedures should groups use to achieve their goals?

  • Brainstorming, a group technique for generating as many ideas as possible in a short period of time, works well when members are comfortable with the rules.
  • The Decreasing Options Technique (DOT) helps groups reduce and refine a large number of suggestions or ideas into a manageable set of options.
  • The Standard Agenda is based on Dewey’s reflective thinking process and divides problem solving into a series of ordered steps: task clarification, problem identification, fact finding and analysis, solution criteria and limitations, solution suggestions, solution evaluation and selection, and solution implementation.

How should you plan and conduct an effective group meeting?

  • Before calling a meeting, make sure you decide or know why the group is meeting, who should attend, when and where the group should meet, and what materials are needed.
  • An agenda—the outline of items to be discussed and the tasks to be accomplished at a meeting—should be prepared and delivered to all group members in advance of a meeting.
  • The minutes of a meeting are the written record of a group’s discussion, actions, and decisions.
  • When chairing a meeting, begin and end on time, create a positive climate, delegate someone to take minutes, follow the agenda, and facilitate the discussion.

Test Your Knowledge

1. Which of the following groups is primarily responsible for solving a problem?

a. a jury

b. a hiring committee

c. a department’s social committee

d. a toxic waste disaster team

e. None of the above is a problem-solving group.

2. Which of the following symptoms of groupthink is expressed by a member who says, “Let’s not worry about how the other departments feel about this—they’re so dumb they don’t even know there’s a problem.”?

a. invulnerability

b. stereotyping others

c. rationalization

d. mindguarding

e. illusion of unanimity

3. All of the following answers are guidelines for achieving consensus except:

a. Use stress-free ways of achieving consensus such as flipping a coin or letting the majority make the decision.

b. Try to be logical rather than highly emotional.

c. Welcome differences of opinion.

d. Listen carefully to and respect other members’ points of view even if they are very different from your point of view.

e. Get everyone involved in the discussion.

4. Which ethical responsibility are you assuming in a group if you treat other group members as equals and give everyone, including those who disagree, the opportunity to respond to an issue?

a. the research responsibility

b. the common good responsibility

c. the social code responsibility

d. the moral responsibility

e. the reasoning responsibility

5. Under which circumstances is brainstorming not very useful as a problem-solving method?

a. if there is a crisis in which the group needs rapid decisions and clear leadership

b. if you need to correct something and know how to fix the problem

c. if your group knows its goal and how to achieve it, but needs a planning session to map out details

d. Brainstorming would not be very useful in the above situations.

e. Brainstorming would be very useful in all of the above situations.

6. Use the Decreasing Options Technique (DOT) when

a. the group is small and can discuss individual ideas openly.

b. the group must confront and discuss two competing ideas.

c. the group wants to prevent a dominant member from sharing ideas.

d. the group does not want to discuss controversial ideas.

e. ensuring equal opportunities for input by all members is important.

7. Which of the following answers presents the correct order for the first three steps in the Standard Agenda model of problem solving?

a. fact finding and analysis, problem identification, solution suggestions

b. task clarification, problem identification, fact finding and analysis

c. solution suggestions, solution evaluation and selection, solution implementation

d. problem identification, fact finding and analysis, solution criteria and limitations

e. None of the above answers represents the first three steps.

8. If your group is using the Standard Agenda model to discuss a question (What is the best way to reduce domestic violence in our community?), in which agenda steps would you ask the following questions: “What are the causes of domestic violence?” and “How widespread and serious is the problem?”

a. task clarification

b. problem identification

c. fact finding and analysis

d. solution suggestions

e. solution evaluation and selection

9. Before calling a meeting, ask all of the following questions except:

a. Why are we meeting?

b. Who should attend?

c. When and where should we meet?

d. What materials do we need?

e. Who will implement decisions?

10. All of the following responsibilities are essential for chairing an effective meeting except:

a. Begin on time.

b. Create a positive communication climate and ground rules for member behavior.

c. Take the minutes.

d. Follow the agenda.

e. Provide closure and stop on time.

Answers: 1-d; 2-b; 3-a; 4-c; 5-d; 6-e; 7-b; 8-c; 9-e; 10-c