BSBMGT401 – Make Informed Decisions Copy
Element 3: Make Informed Decisions
Performance Criteria Element 3
3.1 Gather and organise information relevant to the issue/s under consideration
3.2 Facilitate individual’s and team’s active participation in decision-making processes
3.3 Examine options and assess associated risks to determine preferred course/s of action
3.4 Ensure decisions are timely and communicate them clearly to individuals and teams
3.5 Prepare plans to implement decisions and ensure they are agreed by relevant individuals and teams
3.6 Use feedback processes effectively to monitor the implementation and impact of decisions.
Make Informed Decisions
Gather and Organise Information Relevant to the Issue/s Under Consideration
Making the Decision
Group or team meetings are the core of group problem solving. It is during these meetings that you will conduct the problem solving and decision making process. This process should be planned in advance, so that you are aware of the steps that need to be taken in order to best solve your problem/s. Briefly the steps are:
Step One: Make a general description of the problem condition as the group sees it.
What seems to be the crux of the problem, how does it influence you? Talk over the problem in general terms, trying to outline the parameters.
Step Two: Describe what the defined condition would be like in an ideal but reachable state.
Here you are trying to establish a sense of the changes that would have to occur by looking hypothetically at, for example, how production operations in a factory might need to differ, how the attitudes of people might change etc. Again it is important to talk over the ideal condition and obtain a feel for it. This in itself will often help sharpen the focus of the real problem. The concern is for what could be done, rather than how to achieve it.
Step Three: Identify the specific discrepancies that exist between the present view of reality and the ideal state.
The problem should begin to take on a different shape as a result of this analysis.
Step Four: Analyse the nature of the condition more thoroughly.
Do this by asking a series of critical questions, and discussing it among the group:
• Does there appear to be more than one problem? Does each of these warrant individual attention?
• What benefits does the present condition hold for the group that is defining it as a problem? One reason that problems don’t just disappear on their own is that they usually present some form of positives to a certain group. You may find it difficult to replace a problem with a solution if the group benefits from the problem.
• What are the blockages that have been seen in previous attempts at change? Underlying a blockage may be a hidden benefit that subtly supports the existence of the status quo.
• Finally, what are the present solutions that are currently being attempted albeit unsuccessfully? By having the group take a long, hard look at unsuccessful efforts, a clearer understanding of the problem itself may often be gained.
Step Five: Now in light of all the new information about the problem condition, redefine it as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Again, it is not negative to discover that there are several problems. But for the group’s purposes it is necessary to isolate one that is the most important to solve and that might have the greatest impact on other existing conditions. By selecting the problem that can be solved and that might have a positive ripple effect, one can assume that the time in the meeting will be put to good use.
Step Six: Without considering the implications of a particular solution generate as many alternatives as possible.
Potential solutions might result from reflection back on any of the previous steps. The key in this stage is not to worry about implementation or consequences, but simply to develop real, concrete choices that presently are not available to you. Thus what strategies might remove a previously identified block or benefit? This is where the group can get their minds working; techniques such as brainstorming (outlined in the next section) are particularly useful for this.
Step Seven: Consider the consequences.
The price to be paid – the impact on individuals, groups or the organisation if each of the selected alternatives were to be implemented. Then decide on whether to alter the objective, either to improve its effectiveness or to reduce the negative consequences that will result. This step is often overlooked because of the enthusiasm felt towards the selected alternative. This is a down-to-earth, practical step, and its purpose is to make an objective workable, or to discard it. Questions should be raised by the group, and each of these discussed to ensure that the consequences do not make the alternative unworkable.
Step Eight: Monitor and develop appropriate support systems.
This is to ensure the stabilising of the implemented alternative. The generation of alternatives is the easiest part of problem solving. Getting those alternatives into action often proves to be impossible. Looking at the consequences and building support systems will prove helpful. For changes to work, the group will need to accept some form of accountability when the results of the change will be assessed. This will assist in making any changes ‘stick’.
Step Nine: Evaluate problem-solving efforts to decide what steps should be taken next.
There are a number of approaches which are relatively simple that the group can take to evaluate the problem solving efforts.
• Assess the degree to which discrepancies between the current situation have increased and decreased from the period of the initial assessment of the problem.
• Take any objectives created in the earlier steps and compare them to specific outcomes.
• It is at this stage that further problem solving can occur to solve any issues that arose out of the new solution.
Take this approach to problem solving in a team, and utilise it within your problem solving meetings. You may plan your meetings around different steps, with different meetings being involved with different steps. This approach, step-by-step should also allow you to stay focused on objectives. It is vitally important that you do not move off the key topics for the meetings and move into discussing other problems, or just general chit-chat. Let’s now look at meetings in more detail, as you are likely to be facilitating many meetings as an effective leader.
It is likely that most meetings will last only an hour or two in length. Therefore you need to ensure that the meeting is as productive as possible. Meeting participants are unlikely to want to stay in the meeting beyond its set time frame; therefore you need to ensure that you stay focused on the problem at hand. Again the approach outlined above is vitally important in achieving this aim. It keeps you focused on certain topics, and provides guidelines for what you should be discussing and what you shouldn’t be discussing. As the group leader it is your job to keep the meeting on track. Gently guide the discussion, without ever exerting too much pressure on the participants (you want to encourage, not discourage participation).
Recording of the meeting is also vitally important. When you assemble for subsequent meetings, it is important to be able to review what was achieved during previous meetings. It is also useful to be able to have any recommendations or conclusions reached written down for all participants to be able to refer to.
For this reason, somebody should be appointed to take minutes of the meeting. Here are some useful tips for taking the minutes:
• In order to take effective minutes for a meeting, you need to be sure that you note first:
○ Meeting type
○ Date and time
○ Chairperson and person taking minutes
○ Time meeting began and ended.
• Ensure that you have an agenda sheet prepared ahead of time, with the main topics listed and space for you to write key notes. This will ensure that you can quickly move down the minute sheet as you take the minutes.
• Either use an attendance sheet, or write down the names of all staff that attend the meeting and note any absences in advance.
• Be sure you know who all the people in attendance are.
• Be careful about what you note down. Too much information can mean that you are unable to get down everything that is said. Better to note down the main points first and flesh them out later.
• Remember minutes are about what happened, not what was said.
|Guidelines for Conducting an Effective Team Meeting|
|Begin and end on time|
|Restate key points|
|Bring the meeting to a close|
|Encourage participation by all|
Facilitate Individual’s and Team’s Active Participation in Decision-Making Processes
Examine Options and Assess Associated Risks to Determine Preferred Course/s of Action
Ensure Decisions are Timely and Communicate Them Clearly to Individuals and Teams
Prepare Plans to Implement Decisions and Ensure They are agreed by Relevant Individuals and Teams
Basic Group Behaviour
Bruce Tuckman provided what has become the staple of group dynamics — his ‘Five Stages of Group Development.’ Tuckman’s research led him to determine four (later five) phases of group development — forming, storming, norming, and performing (later, he added adjourning) . The phases are not to be perceived as sequential, because groups are messy, and cycle through the phases throughout their process.
Stage 1: Forming
In the forming stage, personal relations are characterised by dependence.
Group members rely on safe, patterned behaviour and look to the group leader for guidance and direction. Group members have a desire for acceptance by the group and a need to know that the group is safe. They set about gathering impressions and data about the similarities and differences among them and forming preferences for future sub-grouping. Rules of behaviour seem to be to keep things simple and to avoid controversy. Serious topics and feelings are avoided. The major task functions also concern orientation.
Members attempt to become oriented to the tasks as well as to one another. Discussion centres around defining the scope of the task, how to approach it, and similar concerns. To grow from this stage to the next, each member must give up the comfort of non-threatening topics and risk the possibility of conflict.
Stage 2: Storming
The next stage, which Tuckman calls storming, is characterised by competition and conflict in the personal-relations dimension an organisation in the task-functions dimension.
As the group members attempt to organise for the task, conflict inevitably results in their personal relations. Individuals have to bend and mould their feelings, ideas, attitudes and beliefs to suit the group organisation. Because of ‘fear of exposure’ or ‘fear of failure,’ there will be an increased desire for structural clarification and commitment. Although conflicts may or may not surface as group issues, they do exist. Questions will arise about who is going to be responsible for what, what the rules are, what the reward system is and what criteria for evaluation are. These reflect conflicts over leadership, structure, power and authority. There may be wide swings in members’ behaviour based on emerging issues of competition and hostilities. Because of the discomfort generated during this stage, some members may remain completely silent while others attempt to dominate.
In order to progress to the next stage, group members must move from a ‘testing and proving’ mentality to a problem-solving mentality. The most important trait in helping groups to move on to the next stage seems to be the ability to listen.
Stage 3: Norming
In Tuckman’s norming stage, interpersonal relations are characterised by cohesion.
Group members are engaged in active acknowledgment of all members’ contributions, community building and maintenance, and solving of group issues. Members are willing to change their preconceived ideas or opinions on the basis of facts presented by other members, and they actively ask questions of one another. Leadership is shared, and cliques dissolve.
When members begin to know-and identify with-one another, the level of trust in their personal relations contributes to the development of group cohesion. It is during this stage of development (assuming the group gets this far) that people begin to experience a sense of group belonging and a feeling of relief as a result of resolving interpersonal conflicts.
The major task function of stage three is the data flow between group members: They share feelings and ideas, solicit and give feedback to one another, and explore actions related to the task. Creativity is high. If this stage of data flow and cohesion is attained by the group members, their interactions are characterised by openness and sharing of information on both a personal and task level. They feel good about being part of an effective group.
The major drawback of the norming stage is that members may begin to fear the inevitable future breakup of the group; they may resist change of any sort.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard
Stage 4: Performing
The performing stage is not reached by all groups. If group members are able to evolve to stage four, their capacity, range, and depth of personal relations expand to true interdependence.
In this stage, people can work independently, in subgroups, or as a total unit with equal facility. Their roles and authorities dynamically adjust to the changing needs of the group and individuals. Stage four is marked by interdependence in personal relations and problem solving in the realm of task functions. By now, the group should be most productive. Individual members have become self-assuring, and the need for group approval is past. Members are both highly task oriented and highly people oriented. There is unity: group identity is complete, group morale is high, and group loyalty is intense.
The task function becomes genuine problem solving, leading toward optimal solutions and optimum group development. There is support for experimentation in solving problems and an emphasis on achievement. The overall goal is productivity through problem solving and work.
Stage 5: Adjourning
Tuckman’s final stage, adjourning, involves the termination of task behaviours and disengagement from relationships.
A planned conclusion usually includes recognition for participation and achievement and an opportunity for members to say personal goodbyes. Concluding a group can create some apprehension – in effect, a minor crisis.The termination of the group is a regressive movement from giving up control to giving up inclusion in the group. The most effective interventions in this stage are those that facilitate task termination and the disengagement process.
Leading a Group
There are a number of different styles of group leadership which can be utilised when making decisions in a team situation. Each of these methods allows for differing opportunities for active participation.
When developing a team, as leader you should consider and use the method that will work best for your team given their stage of development, time and empowerment.The leadership styles range from completely autocratic decision making, to decision making within a team which has no leader.
|Autocratic or directive style of problem solving||Here, the leader will make all decisions without reference to the team members.
This method is best used for simple and routine decisions. These may need to be completed quickly or may simply not require the full team to be involved.
|Team leader makes decision after discussion||Here, the leader will have a discussion with all team leaders, and after this has ended the team leader will consider everyone’s opinions and make their decision.
Here, you will have enough time to have a discussion, but not the time to trying to find agreement, which can be very time-consuming. It is also useful for decisions that are likely to be difficult to agree on.
|Expert opinion||In this method of decision making you are asking someone with considerable knowledge to make decisions on behalf of the group.
Appropriate times for use: Where you have a clear choice of expert, and they demonstrate solid knowledge in the area.
|Individual Consultative Style||Ask each team member what they believe and find a solution that is in the middle of all opinions.
Appropriate times for use: This method can be used to make a decision quickly as there is no discussion, rather each person just gives their opinions.
|Decision by Minority||Here, you will bring together as many people as possible to make a decision – even if a majority of the group is not present.
Appropriate times for use: Limited time prevents convening entire team; clear choice of minority group; team commitment required to implement the decision is moderately low.
|Voting||This method is the most traditional method, and it involves voting on a decision until at least 51% of the group agrees on a given decision – which is the one that is implemented.
Appropriate times for use: You have to keep all staff members as happy as possible with a decision and the decision needs to be made relatively quickly.
|Participative Style||The group works together, communicating and finding a solution that all team members are happy with.
Appropriate times for use: This can be quite time consuming, so you need to be sure there is time for the decision to be reached.
There are a number of techniques which you can utilise in your group decision making process in order to encourage active participation, and minimise conflict among group members. The most common and perhaps least useful group decision making method is that in which someone suggests an idea and, before anyone else has said anything about it, someone else suggests another idea, until the group eventually finds one it will act on. This results in shooting down the original idea before it has really been considered. All the ideas that are bypassed have, in a sense, been rejected by the group. But because the ‘rejections’ have been simply a common decision not to support the idea, the proposer feels that their suggestions have been rejected, and thus will be less likely to introduce new ideas. Conflicts may also arise because of this. There is a need for improved decision making processes, such as the three which follow.
Brainstorming attempts to bring together problem solving and discussion. It is a technique which could be done on an individual or a group basis to actually find solutions to real business problems and find solutions that may work to improve the organisation as a whole. Essentially, brainstorming works on the idea that the more ideas that you generate, the more likely it is that one of those ideas will assist you in
reaching your business objectives. The brainstorming process is useful in that it:
1. Is Quick
It can generate a large amount of ideas in a very short space of time.
2. Helps Encourage Your Team Members to Work Together
Suggestions should never be dismissed immediately and there should always be discussion.
3. Allows for One Idea to be Expanded on or Improved over Time Through Discussion
4. Allows for Creative Thinking as no Ideas are Dismissed
Everyone feels free to suggest their ideas no matter how crazy they might be.
The process of brainstorming involves:
1. Ensuring that you and your team work together to generate as many ideas as you can. Thinking through as many options as possible and making this list as long as possible. Remember you want quantity at this stage, not quality. The more ideas you have to choose from the better.
2. Remember to always let go of any judgement that you may have about a specific idea. There should be no criticism or evaluation of the ideas at this stage, you want it to remain as free as possible, without being discouraged by judgement on your ideas.
3. Be wild. Be creative. Let your mind go free. Roam through ideas, piggy backing on top of other ideas until you reach ideas which may be impossible. But always note them all down.
4. Take your initial ideas and revise them. You may for example:
• Combine ideas
• Amend ideas
• Expand ideas
• Delete ideas
• Consolidate groups of ideas
• Substitute some ideas
• Offer opposite ideas
• Make the issue being resolved bigger or smaller
• Make appropriate analogies.
5. Write every idea down on paper so that you have a record of what has taken place.
The Charette Procedure
This second procedure for generating new ideas and concepts involves generating new ideas and then taking those ideas and prioritising them in to another order which can be used to determine which ideas will be most useful to the organisation.
This strategy allows you to:
• Try and resolve multiple issues at once
• Allow for high levels of interactivity
• Allow small groups to work on a problem all at once
• Take a large problem and break it down into smaller issues which are then prioritised
• Ensure that you have the details needed to resolve an issue at hand quickly
• Encourage team members to show leadership among themselves
• Take one person’s ideas and build on them
• Allow for a wide range of discussion to be made.
The process for undertaking this involves you in: breaking down the group into three smaller groups. Each of these groups will address one of the major issues that need consideration. Each group will have a scribe and all ideas suggested will be written down on to large sheets of paper. They will brainstorm as many ideas as they possibly can and write them down. After a given period, the discussion will end and the piece of paper will be passed on to the next group, who will refine the ideas on the paper and add their own if they come up with any more. This is then repeated, until each group has dealt with each issue. You will then swap one more time and the original group will prioritise the ideas for discussion among the entire group.
The large group then can discuss the ideas and decide on which should be implemented.
Nominal Group Technique
The nominal group technique is a quality improvement technique that is used to allow a group of individuals to come together, discuss an issue and quickly reach a valid conclusion. This conclusion may be the solution to a known problem. The technique will find solutions and, using discussion, rank these according to the priorities for solution.
This method of problem solving is particularly effective in that it allows the entire team to come together in finding an appropriate solution and then the team will feel more committed to that solution – making its implementation much easier to achieve. Like brainstorming, this method works best when team members know that they can give their ideas and opinions freely without any chance of ridicule from other team members. One other important aspect of this method is that even shyer team members feel committed and willing to share their ideas, something which you often find not possible with brainstorming where dominant people lead the discussion.
Nominal Group Techniques follows a number of key stages. These are:
• Using techniques outlined previously, create a list of ideas or solutions. These are what you will be working with to establish your consensus on the decision.
• Ensure that everyone has a copy of all these topics.
• Delete anything that is repeated or off topic.
• Spend time clarifying statements that you feel need it.
• Provide a final list of solutions or statements, with each of these numbered so that they can be easily identified.
• Have each team member rank these in their personal order of preference. For example, you may use the number 5 as the least important and the number 1 as the most important.
• You would then ask all team members to rank these according to how they feel they impact on the defects that are occurring within the department.
This method involves simply discussing the issue until you actually reach a consensus. Here you are looking for ideas and solutions which all team members will support, rather than one that everyone agrees entirely with or which everyone is happy with. It is not possible to please everyone all of the time, unfortunately.
This can be a very slow method of determining how to resolve a problem, simply because everyone is different and so is likely to have different ideas on how a given problem can be resolved. You also need to be sure that all team members are happy with the solution, not just some or the majority. So this will involve a lot of time working through issues and you may never reach a true consensus.
The leader of this discussion needs to be sure that they are able to resolve differences of opinion and provide helpful advice where needed. Even though this method is time consuming and thus can be expensive, it should be noted that if your team can reach a true consensus about how to resolve a problem, you are going to end up with a decision that is going to be implemented by a team that fully supports it, rather than one which is being forced on to it… a distinction that will make the difference between a half hearted implementation and one which really resolves the issue.
We are all familiar with how voting works. In voting, every team member gets one vote which is used to cast their decision on the most appropriate method for resolving an issue. The solution that received the most votes wins.
The good thing about this method is that it is familiar; everyone knows how to do it. The voting takes place in private, so that everyone can provide an opinion without feeling belittled.
The final method we will look at is storyboarding. This technique involves using display methods to display solutions. It works best in smaller groups. The ideas are drawn up and displayed on the wall. Each idea can be moved around and altered easily until, like a movie, all the bits simply fall into place and you have a process to follow to resolve a problem.
Use Feedback Processes Effectively to Monitor the Implementation and Impact of Decisions
When soliciting feedback from individuals who are within the organisation (and others whose performance rating or compensation are set or influenced by you), be very aware of the difficulties in getting honest, usable, valuable feedback. It is usually best to schedule the feedback activities so that they occur after the organisation’s performance and compensation decisions have been finalised, but before notification to employees has occurred. This removes the possibility for criticism that feedback could influence actions in setting performance ratings or compensation levels, and also eliminates the possibility that performance rating or compensation decisions will be influenced by the feedback provided.
Feedback processes may be:
• Formal or informal
• From internal or external sources.
A good process to getting anonymous (and thus more likely to be honest) feedback are these:
• Assemble a group of people who will provide the feedback. Don’t ask individuals to provide feedback.
• Invite more people than will really participate to ensure for anonymous feedback.
• Naturally, anyone seeking feedback is not in the room when this group goes through the feedback process.
• The team appoints a representative who will discuss the group’s feedback with the receiver.
Open decision-making succeeds by relying on the collective wisdom of a group, as opposed to a single person. It involves as many people and ideas as possible in the decision-making process and it uses a non-hierarchical approach where the answer emerges from a discussion among a group of informed people, rather than being handed down from on high.
One of the risks of the open approach is that it could impact efficiency and lead to “analysis paralysis”. However, leaders can maintain efficiency by finding ways to gather input quickly, such as quick polls and blink tests. It is also important for leaders to step in and break deadlocks quickly if consensus doesn’t emerge immediately after discussion.
For managers not used to open decision-making the hardest part in adopting it is learning to trust it. If you are used to controlling decisions very carefully it’s hard to believe that you can have an open discussion, take a vote, and the right answer will appear. This is exactly what happens; you don’t have to control as much as you think. Manage the process, not the outcome; the outcome will take care of itself.
Besides producing good decisions, one of the things I like best about the open process is the impact it has on culture. The open approach encourages interaction and discussion, and it creates a sense of community. People in the group feel like their opinions count, and they feel responsible to help make the right decisions. The open process encourages people to think about what is good for the organisation, not just what is good for them personally, and this tends to produce a strong sense of alignment in the team.
• Group meetings should be planned in advance, so that you are aware of the steps that need to be taken in order to best solve your problem/s.
• It is vitally important that you do not move off the topics for the meetings or move into discussing other problems, or chit-chat. With restricted time limits, every second counts.
• Minutes should be prepared for all meetings as a record of what happened and should be prepared and distributed as soon as possible after a meeting’s conclusion.
• There are a number of different styles of group decision making which can be utilised when making decisions in a team situation. Each of these methods allows for differing opportunities for active participation.
• Brainstorming is a blending of group problem solving and discussion. It operates on the premise that the more ideas that are generated, the greater the possibility of finding a workable solution to a given problem.
• Story boarding is a technique used to organise and visually display information.
• Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is another excellent method of effective group problem solving.