7 steps for quality group decision-making; to prevent you following like sheep

Groups who make decisions as if a mindless herd of sheep tend to make bad ones

Groups who make decisions as if a mindless herd of sheep tend to make bad ones

“I feel really awful, the group decided to follow a daft suggestion like a herd of sheep”.

Often we feel comfortable just following the herd. It stops us from making and voicing our own evaluations when we feel they may be unwelcome. In many cases, this is a conscious decision, providing us with a way to shy away from the limelight and prevent us being held responsible if anything goes wrong. However, we don’t always notice this happening…

This kind of group behaviour, referred to as ‘group-think’ 1 may lead to some terrible group decisions1. The kind of circumstances that may encourage ‘group-think’ behaviours to emerge are:

  • The group likes being together and sticks together. It is comfortable, respectful and friendly, plus;
  • There is a strong leader and the group lacks procedures to help it make decisions, such as using evidence. This means the leader may become unduly influential
  • Pressure from the environment pushes a group to make quick decisions. The value of good ideas, evidence driven thinking, challenges to how things are done and even involvement of people with expertise outside the group is diminished.
Make good group decisions, avoid 'group-think'

Make good group decisions, avoid ‘group-think’

Here are 7 tips to help:

  1. Establish ground rules and a group charter about how meetings will work
  2. Separate and have a dialogue to tease out the difference between constructive challenges and personal disagreements
  3. Take time to assess the downside and risk that may be associated with a decision
  4. Test out whether the data you have stands up to scrutiny; do you need more, or is the idea not good enough?
  5. Involve people with expertise on an issue. Be respectful of their input and challenge constructively
  6. Take a break. Reflect on discussions to see what issues have arisen for people
  7. Rotate the leadership of the group in order to balance interests and issues with good decision making approaches