In Part 1 , we explored the notion of Groupthink and outlined how to recognise its signs and symptoms. Groupthink can occur in group decision making if members of the group become overly concerned with getting agreement on a decision – rather than rationally assessing all options. Rather than harnessing the power of the group to select the best possible way forward, Groupthink can lead to flawed decision making.
So how do you prevent Groupthink, and the risk of poor decisions in your organisation?
The best approach is to implement a decision making process for critical decisions that have significant impact. Your process does not have to be overly complicated but consistency is important. Make sure the process is realistic and feasible – run a pilot group. Below are some simple steps to incorporate in the process to minimise Groupthink.
Appoint a Devil’s Advocate
Often one or more individuals assume the role of Devil’s Advocate within the group. They will voice the ‘what ifs’ and highlight any flaws in the proposed approach. These people are hugely valuable in stress testing options.
But as we have seen with Groupthink, the role of Devil’s Advocate may be shut out by other members of the group. I have seen individuals who always take on the role of Devil’s Advocate being labelled as ‘negative’ or ‘difficult’. It is important that this role is assigned within the group. This makes it clear that the person is deliberately trying to find flaws – rather than just being awkward. This role should also be rotated among the group members.
Use Duplicate Groups
Using duplicate groups can help on two fronts. Firstly splitting a group into two can increase the number of options identified. If you use objective evaluation criteria and get the subgroups to rate each option, this can improve the evaluation of suggested approaches.
Senior members of the group speak last
Often more senior members of the group can set the direction in meetings. People may hold back offering their opinion until the senior member signals a preferred direction or shares their own view. The risk here is that one individual influences the group decision. The value of group decision making is to broaden the perspective on an issue.
Sometimes initial comments from senior individuals become an anchor point and the final outcome does not move far from this reference point. So ensure that the most senior people hold their views until everybody else has shared theirs.
Seek viewpoints from outsiders
Once a decision is made it should be evaluated by people outside the group. This allows fresh eyes to review the options and question the preferred decision. Sometimes the group is comprised of those with expertise on the problem. But it can add value to get the perspective of individuals who are not close to the problem and really offer new insight.
Check out our programme on Decision Making for more insights into how to make your organisation process more robust.