Guide Decision Support Basics

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These groups use the term consensus to denote both the discussion process and the decision rule.

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Other groups use a consensus process to generate as much agreement as possible, but allow decisions to be finalized with a decision rule that does not require unanimity. Consensus Blocking Groups that require unanimity allow individual participants the option of blocking a group decision. This provision motivates a group to make sure that all group members consent to any new proposal before it is adopted. Proper guidelines for the use of this option, however, are important.

The ethics of consensus decision making encourage participants to place the good of the whole group above their own individual preferences. When there is potential for a group decision to be blocked, both the group and any dissenters in the group are encouraged to collaborate until agreement can be reached. Simply vetoing a decision is not considered a responsible use of consensus blocking. Some common guidelines for the use of consensus blocking include:. A basic outline of consensus decision making that allows consensus blocking is outlined in this flow chart from wikipedia: Consensus Decision-making.

Agreement vs. Consent Unanimity is achieved when the full group consents to a decision. Group members can vote their consent to a proposal because they choose to cooperate with the direction of the group, rather than insist on their personal preference. Alternatively, a group member can choose to stand aside.

Standing aside communicates that while a participant does not necessarily support a group decision, he does not wish to block it. Debate Over Decision Rules Critics of consensus blocking object to empowering individuals to block otherwise popular proposals.

Further, they believe group decision making may become stagnated by the high threshold of unanimity. Important decisions may take too long to make, or the status quo may become virtually impossible to change. The resulting tension may undermine group functionality and harm relationships between group members. Defenders of consensus blocking believe that decision rules short of unanimity do not ensure a rigorous search for full agreement before finalizing decisions.

They value the commitment to reaching unanimity and the full collaborative effort this goal requires. They believe that under the right conditions unanimous consent is achievable and the process of getting there strengthens group relationships. Conditions that Favor Unanimity The goals of requiring unanimity are only fully realized when a group is successful in reaching it. Thus, it is important to consider what conditions make full agreement more likely. Here are some of the most important factors that improve the chances of successfully reaching unanimity:.

While numerous entities from academic institutions to advice blogs have attempted to distill the decision-making process into a series of five to seven steps the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth's seven basic steps is an oft-cited one , all more or less follow the same format:. With most of the work in decision-making condensed into steps two and three above, there are also dozens of tools and techniques for organizing your thoughts during these stages. We've rounded up some of the more popular options:. These methods have their critics.

It may be telling that McAllister now blogs about post-corporate life on his website Recovering Commuter. Other business leaders say they found such tools useful for group analysis.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

Of the SWOT and peer analyses Robert Stephens, founder of CFO Perspective , has conducted at various companies he's worked for, "[They] allow the group to come to a consensus on the current situation," he said. They also help everyone understand any underlying assumptions behind recommendations, added Stephens. Other times, decision-making tools are needed simply to get the ball rolling.

However, "it felt like decisions took forever to make.

There are, for example, many great instances of value marketing. Marketing Volvo automobiles and Michelin tires as enhancing the safety of families and children has been a highly effective marketing strategy for those brands. A hypothetical company has been developing a jogging stroller. Its engineers and designers have focused on top-notch materials, quality control in manufacturing, ease of use, reliability, and durability and longevity. But the marketing department, seeing a pattern from other brands, wants to focus on a value-driven campaign.

We care about the comfort and safety of your child. We care about the health and fitness of the child's mother and father. The BabyGo is a big hug for the whole family. This campaign makes perfect sense, unless No one wants to buy the BabyGo , because Walmart is selling a jogging stroller brand that sells for 20 percent less. What appeared to be a perfectly good, "logical" decision based on pattern recognition turns out to be a bad decision because of new conditions in the marketplace.

It becomes necessary for BabyGo to "change course.

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When you're watching every penny, look to the BabyGo It offers your family the best value for the money. These three steps serve as a good summary of the decision-making process: 1 Evaluate each option against the objectives and other relevant criteria; 2 Choose the option with the best outcome; 3 Monitor progress, and change course,, if necessary. Techniques : There are any number of ways to evaluate and choose among options.

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A few basic principles apply. The first, and most obvious, is to narrow down the list of choices to a manageable number. One effective way to do that is to establish a list of criteria. Any option worth considering must fulfill the criteria, preferably all the criteria.

Back-to-Basics: Group Decision Making

Business decisions are often of this type. The list may include, for example, costs, available financing, available personnel within the company and recruits, competition, market niche, public relations, stock price, culture, mission, and strategy. Any major decision, such as introducing a new product, entering a foreign market, agreeing to a merger, would benefit from having a very clear list of criteria. We can finance it through a combination of an SBA loan, bank financing, and bonds. And so on. So, the new product, expansion, or merger gets the green light. The opposite approach also works.

Instead of an alternative fulfilling a list of criteria in order to be chosen, the alternative only has to fail one criterion in order to be rejected. Examples abound: When choosing a hotel room, most travelers will reject a smoking room regardless of any other criteria, such as price or convenient location or free WiFi. The simplest application of the Finkelstein, Whitehead, and Campbell's pattern perspective is to decide based on previous decisions that worked out. This can be summed up as, "When this happens, do that. A rule is a specific requirement that must be followed at all times, while a guideline is a principle of action that may be adjusted to a given set of circumstances.


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Outside influences may lead to pressure to make decisions that conform to what others do in your industry, or in your geographical region. This is the, "Don't make waves" approach that may appeal to Boards of Directors in both the profit and non-profit spheres. Or one may do exactly the opposite and rebel, playing the devil's advocate in decision making. Peter Lewis, founder of Progressive Insurance, made his fortune by playing devil's advocate in the vehicle insurance business. When he began Progressive, most companies would not insure motorcycle riders because of a perception of extreme risk.

Lewis realized he could insure motorcycle riders and charge them higher premiums that would more than compensate for what was, in reality, not much higher risk than insuring auto drivers. His rebellion against the crowd is one of the most notable examples of a good business decision in a generation. The final option is to stay with the status quo. Indeed, making no decision is really a decision. And, of course, it is much more common than one imagines. Every time the Federal Reserve makes a decision not to change interest rates, the no-decision has a powerful impact on the economy.

In this case, the no-decision is often a very major decision. The Bottom Line Is Responsibility: According to Professor Robert Harris, "There are two major approaches to decision making in an organization -- the authoritarian method, in which an executive figure makes a decision for the group, and the group method, in which the group decides what to do. In the authoritarian approach, no surprise, the manager makes the decision, explains the decision to his or her subordinates, and seeks their acceptance of it.

This method is often appropriate in a situation where there is a clear chain of command. An extreme version would be what takes place in an airport control tower.

This is not the place for discussions and different points of view. If there is a situation with, for example, two airplanes arriving at the same time and trying to use the same runway to land, whoever is the officer on deck must decide which plane to clear for landing and which to divert. He or she tells the controllers what to do and explains very briefly why plane A can land, and plane B has to circle and wait.

According Harris, such executive decisions are "based on the knowledge he [the manager] can gather. In the airport example, the knowledge needed for a rapid decision would come from flight plans, radar tracking, weather conditions, the fuel capacity of the aircraft-- all of which would be readily available through the airport's computer systems.

When decisions can be made outside an emergency atmosphere, there is still room for the authoritarian approach, but it requires buy-in from subordinates. Indeed, Harris explains, "In some studies, the time breakdown for a typical [authoritarian] operating decision is something like this: make decision, 5 min. Harris strongly favors group decisions over authoritarian ones. He explains, "The group shares ideas and analyses, and agrees upon a decision to implement.

Studies show that the group often has values, feelings, and reactions quite different from those the manager supposes they have. No one knows the group and its tastes and preferences as well as the group itself.