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Groups decision making is decision making in groups consisting of multiple members/entities. The challenge of group decision is deciding what action a group should take. There are various systems designed to solve this problem.
- Consensus decision-making tries to avoid "winners" and "losers". Consensus requires that a majority approve a given course of action, but that the minority agree to go along with the course of action. In other words, if the minority opposes the course of action, consensus requires that the course of action be modified to remove objectionable features.
- Voting based methods
- Range voting lets each member score one or more of the available options. The option with the highest average is chosen. This method has experimentally been shown to produce the lowest Bayesian regret among common voting methods, even when voters are strategic.
- Majority requires support from more than 50% of the members of the group. Thus, the bar for action is lower than with unanimity and a group of “losers” is implicit to this rule.
- Plurality, where the largest block in a group decides, even if it falls short of a majority.
- Dictatorship, where one individual determines the course of action.
- See also: Groupthink
Decision making in groups is sometimes examined separately as process and outcome. Process refers to the group interactions. Some relevant ideas include coalitions among participants as well as influence and persuasion. The use of politics is often judged negatively, but it is a useful way to approach problems when preferences among actors are in conflict, when dependencies exist that cannot be avoided, when there are no super-ordinate authorities, and when the technical or scientific merit of the options is ambiguous.
In addition to the different processes involved in making decisions, group decision support systems (GDSS) may have different decision rules. A decision rule is the GDSS protocol a group uses to choose among scenario planning alternatives.
- Gathering involves all participants acknowledging each other's needs and opinions and tends towards a problem solving approach in which as many needs and opinions as possible can be satisfied. It allows for multiple outcomes and does not require agreement from some for others to act.
- Sub-committee involves assigning responsibility for evaluation of a decision to a sub-set of a larger group, which then comes back to the larger group with recommendations for action. Using a sub-committee is more common in larger governance groups, such as a legislature. Sometimes a sub-committee includes those individuals most affected by a decision, although at other times it is useful for the larger group to have a sub-committee that involves more neutral participants.
- Participatory, where each actor would have a say in decisions directly proportionate to the degree that particular decision affects him or her. Those not affected by a decision would have no say and those exclusively affected by a decision would have full say. Likewise, those most affected would have the most say while those least affected would have the least say.
Plurality and dictatorship are less desirable as decision rules because they do not require the involvement of the broader group to determine a choice. Thus, they do not engender commitment to the course of action chosen. An absence of commitment from individuals in the group can be problematic during the implementation phase of a decision.
There are no perfect decision making rules. Depending on how the rules are implemented in practice and the situation, all of these can lead to situations where either no decision is made, or to situations where decisions made are inconsistent with one another over time.
Moral dimension of decision making
The ethical principles of decision making vary considerably. Some common choices of principles and the methods which seem to match them include:
- the most powerful person/group decides
- method: dictatorship or oligarchy
- everyone participates in a certain class of meta-decisions
- method: parliamentary democracy
- everyone participates in every decision
- direct democracy, consensus decision making
There are many decision making levels having a participation element. A common example is that of institutions making decisions that affect those for whom they provide. In such cases an understanding of what participation level is involved becomes crucial to understand the process and power structures dynamics.
Control-Ethics. When organisations/institutions make decisions it is important to find the balance between the parameters of control mechanisms and the ethical principles which ensure 'best' outcome for individuals and communities impacted on by the decision. Controls may be set by elements such as Legislation, historical precedents, available resources, Standards, policies, procedures and practices. Ethical elements may include equity, fairness, transparency, social justice, choice, least restrictive alternative, empowerment.
Empowerment is a persons way of expressing control.
Decision making in healthcare
In the health care field, the steps of making a decision may be remembered with the mnemonic BRAND, which includes
- Benefits of the action
- Risks in the action
- Alternatives to the prospective action
- Nothing: that is, doing nothing at all
Decision-makers and influencers
In the context of marketing, there is much theory, and even more opinion, expressed about how the various 'decision-makers' and 'influencers' (those who can only influence, not decide, the final decision) interact. Large purchasing decisions are frequently taken by groups, rather than individuals, and the official buyer often does not have authority to make the decision.
Decision Support Systems
Decision making software is essential for autonomous robots and for different forms of active decision support for industrial operators, designers and managers.
Due to the large number of considerations involved in many decisions, computer-based decision support systems (DSS) have been developed to assist decision makers in considering the implications of various courses of thinking. They can help reduce the risk of human errors. DSSs which try to realize some human/cognitive decision making functions are called Intelligent Decision Support Systems (IDSS), see for ex. "An Approach to the Intelligent Decision Advisor (IDA) for Emergency Managers, 1999". On the other hand, an active/intelligent DSS is an important tool for the design of complex engineering systems and the management of large technological and business projects, see also: "Decision engineering, an approach to Business Process Reengineering (BPR) in a strained industrial and business environment".
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