Do Teams make better decisions than Individuals?
Technology continues to bring business competitors closer together in the global market. Smart businesses are positioning themselves to take the lead by using their intellectual capital at every level of the organization. Teams of employees are crucial to the partnership of corporate leadership, managers, and employees to improve company decision making and maximize strategic business advantages.
Decision making is a large part of doing business. When there is only one person affected by a decision, it is relatively easy. But when employees and coworkers are involved, the best solution could be found be involving the group or team that will be affected (Francis). According to Carl Spetzler, chairman of Palo Alto Calif.-based Strategic Decisions Group,” Building organizational decision competence, in his long experience, is achievable. It creates a huge value opportunity with relatively little attached cost. I know of nothing else that can give you so much bang for the buck in terms of significantly increasing in the value of an organization”(qtd. in Luecke).
One example from General Motors shows the power of teams at work. Vincent Barabba, the general manager of corporate strategy and knowledge development, started dialog decision process teams or DDP. The DDP involves two teams, a decision team comprising executives with power to allocate resources and an investigative team made up of managers and employees with relevant expertise and experience. This cast of characters brings knowledgeable people with different perspectives and responsibilities to problems and opportunities. (qtd. in Luecke) The decision team would define problems and issues from their senior leadership perspective. The investigative team would analyze the problem or issue, consider metrics effected such as cost, quality, risk, and return on investment. The team would offer solutions options or a combination of solution options to the decision team for a final decision and implementation based on the analytical work (qtd. in Luecke). This approach to decision making, says Barabba, contrasts sharply with the practice of advocacy and proposal “selling” that once dominated GM’s culture. In that environment, project advocates would put the best possible face on their proposals. Advocates seldom acknowledge the downsides of their plans, and plan benefits often were overly rosy. Nor were alternatives offered to decision makers.” The last thing you would do in this environment,” says Barabba “would be to tell management, there are actually several ways to approach this problem.’ That just didn’t happen.”(Luecke) Once the value of these teams were recognized in other areas, the dialog decision process teams spread to other organizations within General Motors such as marketing, technology, and was successfully used to launch OnStar in all their vehicle’s by 2007 (Luecke).
The strong case for teams should not completely overshadow individual decision making. All too often unprepared or untrained teams meet in a room; they sit down, talk for awhile, and make a decision. Sometimes it has been discussed and shows foresight, but sometimes it indicates the team had no vision at all (Lumsden 185). Even when skills and knowledge are at their best, teams do not always make the best decisions. When teams do not have adequate time, resources, information, and authority to make decisions, the team will struggle to find a quality solution. A lack of accountability for teams is paternalistic and condescending, which can lead to poor solutions that fail (Fisher 16). Some members may disclose information from a personal biased point of view, or the team may favor information validating their current point of view without considering new and sometimes drastically different information, especially when the team has a diverse membership. They may have a difficult time working together until necessary team building skills...
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