Who doesn’t appreciate a well thought out solution delivered within a reasonable time frame?
In the ever-evolving landscape of decision making, harnessing the collective wisdom of a group can be a game-changer. Whether you're working in healthcare, nonprofit administration, or any other field, group decision making offers a powerful approach to tackle complex issues.
Group decision making not only leverages diverse perspectives and expertise but also fosters collaboration and ensures that decisions are thoroughly examined from all angles. As such, group decision making practices are common, but they can also be challenging due to the multitude of perspectives and interests involved.
This article provides an effective five-step procedural model of decision making to guide you as you facilitate each phase of the process with your team or group. While most examples are drawn from healthcare and nonprofit administration, the focus remains on providing practical insights that can be applied universally.
The Role of Groups in Decision Making
In the world of business analysis, decision making is a key underlying competency. Decision making requires gathering relevant information, exploring options, and selecting the most desirable course of action.
Whether you call them tasks, steering committee, initiative teams, advisory councils, or the like, many organizations employ the use of groups to explore challenges and recommend solutions.
Groups can produce solutions to complex problems that are better than solutions produced by individuals. However, this kind of synergy does not happen in the absence of an effective communication practices. Systematic procedures usually produce better decisions than unsystematic ones.
Facilitate This Five Step Group Decision Making Process
The Procedural Model of Problem Solving (P-MOPS), is a systematic yet flexible process-based approach that significantly improves decision making outcomes (Adams & Galanes, 2015). It consists of five phases, each with its unique role and methodologies:
Step #1 | Problem Identification
The first step in effective group decision making is to define the problem at hand. This initial clarity sets the stage for everything that follows. Whether you're addressing patient experience issues in healthcare or streamlining volunteer management in nonprofits, a well-defined problem statement ensures that the group remains focused on the task.
A well worded discussion question will focus the group on the problem, rather than prematurely suggesting an answer. Take a look at the following two discussion questions. The first assumes the solution and limits discussion and creativity; the second open the group to explore alternatives.
Solution question: How can we convince the administration to fund a new translation software program?
Problem question: How can our organization meet the diverse language needs of our patients?
Step #2 | Data Collection and Analysis
Data is the lifeblood of informed decision making. Collecting and analyzing pertinent information is essential. In healthcare, this could involve patient feedback, clinical data, or industry benchmarks. For nonprofits, it might mean scrutinizing volunteer performance metrics, program effectiveness, or stakeholder input. A data driven approach provides a solid foundation for discussions.
All group members must take the time to understand the problem thoroughly. The process requires information sharing and discussion. It is tempting to shortchange the analysis process if a solution is prematurely suggested, but doing so stymies the development of alternatives. A facilitator should ensure that the following questions are explored by the group as a whole:
What is the extent of your problem?
How harmful, serious, widespread is it?
What are the effects of the problem? Who is affected? How?
What are the causes of the problem?
What historical events have happened that affect your problem?
What important decisions (court, congressional, county, etc.) have been made about this problem?
What is currently being done to help solve the problem?
Why does this problem continue to exist?
Step #3 | Generation of Alternatives
Once you have a clear problem statement and relevant data in hand, it's time to brainstorm alternatives. Encourage creativity within your group. Diverse perspectives often lead to innovative solutions. Consider different approaches, explore unconventional ideas, and don't dismiss any suggestion prematurely. It's at this stage that the magic of group decision making truly shines.
Brainstorming is a technique used to generate a diverse set of options and is best applied in a group as it draws on the experience and creativity of all group members.
The Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (IIBA, 2015) breaks brainstorming down into the following three elements necessary for facilitating a fun, engaging, and productive brainstorming session (BABOK 10.5).
Elements of Brainstorming
Define the area of interest
Determine time limit
Establish evaluation criteria
Build on each other’s ideas
Elicit as many ideas as possible
Discuss and evaluation
Distribute final list
Step #4 | Evaluation and Selection of Alternatives
Not all alternatives are equal, and not all are feasible. Use predefined criteria to evaluate each option. Consider factors like cost-effectiveness, impact, feasibility, and alignment with your organization's goals. In healthcare, you might prioritize patient centric solutions, while in nonprofits, you may focus on maximizing volunteer impact. Collaborate as a group to objectively assess and select the best alternative.
What are the criteria to be used as guidelines for solving the problem?
Why are these criteria important?
The Business Analysis Book of Knowledge notes that business analysts must be effective in understanding criteria involved in making a decision (BABOK 188.8.131.52). Explicitly identified criteria can then be used to physically chart the pros and cons of each alternative. This step ensures that the chosen solution aligns with the organization's objectives. Options can be refined and the best path forward identified. Additionally, establishing and prioritizing a list of criteria aids in generating consensus. While the selected solution might not be everyone’s first choice, all group members can get behind and support the final decision.
Step #5 | Implementation
Put your decision in writing. Decision making doesn't end with the choice; it extends to execution. Effective implementation is critical. Create an action plan, assign responsibilities, and establish a monitoring system to track progress. Regularly review and monitor the results and be open to adjustments along the way. This iterative approach ensures that decisions are not just made but also effectively put into practice.
Cost: How much money and where will the money come from?
Time: How long for the solution to take effect?
Administration: Who will administer the solution; are they qualified?
Attitude change: What and whose attitudes need to be changed? How?
Overall workability: What are the long term vs. short term considerations?
What are the legal or ethical considerations?
Overcoming Challenges to Effective Group Decision Making
Group decision making can be a rewarding but challenging process. Here are some tips to overcome common obstacles:
Effective communication is vital. Encourage open and transparent communication within the group. Ensure that everyone has a chance to voice their opinions and concerns.
Involve key stakeholders in the decision making process. Their insights and buy in are often crucial to the success of the chosen solution. Involving key stakeholders ensures a holistic perspective, increasing the chances of success.
The procedural model of problem solving is a flexible framework. While process oriented, it allows for adjustments based on feedback and results, a vital aspect of making informed decisions.
Data Driven Decisions
Emphasis on data driven decision making ensures that choices are based on evidence rather than intuition, leading to better outcomes.
Appoint a clear leader or facilitator for the decision making process. This person ensures that discussions remain focused and productive. Consider bringing in an outside facilitator or skilled consultant to help harness the power of group decision making. A non technical business process analyst such as me can help ensure that information flows seamlessly, helping teams stay aligned.
Effective group decision making is a valuable skill in any professional's toolkit. By following this five step process—defining the problem, gathering information, generating alternatives, evaluating options, and implementing decisions—you can enhance your decision making capabilities. Whether you're in healthcare, nonprofit administration, or another field, the principles remain the same. By fostering collaboration, embracing data, and maintaining a structured approach, you can lead your group toward better, more informed decisions that drive positive outcomes.
In business analysis, decision making is the linchpin of success. The Procedural Model of Problem Solving (P-MOPS) is a structured approach to tackle complex problems and facilitate group decision making effectively. While examples were drawn from healthcare and nonprofit administration to illustrate the five step process, the focus remains on how business analysts across industries can harness this model to drive positive change and make informed decisions.
Roseanna Galindo, ECBA, CAVS
Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right
Roseanna is available for training, keynotes, and executive coaching. Visit PeriscopeBPA.com for more information.
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