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How to Make Group DECISIONS in a Virtual Space



A virtual team involves a group of individuals working together regardless of time, boundaries, and space through an interface to achieve a common goal. When it comes to making decisions, are group decisions better than individual decisions? Well, several factors determine the best kind of decision-making. Based on the experiences and opinions of a whole lot of individuals, group decision-making are helpful.


Furthermore, group decisions are likely to be more valuable and produce effective results. Besides, group decisions will be easier to enforce than individual decisions because members were involved in the decision-making process. Better Decisions are made when the group members are from diverse backgrounds. They are different ideas and opinions are joined together to make a sound decision. Research has revealed that top management teams that make diverse group decisions, produce better results when it involves sales and profits.


What’s more, a group decision is common within organizations, regardless of its popularity, it still has its disadvantages. It's usually rare for groups to outmatch their best member. Although groups are more likely to make effective decisions, they are at a disadvantage of suffering process lags. For instance, groups may experience coordination challenges.


If you have ever worked on a project with team members, you can attest that coordinating team members can be a challenging task. Additionally, groups may suffer imbalance as a result of some members putting less effort than other group members. Yet, group decision-making is a longer process when compared to individual decision-making. Members are given time to air their opinions and deliberate on a final decision which is time-consuming.


Thus, group decision or single decision making may depend on the circumstance at that time. For instance, during emergencies, an individual decision may be preferable as there may be no time for group deliberation. Individual decision-making is effective when the individual is provided and equipped with all the details he needs to make a decision. Sometimes, a single individual may not have all the knowledge and skills to make a decision, enforcing the decision may be difficult when other members are not involved, and there ample time to make decisions. In scenarios like this, a group decision is preferable.






Methods and Techniques for Better Virtual Group Decision Making


A study showed that 87% of employees in multinational companies perform part of their tasks virtually. According to the study, only 16% of these employees were actually trained to perform their virtual job. Managers should ensure that there is effective communication between virtual teams to enable them to make better decisions.


When it comes to group decision-making, several cultures may have different decision-making methods. For instance, in the U.S, managers get input, choose a path and adjust the project as it progresses. French groups usually use confrontation and debate, Sweden groups adopt consensus-building, and Japanese groups are likely to adopt one on one discussions in a conventional group meeting. However, several techniques are adopted in virtual group decision-making.



Nominal Group Technique (NGT)


The nominal group technique is a decision-making technique that ensures that group members are fully involved in the decision-making process. NGT is usually adopted in cases where group members are trying to generate ideas or tackle problems. The decision-making process in the Nominal group technique involves jotting ideas by each member, gathering the ideas together, deliberating on each idea and finally making a decision based on votes. This process ensures that all members participle fully.



Delphi Technique


Delphi technique is an effective decision-making technique in virtual spaces. The process involves answering series of questionnaires. The questionnaires are hosted on a virtual platform where members can access and fill in their answers. The first questionnaire usually covers a broad aspect like pinpointing the problem and proposing possible solutions. Subsequent questionnaires are drafted based on data gotten from the initial questionnaire. After series of questionnaires, a decision is made through consensus.



Majority Rule


As the name implies, majority rule involved making a decision based on the highest vote. The majority rule is a popular way of making decisions in both physical and virtual spaces. Its simplicity and fairness make most entities adopt the technique.



Consensus


Consensus is usually adopted when a group is aiming to choose a plan of action. Consensus may take a longer time to get a result. The process involves deliberating on issues, creating proposals, reaching a consensus, and reviewing concerns. In cases where the problem persists, the proposal is adjusted. Research reveals that Consensus gives members a feeling of participation and satisfaction.



Group Decision Support Systems


Group decision support systems are digital-based systems that help virtual group members in effective decision making. These support systems use Smart technology and communication to make decisions. Organizations use this system as a result of its ability to enhance information sharing and collaboration among group members. GDSS solves the problem associated with large virtual meetings and information overload. However, GDSS has its drawbacks. It lacks human psychology, so members may be hesitant to share information. Also, group members do not wholly accept this system due to factors such as fear of harsher criticism and lack of prompt feedback.






Tips to Make Group Members in Virtual Spaces Participate More Effectively


The Virtual Teams Survey Report in 2012 reported that the decision-making process is longer in virtual spaces. Virtual groups find it harder to cooperate because of the absence of physical cues. Time zones may also act as barriers hindering the decision-making process in virtual spaces.


Here are some tips to make virtual group members collaborate effectively:


· Select virtual group members that are familiar with themselves. They tend to be more participate when they know themselves.


· Use online tools that promote a sense of community among team members.


· Encourage communication among group members through the use of chat rooms and bulletin boards.


· Use a team-friendly virtual space that facilitates communication and monitoring among group members.


· Commend positive efforts and celebrate successes by posting positive and success stories to the group webpage or electronic bulletin board.


 

Endnote


Whether in physical or virtual spaces, group decision-making is possible. It enhances participation and gives a feeling of satisfaction to the members.



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