Project #41150 - Decision Making


Here is the question for assignment 5


Please use online line lecture on the assignment as references


 Assignment 5 /Project Task for Module 5: Decision Making


This week, analyze how informed decisions are made at your workplace. Examine the barriers faced when making such informed decisions. Identify the communication strategies used to overcome such barriers in your school or organization. Record any examples that support your observations. Analyze the communication practices observed.


Consider the following in your analysis:


•Barriers to making informed decisions


•Communication as used in decision making




Your paper should be in Microsoft Word 2000 or higher. Follow the current edition of APA style guidelines. Your paper should be 1–2 pages in length, double-spaced, and in 12pt font.


All written assignments and responses should follow APA rules for attributing sources.


Grading Criteria


Analyzed how informed decisions are made at the workplace.


Explained the barriers faced when making such informed decisions.


Identified the communication strategies used to overcome such barriers in the school or organization.


Recorded supporting examples. 


Analyzed the observed communication practices.


Wrote in a clear, concise, and organized manner; demonstrated ethical scholarship in accurate representation and attribution of sources, displayed accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


Submitted on time.


Online lecture


Problem Solving (1 of 6)


 Problem solving is an integral part of any and all organizations. An organization can ensure continued improvement through its ability to solve problems effectively. What are the obstacles faced when solving problems in your own organization?


The Problem Solving Agenda


One of the greatest obstacles to effective problem solving is the tendency for individuals to leap to solutions prematurely (Broome & Fulbright, 1995). You can avoid this by following a problem solving agenda. The problem solving agenda lays out a sequence of steps that guide individuals, groups, or organizations to define and solve specific problems. Many such agendas exist, but the best known and most widely used are those based on a five-step process developed by John Dewey, the educator (Cragan & Wright, 1999, p. 97).


Research suggests that individuals and groups that follow a problem solving agenda experience less conflict (Sunwolf & Seibold, 1999). However, these studies have also shown that successful groups do not necessarily solve all problems in a strict sequential order. Successful groups have a well-defined agenda, but they may ultimately follow a variety of paths as they work through that agenda (Schultz, 1999). Problem solvers benefit from keeping the agenda in mind, but they should also recognize that they may have to move back and forth among the phases before arriving at a final solution


OverviewProblem Solving (2 of 6)


 Let’s take a look at the five steps of the problem solving agenda.


Step 1: Define and Delineate the Problem


This step may seem obvious, but it is vital that all participants involved in the problem solving process understand and agree on what constitutes the “problem.” For example, if a group is tasked with improving employee morale, they first need to determine what constitutes low morale and what behaviors serve as indicators that morale is low. Some individuals may believe that employee failure to participate in organizational extra-curricular activities is the leading indicator of poor morale, while others might believe that the high rate of turnover is the primary indicator. These individuals are likely to seek different, and perhaps incompatible, solutions to the problem based on their understanding of it. Defining the problem helps participants narrow their focus and sets limits for the discussion of solutions.


Step 2: Analyze the Problem


Analyzing the problem requires that participants examine all aspects of the problem. This is the most important step in the problem solving process, because it will strongly impact the potential solutions that participants develop (Hirokawa & Salazar, 1999). Analyzing the problem requires that one ask a series of questions, such as:


•Where did the problem start?


•What are the causes that led to the problem?


•Who is affected by the problem?


•How widespread is the problem?


•What are the consequences of the problem?


In addition, problem analysis will require that participants locate or collect the information that they need to fully understand the problem.


Problem Solving (4 of 6)


 Step 3: Identify Alternative Solutions


Once the participants have a clear understanding of the problem, they need to develop a set of possible solutions. At this stage, it’s important to consider a wide array of possible solutions and not to settle too quickly on a specific solution. One way to make sure that a variety of solutions are considered is to brainstorm.


Brainstorming involves generating as many ideas as possible, but without initially critiquing them. For example, if the sample work group determines that low morale is widespread primarily among the organization’s support staff and has resulted in significant turnover, they might suggest a range of possible solutions, including wage hikes, greater employee autonomy, more employee appreciation activities, increased flexibility in schedules, job sharing, new job titles, and much more. The important guideline at this stage is to allow individuals to offer suggestions, and not to judge their feasibility. Participants are discouraged from making comments like “We can’t afford that,” or “Management will never go for that!”


Step 4: Evaluate Proposed Solutions


The next step involves evaluating the solutions generated by brainstorming or other processes. However, before solutions can be evaluated, the evaluation criteria must be delineated. The task group you are looking at might suggest three criteria for its solutions:


•Economically feasible


•Widely applicable


•Successfully solvable


With these criteria in mind, the task force has a basis for evaluating each solution. This stage can be challenging. Participants should not try to find a solution too quickly.


Step 5: Choosing the Best Solution


While this step may seem redundant, choosing the best solution is not the same as evaluating all proposed solutions. At this stage, it is critical that everyone participates and accepts the solution.


The problem solving agenda is a specific format or set of guidelines that individuals can follow to ensure high quality solutions. As participants progress through the stages, they will need to make multiple decisions.


For example, during stage four, the evaluation stage, the group will need to decide the following:


•What are the appropriate criteria for evaluating proposed solutions?


•Will they evaluate all or just some of the proposed solutions?


•How will they manage differences of opinion regarding the value of proposed solutions?


At this point, they may be tired or overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy they have invested in their task. They may be tempted to select a solution quickly to end the process. However, if they keep to the agenda and carefully consider each alternative, they will quickly and effectively reject some solutions and find others attractive. According to one study, a strong positive relationship exists between a group’s decision making performance and the participants’ satisfaction with the solution (Hirokawa & Salazar, 1999).


Decision Making (1 of 5) 


 Decision Making Phases


Some years ago, communication scholar Aubrey Fisher (1970) identified four phases of group decision making:










He showed that group members followed a unique pattern of talking and interacting with each other as they went through these four phases in the decision making process. Not long afterwards, another communication scholar, Ernest Bormann (1975), studied how group members dealt with conflict and tension in decision making. The research of these two scholars led to the phases described below.


While current research supports the phases articulated by Fisher and Bormann (Wheelan, Davidson, & Tilin, 2003), communication scholars have shown that most groups do not proceed through these phases in an orderly, linear fashion. Instead, they may cycle through the orientation phase twice before moving to the conflict phase. Again, they may revert back to the conflict phase after reaching the emergence phase (Bormann, 1975; Poole, 1983).


Let’s explore the four phases of decision making.


Phase 1: Orientation (Primary Tension)


During this phase of decision making, group members usually orient themselves to the problem and to each other (if they have just met). Uncertainty at this stage is common and is referred to as primary tension. For example, as a group member, you might wonder how the group is going to function.


You may have questions about the relational aspect of the group processes:


•Are you going to like the other members?


•Are you going to get along with everybody, or will you clash?


You may also have questions about the uncertainty of the task you are to undertake:


•Will everyone contribute equally?


•Will the work get done efficiently and on time?


Communication at this phase is generally polite, tentative, and focused on reducing uncertainty and ambiguity through clarification and agreement. The orientation phase is most important for setting up relational and task norms for the future.


Regardless of the established norms, groups often experience recurring primary tension when meeting over an extended period. For example, at the beginning of each meeting, group members may need to spend time reconnecting and revisiting their views on the task.


Phase 2: Conflict (Secondary Tension)


The second phase in decision making is characterized by secondary or recurring tension. This phase usually occurs after group members have become acquainted and have developed some norms and expectations. In this phase, the group will address decision alternatives.


As members become more relaxed, their communication becomes more animated and honest. They may interrupt each other, talk louder, and try out different group roles. Some may try to dominate, push their own agendas, and form coalitions in an effort to increase their influence. Others may engage in side conversations as they lose their focus on the decision at hand. During this period, it’s important to follow the suggestions for effective group communication—equal participation, consensus making decision style, and respectful communication.


Of course, all decision making groups experience some conflict. In fact, a certain amount of conflict can be both healthy and functional because it can increase member involvement (Sunwolf & Seibold, 1999), especially if members know how to deal with it. The most productive way to handle group conflict is by using a cooperative conflict style that integrates all members’ interests, an approach called win-win (Oetzel, 2005).


Phase 3: Emergence


By the emergence phase, the group has worked through any primary and secondary tensions and has begun to express a cooperative attitude. In successful groups, coalitions dissipate, and group members are less tenacious about holding their positions. Comments become more favorable as members compromise to reach consensus, discuss their problem at length, consider possible alternatives, and eventually generate a group decision (Fisher, 1970). This is generally the longest phase.


Phase 4: Reinforcement


During the reinforcement phase, members reach consensus and solidify the decision. They should feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. If a small majority makes the decision, they may spend phase four convincing other members of its value. In successful groups, members unify and stand behind the solution. Comments are almost uniformly positive.


Coming to a decision easily due to group cohesion may seem like the ideal situation. However, it may actually reflect a negative group process—groupthink. Groupthink can be defined as “excessive concurrence thinking.” This phenomenon of reaching a consensus prematurely can have disastrous consequences. The term was coined in an analysis of several foreign policy fiascoes such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 and the escalation of the Vietnam War (Janis, 1982).


A more recent example of the disastrous consequences of groupthink was the Challenger space shuttle explosion 73 seconds into its launch on January 28, 1986. A commission of experts was convened to determine the primary cause of the accident. They found that it was due to a mechanical failure in one of the joints of the right solid rocket booster and concluded that the contributing cause was a flawed decision making process at NASA.


Several NASA personnel had warned of potential problems with the launch, and numerous opportunities arose to postpone it. However, on each occasion, one or more of the following influences surfaced and reduced the chances for altering the collision course NASA was on:


•Individuals’ unwillingness to step outside their roles and question those in authority


•Questionable patterns of reasoning by key managers


•Ambiguous and misleading language that minimized the perception of risk


•Failure to ask important questions relevant to the final decision


Poor communication skills and an unwillingness to explore possible problems and risk disagreement led to an event that ultimately undermined the safety of the Challenger launch (Gouran, Hirokawa, & Martz, 1986).


Groupthink can result from a failure to set decision making norms, or from very high group cohesiveness where the drive for unanimity overrides the motivation to realistically look at alternatives. This example reflects a failure to follow a problem solving agenda. Extreme homogeneity in the backgrounds of group members may also lead to rushed solutions rather than a careful examination of all alternatives (Flippen, 1999).












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Due By (Pacific Time) 09/29/2014 12:00 am
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