Dangers of Group Decision Making

In Japanese culture, collectivist behavior is the norm (Takamiya, 1972), providing a high degree of consensus building. For executive leaders, consensus building is one of the most important skills to possess (Berman & Werther, 1996). For the Japanese, the use of group decision making has been a trademark of organizational culture that has provided them with exceptional speed at decision implementation (Martinsons & Davison, 2007). Group decision making provides increased idea development, opens up communication, and increases trust among those involved in the group (Brahm & Kleiner, 1996), while helping the organization attain cooperation, commitment, and strategic success (Hit et al., 1991) through the increase in creativity and innovation (Barkers et al., 2001). Despite these benefits, implementing group decision making does have its dangers.

Many dangers of group decision making result from the ambiguity of who is actually responsible. Since the perspective is that everyone is responsible for the decisions the group arrives at, no one is actually responsible (Takayima, 1972). This is further perpetuated by the fact that the leader’s role in the process is to work toward bringing about the necessary adjustments, relegating him to an effective mediator rather than a promotor of any one idea (Takayima, 1972). Unfortunately, that positions the leader to simply accept or reject decisions the group arrives at, which can lead to organizational mishaps, or the group feeling devalued (Brahm & Kleiner, 1996). If the group members become more concerned with maintaining relational leverage with each other, the decision arrived at may be simply the least common-denominator to please all members (Takayima, 1972).

With group decision making, there must be clarity on who shoulders the responsibility of the decisions made, and the dynamics of the group must be protected to insure peace is not valued over the group objectives.


Barker, L. L., Wahlers, K. J., & Watson, K. W. (2001). Groups in process: an introduction to small group communication (6th ed). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Berman, E. M., & Werther Jr., W. B. (1996). Broad‐based consensus building. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 9(3), 61–72. http://doi.org/10.1108/09513559610124496

Brahm, C., & Kleiner, B. H. (1996). Advantages and disadvantages of group decision‐ making approaches. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 2(1), 30–35. http://doi.org/10.1108/13527599610105538

Hitt, M. A., Hoskisson, R. E., & Harrison, J. S. (1991). Strategic Competitiveness in the 1990s: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Executives. The Executive, 5(2), 7–22.

Martinsons, M. G., & Davison, R. M. (2007). Strategic decision making and support systems: Comparing American, Japanese and Chinese management. Decision Support Systems, 43(1), 284–300. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.dss.2006.10.005

Takamiya, S. (1972). Group Decision-Making in Japanese Management. International Studies of Management & Organization, (2), 183.

2 thoughts on “Dangers of Group Decision Making

  1. Steve Mittelstaedt says:

    Your comment on clarity about responsibility is right on point.

    My practical observation is that group decision-making seems to work best when the process within the group has a pre-determined focus. As in with collaborative work groups where the the overall priorities have have already been set and the groups stay zeroed in on what that is.

    I’ve worked in quite a number of groups over the years in a professional context and a few years ago I was asked to serve on a church board. But it seemed that the melding of church leadership with non-profit board process muddled our ability to stay on point. Board fiduciary responsibilities are inherently ones of oversight. In theory this ought to be the externality that sets the priorities for group decision making. Or at least that’s what all the resources for non-profit board service suggest.

    But the involvement in church leadership (board members wearing pastoral or lay leadership hats in the congregation) seemed to entangle the group at the operational level. This might not make any difference in very small churches, where everybody does everything anyway. But in our mid-sized church it pretty much blew up the ability to the board to stay focused.

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