OK—So Are We All In Agreement?

Meetings are held for a variety of reasons: gather opinions, bring everyone together on the same page, share ideas, etc. But how often in your organization does GroupThink happen? More often than you may think.

GroupThink is especially prominent in groups that meet over long periods of time. Remember once GroupThink begins to happen, the team no longer explores the depth of an issue, brings up other options or identifies concerns. They stay on the surface and opt for easy solutions.

In Communicating at Work, by Tony Alessandra and Phil Hunsaker, the authors list four reasons GroupThink happens:

  1. Illusion of Togetherness. The group takes pride in its lack of disagreement and ability to come to rapid decisions.
  2. Conformity Pressures. Dissenters are discounted as not being team players.
  3. Self-Censorship. Team members keep opinions about negative factors affecting decisions to him/herself and fail to question the direction of the group (i.e. “If everyone else sees it this way, it must be right.”).
  4. Time Pressures. Time pressures can block the will to change course.

Preventing GroupThink is an important role for the leader. There are several techniques needed that should be practiced on a regular basis.

  • Promote an atmosphere where team members feel free to disagree. Engage all ideas from the team including minority viewpoints. Members should be encouraged to play devil’s advocate. Silence should not be taken as agreement.
  • Facilitate the airing of viewpoints. Ask for Different ideas. Solicit views from non-vocal team members. Ask for the team to point out hidden risks.
  • Generate ideas before evaluating them. Divide discussions into two phases. Prohibit evaluation of ideas in the generation stage.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Think through an idea more than once.
  • Examine the group process. What went well? What could we do better?

Source: Communicating at Work, by Tony Alessandra & Phil Hunsaker