Having established the fundamentals of the expanded decision-making process, I should now introduce those sociological factors which weigh on that process.
From the A665 course readings, outside courses and/or personal experience I have identified three critical social phenomena that influence decisions: group pressures on an individual, unrecognized social pressures, and intergroup conflict.Regarding group pressure, Huber (1980: Chapter 9) notes whenever decisions are made, and particularly in group decisions such as the expanded organizational process, the dynamics of the situation put great pressures on the individual not to deviate from the decision of the group. The deviant voice in the group decision-making process is less likely to express itself the later into the process the situation is. Even when he/she does offer a minority view with any conviction, he/she will find the rest of the group trying to argue his/her position into submission, or to seduce him/her with the relief of conformity.
If those tactics don’t work, he/she can face temporary or permanent ostracism from the group. Unless the individual voicing a strong minority opinion is completely convinced of the advantages of his/her position, he/she will likely fold in fatigue or fright in the face of these counter-arguments from the majority group. Few minority views are worth losing a job over. Irving Janis called this phenomenon “groupthink” (Allison 1999: 283) and is credited with such monumental blunders as the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by United States-backed Cuban refugees bent on ousting the Castro Regime.It is argued, in retrospect, that many of the governmental advisors in on the Bay of Pigs planning doubted statistics supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency but were hesitant to deviate from the majority opinion. The groupthink phenomenon tends, then, to form a censor in each individual which causes him to lean toward whatever majority opinion emerges from the group.
Senge (1990: 24-25) calls this the myth of the management team – too often management teams spend their time fighting for control and turf. They tend to suppress disagreement and members primary goals are personal, not team-oriented.Decisions are often compromises and as the Model III Bureaucratic Politics theorist (G. T. Allison 1999) point out, the chance of a compromise between three people having enough of any one of their original ideas have real effect, is slim.
This phenomenon is another of the disadvantages of the expanded decision-making process, but it can be guarded against by insisting on each individual’s making clear all his/her views on the issues at hand – – – no matter how relevant or trite those views may “appear” to be at first glance – – – and by providing a comfortable and reassuring environment in which such views can be safely expressed.The second sociological factor weighing on the decision making process in a group is the factor of unrecognized social pressures. David Allison and others (1977) write that these unrecognized sociological factors cause the decision-maker to perform a kind of balancing act: “If we like a man, we tend to think positively of what he does or says, and decided in favor of his proposal.
If we do not like him, we see faults and problems with what he does and says – – even if his calculations might be more accurate.Further complicating the decision making is the fact that I’m a member of several groups. Many of my beliefs about people, problems, and things that I have not experienced firsthand come from conversations with people I trust.
Example: George sits down to talk with me and I feel relaxed. I try to evaluate his estimate of the cost on a computer program, (but) someone I trust just said that George did an outstanding job on the last program, (and) I’m almost ready to accept anything he says” (pp. 54-55).Allison and othersconclude that “social psychologists and sociologists refer to this natural, human phenomenon as the use of reference groups to establish our beliefs” (p. 55). And finally Allison (1999: 307-308), Huber (1980: Chapter 9) and Iannello (1992: 116) write about the final of three primary sociological factors influencing the group decision-making process – – – intergroup conflict. Ianello (1992) notes Staggenborg’s critique of women’s groups as often torn apart by internal conflict and dissolve before finishing tasks.
There is first the matter of linking together the subparts of the organization. The conflict in this regard can be utilized to make the process more enthusiastic, but if the head decision-maker/ the principal is not expert or subtle enough in his manipulation, the situation can escalate out of control: “By getting two groups to compete with each other, the internal espirit de corps of each can be made to rise dramatically, while the communication between the two (groups) turns to razzing and jibes.If later, cooperation is required, the competition that was so easy to create is very difficult to undo, and we suffer through long periods of strained accommodation” (Allison et. al. 1977: 56).
And secondly (in the matter of intergroup conflict) there is usually the issue of the allocation of what are limited resources. Even moderate shifts in this allocation throughout the process produces a demoralizing effect on the “losers” who view their contributions, past or potential, as going unrecognized or unrewarded.Another intergroup conflict and related problem which can wreak havoc with “decision rationality” is conflicting goals: different values (Iannello 1992). The civic argument states older members want to have an opportunity to share experience and support each other in extending the membership.
Networking indicates young members need social and professional network for career advancement. “To a great extent, all members of the organization, as individuals, are torn over the conflict between a civic and a networking focus . .
.As a whole, the organization attempts to maintain balance and accommodate the conflict over values. In doing this, it pays a price. The price is constant conflict, frustration, and a declining membership”(116). While the course readings in this analysis of sociological factors mentions negative results which can occur from an expanded decision-making process which includes more and more school administrators and teachers. The authors also emphasize the positive results which can extend even far beyond decision-making itself.My experience tells me we all want to feel a sense of belongingness to the group in which we find ourselves.
This social drive is active and perhaps most alert in the work group, where an inability to satisfy this important urge will cause the individual to quit the group if possible. Many of the aforementioned difficulties and conflicts and inhibitions of the expanded decision-making process can be eased or even eliminated by providing a clear and rich “reinforcement environment” which takes advantage of the sociological factors present in such a complex and communal process.The central task of the change agent who chooses to adopt reinforcement techniques (aimed at encouraging group involvement and individual relaxation and appropriate rewards) is that of redesigning the reinforcement environment of the organization. The assumption is made that if the reinforcement environment can be clarified, enriched, and brought into congruence with the goals and objectives of the organization, desirable changes in the organizational behavior are likely to follow.(March 1994: Chapter 2) In other words, this reinforcing approach enables the employee to feel more comfortable with his input into the group decision, and to expect appropriate rewards for contributions to the decision, without receiving any sort of disadvantage if his/her input does not prove extraordinary. I would like to suggest specific ways in which the principal can encourage helpful participation in the process by the teachers. First, the successful decision-making group is always marked by the presence of open, honest, and innovative communication between the teachers.
If teachers are merely herded into a room and informed by the principal of the result of a decision-making process in which those teachers did not participate in, those teachers will not only be alienated from the process but from the school-organization entirely. They will be bored, have low morale, and will feel inferior to the authoritarian principal. A second type of meeting – – – in between the authoritarian principal-run meeting and the completely open meeting – – – involves participation by the teachers but it is more structured and limiting than the third type.In the second type of decision-making meeting the teachers are invited to join in the process but they must have their thoughts planned-out in advance and little spontaneous participation is called for.
In the third meeting – – – the one with the most potential risks and the most potential rewards – – – the principal must be skilled in chairing a group where conflicting views are encouraged for the sake of a more comprehensive process and decision.In this third type of meeting full participation by everyone in the room often brings new and better thinking. And since participation is so broad, acceptance of conclusions is also greater. The principal involves everyone but controls discussion, keeping the meeting on the subject. (Huber 1980: 143-144) The principal’s role, then, is to involve, to monitor and stimulate discussion, to summarize but not to otherwise participate until it is clear that everyone present has had his or her full say on the matter at hand.Consensus is not important, but discussion and innovative, purposeful thinking are (Allison 1999: 287-289).
Meetings should be set in advance so that teachers have a chance to plan for them and to reschedule their work to fit in with the meeting. The principal lets the teachers know the subjects to be discussed and suggest that they prepare for participation. The meeting should result in some action being taken, an action that is spelled out clearly and sent in memo form to those who attend.