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Decision Making in Project Teams

Threats of groupthink

Groupthink arises when a team gets in the way of an individual’s creativity, uniqueness in critical thinking, and independence of mind in the analysis of a problem resulting in poor decision making to preserve group cohesiveness (Janis, 1972). Hence, adversely affecting information dissemination by both team members and project managers. This results in poor quality decisions and poor decision-making processes. Project managers may endeavor to promote their own ideas in decision making, without any appraisal for alternative courses of action. A poor perspective of others, ineffective communication, and biased interpretation of others within a team potentially impact negatively on quality decisions. Thus a team may not benefit from the diversity of its members’ knowledge, experience and ideas assert (Janis, 1972). Diminished mental efficiency, creativity, and poor moral judgment become evident in the team. Team members subject to intimidation by project managers may not make intelligent decisions to fulfill shared objectives. Thus uneven communication causes an overdependence on a few members in decision making. Thus, making it difficult for team members to report any errors in a project (p.9).

Project team managers encounter several difficult challenges when making decisions.

Groupthink inhibits the ability to make new decisions, incorporate new ideas and makes it entirely impossible to correct errors in decision making. Contrary to enhancing a group’s decision-making, groupthink makes team members and project managers worse in decision making. Janis asserts that groupthink potentially makes managers and team members fail to examine alternative solutions to a problem, fail to seek expert opinion limiting the quality of decisions made. Managers should endeavor to sharpen a team’s mind by incorporating various techniques in all its critical stages of growth and existence; forming, norming, storming and performing.

Avoiding groupthink

Thompson (2009) affirms that groupthink can be avoided by managers and team members by accurately assessing and improving the performance of their teams. In addition, by critically evaluating the internal dynamics of a team, a project manager would be in a position to make informed decisions. According to Janis, managers and team members can be effective in decision making; by examining symptoms of groupthink in a team. Managers should evaluate the kind of team and the elements that cause stability. Such elements include illusions of invulnerability, rationalizing warnings, unquestioned belief, stereotyping, direct pressure, self-censorship, illusions of unanimity, Optimism.

Rockwell (2009) affirms that groupthink adversely affects a team’s ability to incorporate competent information in decision making by not examining available options by the project and team members. Certainly, corporate social responsibility and morality issues are principles upon which teamwork is founded. Groupthink potentially inhibits a team from acting in the best interest of the society to which it belongs, (Rockwell, 2009).

Punishment of team members as a consequence of groupthink can cause valuable team members to defect thus denying the team their intelligent contributions and leave behind members who are only comfortable in the team. Rockwell asserts that self-censor has the potential of causing cohesiveness but deteriorating efficiency in quality decisions, p.2.Once the symptoms of groupthink have been examined and detected, project managers and team members should incorporate various strategies to avoid groupthink affirms Janis. This requires hard work, efficient communication, careful planning, and commitment for a project manager. According to Janis, each member should play the role of a critical evaluator in every decision made. Thus each member will feel like part of the team. The clarity in message encoding in every communication within the team should be key in teamwork. This enables each member to freely air doubts and objections without being intimidated or poorly regarded. Project managers should not express their opinions about a problem as it will adversely affect the outcome of a decision by swaying the outcome in the direction of the team leader’s feelings. Janis asserts that several interdependent groups should be assigned a similar task by the team leader and all effective alternatives evaluated before concluding on one alternative, thus optically leveling the team (Thompson, 2009). In addition, each group member should discuss the problem with trusted members from outside the group and expert forums convened where each team member contributes to the team (Thompson, 2009).


Janis, I.L. (1972). Victims of groupthink. New York: Houghton Muffin.

Rockwell, P. (2002-2009). Understanding the evils and dangers of groupthink. Web.

Thompson, L. L. (2009). Making the team: A guide for managers: (3rd ed., pp 134-136) Pearson Educational Inc.