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Group Decision Support System

Definition :
Earlier in the development phase of DSS, the focus was primarily on supporting individual decision making. However, the DSS software developers, and scholars realised that most of the time, important decisions were made by a group consisting of many decision makers. Hence they focus their attentions to develop systems that would help group decision making. Such systems were named Group Decision Support System(GDSS).

Concept of GDSS :
A group decision support system can be defined as a computer-based system that supports a group of decision makers engaged in a common task and that provides interface to a shared environment. One response to the problems of group decision making has been the adoption of new methods of organising and running meeting of decision makers. Another response has been the application of new techniques of group decision making, such as electronic meetings, brainstorming, criticism-free idea generation, etc.

Features of GDSS :
There are a number of features of a GDSS because of which it can be differentiated from a DSS. These features are : 1. High level interaction among decision makers who work collectively on a problem. This interaction is generally through computer system. 2. Emphasis is put on criticism free idea generation, creating an atmosphere where an idea will be evaluated on the basis of the source of idea. 3. Priorities are set and decisions are made which require finding ways to encompass the thinking of all the members in making these decisions. 4. Each member of the decision making group has access to relevant internal and external information which allows the members to emphasise their own views, appreciate the views of others, and settle their differences in order to arrive at an acceptable decision within a given time frame. 5. Information about the problem on which a group is working is stored so that those who fail to attend meeting can work on the problem.

Components of GDSS :
GDSS has several components which can be seen from the model of group decision support systems as shown in fig. Thus the principal components of a GDSS consists of the following :1. Decision Making 2. Database and model base 3. Groupware

Fig. Group Decision Support System Model Individual decision maker Group of Decision makers

Model base Report writing software Group ware

Database Decision Makers

A group decision support system (GDSS) has a number of decision makers who work collectively on a specific problem with the objective that the problem will be solved by the collective wisdom of all the decision makers in a group rather than on the basis of their contributions taken individually. Each of the decision maker has access to database including model base from which each of them can extract relevant data. They can use report writing software, for report

preparation on individual basis as well as can use Group ware to understand the ideas of others on the problem concerned. Since GDSS are applicable in those decisions which are of unusual and novel nature, making such decisions requires several meetings of decision makers. Hence, each decision maker has to work on his own ideas as well as on ideas suggested by others so that the final decision is acceptable.

Database and Model base :

Like DSS, GDSS also uses database and model base to extract relevant data and models for analysing these data in order to arrive at a decision. While model base for both DSS and GDSS may remain the same as both use almost similar models in decision making, there maybe difference in the organisation of database in some cases.

Group ware :
Software that is used in GDSS is generally called a Group ware. As in DSS software has to be developed on the basis of strong theoretical framework, group ware has no such base as yet. Rather it has been evolved from a number of seemingly disjointed sources which have been designed to meet a variety of needs, such as electronic brainstorming, idea organiser, vote programme software, and so on. In 1988, Lotus Development Corporation developed a groupware know as Notes, keeping in view the role of communication in GDSS. It includes a number of features such as electronic mail, FAX, voice messaging, internet access, personal calendaring, video conferencing, task management etc.

Group ware can be classified into four categories :

1. Brainstorming Software : Brainstorming software supports the definition phase of a problem by identifying its components. Members of the decision making group generate their own ideas, exchange their ideas with others, and evaluate those ideas. The output is structured report containing the pros and cons of various ideas and how they are relevant for problem solution. 2. Alternative Rating and Ranking Software : Decision makers use a variety of alternatives and rate them on the basis of criteria, or rank them on the basis of these criteria. The software supports design phase of decision making by providing means of identifying and evaluating alternatives solutions.

3. Consensus Building Software : Consensus building is necessary in group decision making so that deadlock is broken and member arrive at an agreed decision. This software informs the decision makes about the degree of uniformity in their alternative solutions. The software points out the users on which decision makers disagree and supports them to have a common decision. 4. Group Authoring and Outlining Software : This software enables various decision makers to create an outline of a written report, and each decision maker can contribute independently by writing sections or making suggestions to sections written by others. The written documents therefore, reflects consistency and agreement as it progresses and its finished from.

Individuals versus Group Decision Making :

Every manager makes decisions in the organisation, either in his individual capacity or as member of a group. Organisational decisions are combination of individual and group decisions. Both types of decisions have their positive and negative aspects. Following is the analysis of situations for individual and group decisions.

1. Nature of problem

Guidelines regarding the decision for the problem at hand are provided, individual decision making will result in greater creativity. Takes less time to give decision. This system requires expertise in the decision area and has been identified in advance. Competitive climate stimulates in individual problem solving. In this type of decision making, manager has to consider stages involved in decision making process and uses techniques for decision making.

Group Decisions
When the problem requires variety of expertise, group decision making is suitable Time-consuming process. Leads to higher quality of solution as group of decision makers are engaged. Supportive climate encourages group problem solving. Here in group decision, the manager has to consider group behaviour and decision can be arrived at though simple majority unless the group prescribes any other mode of majority.

2. Time availability 3. Quality of decision 4. Climate of decision making 5. Legal requirements

Positive Aspects of Group Decision Making :1. Pooling of knowledge and information : Since many individuals, are involved in group decision making, more data and information can be brought to bear on the decision. The group provides specialised inputs in defining variables and suggestions alternatives that the individual alone is unlikely to come up with. Hence, pooling of knowledge and information improves the quality of decisions. 2. Satisfaction and commitment : Individual satisfaction and commitment in group decision making are often enhanced. It may also be caused by the development of group spirit as people discover similarities among themselves. People who share in an important activity like decision making feel more ownership than when they are excluded from it. Individuals satisfaction and commitment are important in effective implementation of the decision. 3. Personnel Development : Group decision making us a source of development of individuals in the organisation. Learning is enhanced when one observes others, practices what has been seen, and experiences the positive rewards received for successfully repeating the new behaviour. 4. More risk taking : Every decision involves some kind of risk because a decision affects future events and individuals vary in terms of risk taking aptitudes and capabilities ; risk-taking increases when these individuals are pooled in a group.

Negative Aspects of Group decision making :

Group decision making has following negative features which may either affect the quality of decision or cost of decision. 1. Time consuming and costly : Groups take more time to reach decision than individuals. Because of the following reasons :(i) (ii) More ideas and options are held by the group members which must be discussed for decision making. Arrangement for the group meeting, place, format, and assembly must be made which is time-consuming. In all these things, cost is also involved. Thus the total cost of group decision making is higher as it includes the cost of arrangement and cost of members time. 2. Individual Domination : In a group interaction, some individuals dominate the group processes and have considerable bearing on

decision making outcomes. This maybe because, such individuals enjoys higher status, because of their age, experience, expertise etc. Domination of such persons may not necessarily improve the quality of decisions. 3. Problem of Responsibility ; No doubt group decision making brings more commitment from members and its implementation is easier but this is true when the decision implementation outcome is positive. When this outcome is negative, no one can be held responsible. A group decision is no ones decision and no one is held individually responsible for that. In such a situation, groups may come out with ill conceived or irresponsible decisions.

Technique of Group decision making :

When posed with the need to solve problem or make a decision, a group has a variety of problem solving techniques ranging from ordinary group interaction to improved techniques. Besides, ordinary group interaction, a group can choose out of four techniques for improving the quality of information exchanged by group members, in decision making. These techniques are :1. Brain storming : Brain storming is a technique to stimulate generation for decision making. Brain storming can be defined as conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing (collect) all the ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. OR Brain storming can be simply defined as using the brain to storm the problem. the process in brain storming goes in the following ways :(i) The problem on which decision is required is given to the group. Probelm is stated clearly and precisely so that member of the group can focus their direct attention on it. Each member is asked to give ideas through which the problem can be solved. Here the emphasis is on quantity of ideas and quality may follow latter.



The members are expected to put their ideas for problem selection without taking into consideration any limitations financial, procedural, legal, organisational, or otherwise.

Such limitations only act as deterrent to free flow ideas because the participants will limit themselves in the limitations. (iv) Ideas Evaluation is deferred to a later stage because it does not flow in the direction of idea generation. Hence, any criticism, judgement, or comment is strictly prohibited and the members are told to abstain from it.

2. Normal Group technique : NGT is a structured group meeting which restricts verbal communication among members during the decision making process. It is meant to resolve differences in group opinion by having individuals generate and then rank a series of ideas in the problem exploration, alternative generation or choice making states of group decision making. The process in NGT goes as follows : (i) (ii) The group leader outlines the problem requiring decision. Each member writes down his ideas silently and independently and presents his best single idea on the problem. When all the members write their ideas, these are presented for discussion and evaluation before the group members. The members are asked to rank the various ideas for decision making, and the decision is arrived at on the basis of this ranking.



This technique is widely used in health services, industry, education and government organisations. This technique encourages creativity, prevents strong personality types from dominating the group, provides a forum for the expression of the minority view points and gives individuals some time to think about the issues before offering solutions. 3. Delphi Technique : The name Delphi indicates a shrine at which the ancient Greeks used to pray, for information about the future. In this technique, members do not have face to face interactions for group discussion. The decision is arrived at through written communication in the form of filling up questionnaires often through mails. Delphi technique is quite useful where the problem does not lend itself to precise analytical techniques but can benefit from subjective judgements on a collective basis and members maybe

experts in the area of the problem may not be able to have face to face interaction. Eg, what will be the trend of fashion in next year, the decision can be arrived at through Delphi technique. 4. Consensus Mapping : Consensus mapping technique of group decision making tries to pool the ideas generated by several task subgroups to arrive at a decision. This technique begins after a task group has developed, clarified, and evaluated a list of ideas. The facilitators encourage participants to search for clusters and categories of ideas. This search for structure includes the listing and discussion of alternative clusters and categories by the entire group or subgroups, and hen production of a single classification scheme by group members working as a group or in pairs or trios. Then the facilitators consolidate the different schemes developed by subgroups into a representative scheme that acts as a strawmanmap , for the entire group. Group members then work to revise the straw man map into a more mutually acceptable solution. This exercise is repeated until the group as a whole arrives at a single, consolidated map and a final decision based on that. This type of technique is best suited for problems that are multidimensional, have interconnected elements, and many sequential stages.