I’d like to take the theorist’s opinion that prioritizing, or the developing of a logical progression of a group is essential if it is to function, and look at my summer’s experience. I was the assistant director for S.I.C.M, the children’s program at College Church this summer. Our group of interns struggled with accomplishing tasks, and a large part of that was due to our lack of prioritizing. In the leadership role, our director did point out positive qualities of the members, but failed to acknowledge the negatives. In this case one intern was repeatedly late for all group functions, thus causing us an extra hour of time that was not originally scheduled. This soon caused tension in the group but nothing was done about it. We had many decisions to make regarding day camp, scheduling and clubs, but our failure to prioritize our choices and lack of goal setting made the summer an organizational nightmare.
Like most people, I have participated in several group decision making processes. I appreciated being able to label and recognize the four stages outlined by Hirokawa and Gouran's theory. I will use the recent example of a group decision making process that occurred in Student Government in order to illustrate the four functions. First is analysis of the problem. We needed to make a decision about what to do with the 35 unclaimed or lost bikes donated to us by Public Safety. In the past, there has been a bike sale which has provided 35 students with bike transportation at a very affordable price. The group sought to determine whether or not this was the best way to serve the most students on campus. Specifically, someone had suggested "Thunder Wheels"--a fleet of bikes available for students on-campus use at any time.
Second, we had to identify a goal. Our criteria in considering possible solutions included a project that fit within our allocated budget, high potential for a broad campus impact, large student interest, and approval by Public Safety and various administrators. With this in mind, we (function three) identified the alternatives. Our first was the status quo--a bike sale. Another was selling the bikes and using the money to purchase 10 new ones. A third alternative was fixing up the current bikes, painting them bright orange with "Thunder Wheels", and delegating a committee for long term upkeep.
After the alternatives had been evaluated to meet the criteria, they were fourthly evaluated for positive and negative characteristics. The third alternative initially looked the most promising (and the most fun). However, we spent a Saturday inventory/repairing bikes only to realize how unfeasible the alternative actually was. We had failed to consider the amount of work and expertise required to maintain so many bikes. We also realized that we had received poor advice from the paint "experts" at Ace Hardware and Home Depot. After considering the negative characteristics of alternative three, we paid closer attention to the positive characteristics of alternative two and have implemented that course of action instead.
Last night, I met with two other people in my Intro to Media class at the library to discuss our upcoming presentation on prime-time television. During the hour meeting, the three types of communication in decision-making groups occurred. As we sat down, my classmate Jean suggested that to start off, we should make a list of the goals that we wanted to accomplish in preparation for our presentation. Jean's suggestion is an example of promotive communication, which is "interaction that moves the group along the goal path by calling attention to one of the four decision-making functions (goal setting)." As we began to make our list of goals, Mike asked us if we had watched our assigned prime-time television show. I commented that I watched mine and then preceded to tell all the details to the plot, which in turn spurred Mike and Jean to talk about their program's plots. Pretty soon, we stopped making a list of goals, and became sidetracked with talking about our assigned programs. Mike's question and my response turned out to be an example of disruptive communication. It wasn't until Jean suggested that we stop talking about our programs, and get back to the task of writing out our goals, that I was aware of our deviation from the original plan of goal setting. This counteractive communication enabled us to focus once again on our task.
I think group decision making is important -- even vital, yet I am the worst at it. When I was a sophomore, I applied to be a foreign exchange student to Germany. For our final project, we, the six finalists, had to find a solution to a problem, then present it to the directors. They then selected the four who went based on this process. Judging by Hirokawa and Gouran's theory, I see why I never went to Germany. I'd like to say it's because I tend to promote different alternatives, however, I can see how my smart/sarcastic comments tend to disrupt and take away from the task of problem analysis and goal setting. I wish I had a chance to do it over -- after my big personality change, of course.