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Group decision making: Communication theories

Functional Perspective On Group Decision Making



The purpose of this report is introducing a theory and corresponding theorists of communication. Whereas also in this report I will be writing about the theorists, their theory and how I believe it relates to today’s world. One other purpose of writing this report is to report what I think about how the theory could be useful in the Information Technology.


The extent of my research was the usage of the Library and internet surfing. Hours and hours were spent in the library searching for information on my topic and there was hardly any book with information on my theory but had information of related topics to my theory. So as on the internet the information given


While preparing this report there were some limitations in the preparation of this report which includes the amount of time given to write this report because there was other assignments that I had to spend time on as well which was due a few days before this report is to be handed in. The limited time that I am able to access the computer here in school as I house I’m living in do not have any computers. Other than that there was a lack of information got from the sources of information that I have searched on such as books from the library and books and articles from the internet and library databases. There was a lack of information available.

Research Methods

The few methods that I have used to obtain information were books from the library. This included my textbook. My textbook was the only book in the library that had information about my theory and some other books that I have read through had information that was related to my theory. I also obtained information from the internet although it provided some information on my theory but not so much or not enough. Lastly is I have contact with some of the ex-whitireia students who took IT, I contacted each one I know asking if they had come across my theory and if they could their knowledge of my theory with me.

Structure Of The Report

This report has six main parts and each part was organised according to the normal layout of a report. Besides the cover page this report started with an abstract which spots out the key ideas of what the whole report is going to be about, lead by the table of content which shows the number of pages for each content. Starting with the introduction which has six sub-headings, following is the findings or the main body of the report which has seven parts and following up is always the conclusion which has two parts and lastly the glossary of terms and references / bibliography.

Literature Review

Groups make high-quality decisions when members fulfil four requisite functions: (1) problem analysis, (2) goal setting, (3) identification of alternatives, and (4) evaluation of positive and negative consequences. Most group communication disrupts progress toward accomplishing these functional tasks, but counteractive communication can bring people back to rational inquiry.

Randy, H., Dennis, G. (2009). Functional perspective on group decision making. Group and Public communication – Group decision making. Chp. 17, 7th Ed

The purpose of this investigation was to demonstrate that group decision-making performance is contingent on the effective or ineffective satisfaction of important decisional functions. The investigation involved three related studies. In the first study, an attempt was made to confirm the existence of systematic relationships between the quality of group decisions and the satisfaction of four functional requirements. The results supported the existence of significant positive relationships between group decision-making performance and the satisfaction of these decisional functions. In the second study, an attempt was made to establish the independent main effects of each of those four functions. Using a three-dimensional interaction coding scheme, it was found that variations in group decision quality can be independently accounted for by the quality of interaction in regards to three functions—problem analysis, evaluation of positive qualities, and evaluation of negative qualities. In the third study, an attempt was made to demonstrate that the quality of group decisions can be traced to the effective or ineffective satisfaction of decisional functions. The results provide conclusive evidence (at least at the level of primary reasoning), that the quality of a group’s decision is a direct result of the group’s ability (or inability) to perform important decisional functions. Taken as a whole, the studies thus offer continued support for the functional perspective

Randy, H. (1998). Group Communication and Decision-Making Performance A Continued Test of the Functional Perspective. Human Communication Research, Vol. 14, p487 – 515, No. 4

Two Articles From The Library Databases

The article focuses on a study, which evaluated the comparative effectiveness of several methods for decisions making of task groups. Despite the widespread use of task groups and the dissatisfaction that many experience in seemingly endless rounds of task-group meetings, relatively little effort has been made within social work to examine the functioning of task groups empirically. And although there have been some efforts to improve social workers’ skills in leading task groups, it has been suggested that the study of task groups has been largely abandoned by social work. When examining the efficacy of task groups, it is important to recognize that groups have many different functions in social service agencies. Among their most important functions are helping staff members feel involved in the work of the agency or organization, sharing information, developing new and creative ideas, monitoring programs, solving problems and making decisions. Although many of these functions overlap, a group that has accomplished one function quite well may not be effective at accomplishing another function.

Toseland, RonaldW., Rivas, Robert F., Chapman D. (1984). An evaluation of decision making methods task groups. EBSCO host – Social work, Vol. 29 Issue 4, p339-346, 8p

Title: Teachers’ beliefs about shared decision making and work alienation

Relationships between teachers’ perceptions concerning their status in decision making and feelings of work alienation were investigated. A two part questionnaire was administered to 311 teachers from kindergarten through grade 12 in urban and suburban schools. One part asked about current and ideal levels of influence in 12 decisional areas. The second part consisted of a four-item alienation scale. Significant positive zeroder correlations were found between alienation and deprivation in technical and managerial domains for urban teachers, and with deprivation in managerial decision making for suburban teachers. Significant negative zero-order correlations were found for both groups of teachers. Partial correlations of alienation and deprivation in decision making were not significant. Partial correlations of alienation with perceived influence in technical decision making were significant for both groups. Partials with managerial influence were significant for urban teachers.

Benson, N., Malone, P. (1987), Teacher’s beliefs about shared decision making and work alienation. EBSCO host – Education, Vol. 107 Issue 3, p244, 8p, 6 charts


Background Of My Theorists

The knowledge and interest in small group communication and decision making effectiveness, of two Communication professors Randy Hirokawa and Dennis Gouran was combined to create this theory.

Dennis S. Gouran

Gouran is a Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Labor Studies and Employment Relations and Graduate Officer and his research areas is small group decision. During his life of education he received his B.S., Illinois State University, 1963, M.S., Illinois State University, 1965, Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1968

He is specialized in small group communication with particular emphasis in decision-making. His research has included theoretical, experimental, and critical studies of small group interaction. The focus of Gouran’s research interest is the ways in which communication functions in the service of task requirements in problem-solving and decisions-making groups.

Randy Y. Hirokawa

Hirokawa received his B.A from the University of Hawaii at Moana, and his M.A and Ph.D from the University of Washington. He was inducted into the University Of Washington Department Of Hall of Fame.

He is known for his expertise in area of small group communication and decision-making effectiveness. Hirokawa’s scholarship has contributed to the development of a theory called the “Functional perspective.”

Outline Of My Theory

Situation Of How The Theory Came About

This theory came about as a four departmental search committees appointed to select final candidates for positions in rhetoric, theatre, journalism and broadcast producing. The whole department each group to come up with top-notch candidates and reliable with a discipline that values sensible and reasonable communication or discussion, it was likely supposed that they would make their high quality decisions after systematic and reasoned discussion.

Given was the mix of communication interests, academic knowledge and professional prejudices that committee members bought to the table were not their final choices likely to be made on political rather than rational grounds. But even if they were objective, it was a fear that their free-for-all debate over candidates would so cloud their judgement that they would end up making second-rate choices.

Theorists Point Of Views Of The Situation And Their Contribution To Building The Theory

Hirokawa and Gouran believe that these negative and gloomy views are not necessary. They assume that group members caring about the issue are; reasonably intelligent, face a challenging task that calls for more facts and has new ideas, or a clear thinking. They are also persuaded that group communication has positive effect on the final decision.

Hirokawa Randy speaks of the quality solutions and developed the core principles of the theory during his graduate studies, today his research tests refines this theory.

Gouran Dennis refers to decisions that are appropriate and he has laid ground work for the theory with his early writing on the group decision making.

Four Functions For Effective Decision Making

By observing group decision making Hirokawa and Gouran see that there are task requirements and conditions that group member’s needs to accomplished to reach high-quality solutions and they refer to these conditions as “requisite functions of effective decision making.”

Along with other pioneers research Hirokawa and Gouran drew an analogy between small groups and biological systems and saw that’s just the same conditions that an organism must go through for survival in an ever changing environment as group members must go through functions or have conditions during group decision makings for success in the choice they make. So then four functions were then created for effective decision making as followed.

Analysis Of The Problem

It is very important for group members to be realistic when looking at the current conditions of any situation that is facing a problem and if there is any misunderstanding of the situation be likely to be complex when each member makes their final decision.

The situation here is that the search committee are facing difficulties in selecting candidates which is a problem. They could barely make up their mind. In such cases the group members needs to examine or investigate what the problem really is, then find ways to work out this problem. Analysing of the problem could also have steps to follow or some conditions that must be required. For example from the theory in one of the department’s searches for a rhetorician, a theatre director etc presented no obvious difficulties, in this case a job description was drafted and advertised throughout the company and through relationship management , searched for parties whom may be interested.

Goal Setting

Decision making needs to be clear and concise, therefore there must be some form of criteria for a proposed solution. Hirokawa and Gouran mention that failure to comply with criteria will drive the decision to be governed by politics rather than reason. An example portrayed by the two authors is the recruiting of faculty – criteria were:


Teaching Experience (Minimum 5 Years)

Scholar Publisher

And to narrow the search, candidates must be able to engage / build rapport with students and who is able to pursue knowledge from a liberal arts point of view. In having criteria’s during decision making, this gives the group a short list of candidates and more confidence in their decision.

Identifications Of Alternatives

To minimise risk in making a decision, Hirokawa and Gouran stressed the significance of having alternative solutions, so that the group can always resort to plan B or plan C. In the case of finding a candidate for a Broadcast production role, the criteria was industry experience, hold a doctorate / masters, radio and broadcast experience. The search for the candidate was limited as not many had an advanced degree no-one had a background in video production. After many brainstorming sessions, this was given to a search committee to do more thorough research for the perfect candidate. As a result of continuous emails and networking – the search committee generated relevant alternatives and discovered two candidates whom they will chose one to fulfil the role.

Evaluation Of Positive And Negative Characteristics

The next step in decision making is weighing the alternatives. It is very important to look at the pro and cons of each option against the criteria given. The authors mention that decision making often muddles up, and in need of at least one member to remind each other of the positive and negative features of one option.

Prioritizing These Functions

In order to make decisions one must prioritize the four main functions for effective decision making. Hirokawa and Gouran mentioned that all four functions need to be accomplished to maximise the probability of a high quality decision. They also mention that as long as members use all four functions, what ever the order they like, they will come to a successful decision making. However, groups that resolve particularly difficult situation often take a similar route to come to their final solution.

The Role Of Communication In Fulfilling The Functions

Communication is the key factor for quality group decision making. Verbal discussion within a group makes it possible to disseminate information, identify errors and also to influence each other. Hirokawa believes that communication plays a vital role in shaping high quality decisions. They also believe that communication through discussion can also make the group wander in different directions and at the same time pull them back onto the directed path. The authors outline three types of communication in decision making groups:

1) Promotive –When the group moves along the same path and calling upon the four main decision functions.

2) Disruptive – Discussions that divert the group members away from the four main decision functions.

3) Counteractive- The interaction that the group use to get each other back on track.

The three types of communication above are then aligned with the four functions to create the “Function-Oriented Interaction Coding System: (FOICS) Checklist. This register is used to analyse communication within a group by matching each column and each row like the diagram below:

From The Tiny Pond To The Big Ocean

The above metaphor is Hirokawa’s way of portraying the review of his functional perspective in decision making , the risks that take place within his laboratory during his research and whether it was strong enough to withstand the multiple opposing forces from the ‘real world’ and other researchers.

Hirokawa concludes this metaphor by saying that there are times when following the prescriptions of decision making does not always lead to a decision that works. He then challenges researchers not to look at the outcome but look at what functional conditions work and what does not work.

Practical Advice For Amateurs And Professionals

The authors give us advice on how to use functional prospective to come up with better decision making. They suggest the following:

For groups to use their own opinions.

For groups to not have a close minded attitude.

Groups to take proactive measures and reflective thinking.

The authors acknowledge their intellectual their philosopher) John Dewey. Dewey advocated a six step process of “reflective thinking” (equivalent to Hirokawa and Gouran’s four requisite function) to the approach of treating a patient. His steps were as follows:

1) Recognise the illness

2) Diagnose the cause of the illness

3) Establish options for cure

4) Consider possible remedies

5) Test which solution will work

6) Implement the best solution

Dewey’s process above is very similar to Hirokawa and Gouran’s four requisite functions in decision making. Both of these lists recommend that group members discuss ways that promotes problem analysis, goal setting, finding alternatives and the evaluation of these options.

Applications Of The Theory

This theory can be applied to everyday situations, whether it’s at work, home, IT industry or anywhere of any situation where group members take part. Every time group member gather to make decision on some issues they will always be facing problem. Because each group member has different opinions of each situation or there would only be two or three members agreeing on the same situation. So therefore Hirokawa and Gouran have developed four functions to follow for effective group decision making. Not only that these two theorists has also written the roles to fulfilling these functions. This theory can be applied to the IT Industry because there is a situation that needs to be discussed as a group for what’s good to be used in the IT industries.

Evaluation Of The Theory

From the chapter three of Griffin (Weighing the Words) I have applied the appropriate evaluative standards to your theory which is Scientific Standard 2: Prediction of Future Events. This standard states a good objective theory predicts what will happen and it is only possible when we are dealing with our five senses. Applying this to my theory is that each of these group members sees the situation and they hear what is being talked about in the group discussion to whether to agree or disagree is based on how they feel about the situation and think of the situation. This is to prevent problems that may happen in the future because it isn’t prevented same problem will occur in the future.


Summary Of My Points Of Information

Hirokawa and Gouran saw the situation and thought of ways to maintain it. They saw that just the same way that an organism must go through for survival in an ever changing environment is just the same way that group members must go through functions or have conditions during group decision makings for success in the choice they make. They then developed the four functions which are; Analysis of the problem, goal setting, identification of alternatives and evaluation of Positive and Negative characteristics. They also state the importance or prioritizing these functions and its roles to fulfilling these functions. They also stated a metaphor “ From tiny pond to the big ocean”.

A Critique Of My Theory (Weight Of Argument For And Against)

This theory accounts for group decision-making performance in terms of the role that group communication plays in facilitating or impeding the group’s efforts to perform cognitive and interpersonal decision-making functions. This theory has been identified as one of the three most influential theories of small group communication.

The functional perspective that has been described in this theory illustrates the wisdom of the joint interaction. As the Hebrew proverb suggests, “Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.” Decision making can be regarded as an outcome of mental processes leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final the output can be an action or an opinion of choice

The next step in decision making is weighing the alternatives. It is very important to look at the pro and cons of each option against the criteria given. The authors mention that decision making often muddles up, and in need of at least one member to remind each other of the positive and negative features of one option.

Glossary Of Terms Perspective

Position: a way of regarding situations or topics or the appearance of things relative to one another as determined by their distance from the viewer


Designed for or capable of a particular function or use


Act of ascertaining or fixing the value


Necessity: anything indispensable or needed


Interaction that moves the group along the goal path by calling attention to one of the four requisite


Interaction that diverts, retards, or frustrates group members’ ability to achieve the four task functions


Interaction that members use to get the group back on track


An amateur is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without formal training or pay

Decision Making

Can be regarded as an outcome of mental processes leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives.

Group decision

Is decision making in groups consisting of multiple members/entities. The challenge of group decision is deciding what action a group should take. There are various systems designed to solve this problem

References / Bibliography

“A Critical Summary of Research on the Role of Argument in Decision-Making

Groups.” In Argument and Social Practice: Proceedings of the Fourth SCA/AFA Conference on Argumentation. J. Robert Cox, Malcolm O. Sillars, and Gregg B. Walker (Eds.). Annandale, Virginia: Speech Communication Association, 1985. 14 pp. (Revised and reprinted in Readings in Argumentation. William L. Benoit, Dale Hample, and Pamela J. Benoit (Eds.). San Francisco: Foris, 1992. 17 pp.)

Benson, N., Malone, P. (1987), Teacher’s beliefs about shared decision making and work alientation. EBSCO host – Education, Vol. 107 Issue 3, p244, 8p, 6 charts

Griffin, E. (2009). A first look at communication theory. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill

Randy, H., Dennis, G. (2009). Functional perspective on group decision making. (7th ed.). Group and Public communication – Group decision making. Chp. 17

Randy, H. (1998). Group Communication and Decision-Making Performance A Continued Test of the Functional Perspective. Human Communication Research, Vol. 14, p487 – 515, No. 4

“The Role of Communication in Decision-Making Groups: A Functional Perspective.” In Communications in Transition. Mary S. Mander (Ed.). New York: Praeger, 1983. 21 pp. With Randy Y. Hirokawa. (First Author)

Toseland, RonaldW., Rivas, Robert F., Chapman D. (1984). An evaluation of decision making methods task groups. EBSCO host – Social work, Vol. 29 Issue 4, p339-346, 8p

Internet Sources

Benson, N., Malone, P., Teacher’s beliefs about shared decision making and work alientation. Retrieved on July 28, 2009 , from

Toseland, RonaldW., Rivas, Robert F., Chapman D. ,An evaluation of decision making methods task groups. Retrieved on August 1, 2009, From

Randy, H., Dennis, G. (2009). Functional perspective on group decision making. Group and Public communication, Retrieved on July 19, 2009, from

Randy, H. (1998). Group Communication and Decision-Making Performance A Continued Test of the Functional Perspective, Retrieved on July 10, 2009, from

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