An effectively operating group will tend to work at all three levels at different times. They will learn to appreciate the need for work at each of the three levels. When issues cannot be resolved easily at the task level, the group will move rapidly to consideration of its methods, to determine if those methods and procedures are impeding making a decision. Inadequate problem resolution at this level may indicate a need for the group to shift its attention to the feelings, personal goals, and relationships in the group
This moving through task, method, and relationship issues occurs during a period of several hours, days, or even years. Initially, this appreciative process is a self-conscious one and feels artificial to group members. Over time, as the group develops, the process becomes more natural and efficient; members acquire skills at diagnosing the level of group difficulty and in directing the group attention to their perceptions. In a decision-making group with a very long life, like a project team working together over several months or years, effective group methods become fairly stable so that unless the composition of the task or the group changes radically, there is less need for constant reexamination.
Similarly, relationships stabilize, and there are fewer process problems arising from the need to negotiate satisfactory relationships within the group. A group can work most effectively therefore if it can learn to appreciate the value associated with each of these three sets of group issues and if it can remain flexible so that members of the group can move easily from task to method to relationship issues. It can also work effectively if it comes to believe that the observation and analysis of the group process is of value so that the group can move to the appropriate level with a minimum of failures and trial-and-error learning.
How Groups Make Decisions
Decisions can be made and identified in several ways. It is essential that an empowered group come to appreciate the benefits and difficulties inherent in each type of decision. There is no one right way to make decisions, though several commonly used decision-making processes are often detrimental to group empowerment, and to the creation of an appreciative climate in the group. What then are the different ways groups make decisions, be they minority or majority forms of decision-making? I offer eight kinds of decisions as a starting point:
Self-Authorization: One Person/Decision To Do Something
This occurs when a group member suggests a course of action and immediately proceeds upon that course, assuming that since no one disagreed, the group has given its approval. Such action can lead a group down blind alleys. Even if the rest of the group agrees with the decision, they may resent the way it was made; and no one knows how much support the decision will receive from the other members of the group.