Groupthink: time and leadership style

Groupthink is was first introduced by Janis in 1972. It is defined as mode of thinking that people engage in when are deeply involved in a cohesive group and when striving for unity override members’ motivation to realistically apprise alternative courses of action.


Janis (1972) recommends to avoid Groupthink including (1) outside experts, (2) playing devil’s advocates, (3) critically appraising all alternative courses of actions and a (4) leadership style that does not express outside solution.


Space Shuttle Challenger


Groupthink is present in space shuttle Challenger case. One of the worst space disasters was led by flawed decision making process and decision made a night before the launch. In 1986, Kennedy Space Centre experienced the Challenger explosion killing seven astronauts. 73 seconds after the launch, space shuttle crashed. Launch temperature was well brow the previous temperature at which the shuttle engines had been tested and this resulted in an explosion.


Time and Leadership Style


Time Influence


The Challenger launch has already been delayed once. A window for another was closing. Leaders were concerned about public and congressional perceptions. They may have felt that further delays could impact funding. Group faced time pressure to make decision quickly.


Time affects decisions in two ways. First, it affects decision makers’s mental efficiency and judgement, interfering with ability to concentrate on complicated discussions, absurd new information and use of imagination to anticipate future consequences of alternative courses of action. Second, time pressure is a source of stress. It was effect of inducing policy making group to become more cohesive and more likely to engage in groupthink.


Be aware of the impact that a short decision time frame has on decision processes. When decision must be made quickly, there is more pressure to agree. This means discouragement of dissent, self-censorship, avoidance of expert opinion and assumptions about unanimity.


Leadership of Decision Making Group


Leadership varied from shared type of leadership to a very clear leader in situation. Leadership role needs to be clearly defined. Groupthink problems calls for a style that demands open disclosure of information, points of opposition, complaints and dissension. Leadership style is crucial variable that moderates relationship between group characteristics and the development of the symptoms.


Leadership style is a moderator because of importance it plays in either promoting or avoiding the development of the symptoms of the group. It has potential to allow or assist the group seeking agreement by not forcing the group to critically apprise all alternative courses of action. An effective leader is one that promotes discussion and evaluation of alternatives.


Type of leader must be one that requires all members to speak up with concerns, questions and new information. Play the role of devil’s advocate or make sure others do. Leader should be active in directing activities of the group but do not make preferred solution. He or she should be strong and demanding, someone who forces critical appraisal of alternatives.


Combination of Two Variables


Leader needs to help members to avoid problems created by the time element. For instance: alter an externally imposed time frame for decision by negotiating an extension, paying late fees if necessary. Additionally, focus on issues rather than time, encouraging dissension and confrontation. Hear the reports from outside experts.

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