Quality of group decisions by board members: A hidden-profile experiment

Tessa Coffeng*, Elianne F. van Steenbergen, Femke de Vries, Naomi Ellemers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
Reaching decisions in a deliberative manner is of utmost importance for boards, as their decision-making impacts entire organisations. The current study aims to investigate (1) the quality of group decisions made by board members, (2) their confidence in, satisfaction with, and reflection on the decision-making, and (3) the effect of two discussion procedures on objective decision quality and subjective evaluations of the decision-making.

Design/methodology/approach
Board members of various Dutch non-profit organisations (N = 141) participated in a group decision-making task and a brief questionnaire. According to the hidden-profile paradigm, information was asymmetrically distributed among group members and should have been pooled to reach the objectively best decision. Half of the groups received one of two discussion procedures (i.e. advocacy decision or decisional balance sheet), while the other half received none.

Findings
Only a fifth of the groups successfully chose the best decision alternative. The initial majority preference strongly influenced the decision, which indicates that discussion was irrelevant to the outcome. Nevertheless, board members were satisfied with their decision-making. Using a discussion procedure enhanced participants' perception that they adequately weighed the pros and cons, but did not improve objective decision quality or other aspects of the subjective evaluation. These findings suggest that board members are unaware of their biased decision-making, which might hinder improvement.

Originality/value
Rather than using student samples, this study was the first to have board members participating in a hidden-profile task.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-55
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Decision
Volume59
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22-Mar-2021

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