Group Decision-Making Effectiveness: The Effect of Conflict

This study develops a model of the determinants of individual commitment to the implementation of the decision (decision commitment). Decision commitment requires each individual in a decision-making group to understand the hows, whys and wherefores of the group decision (decision understanding). Attaining decision understanding comes about through constructive controversy, referred to as task conflict in this study. However, the generation of task conflict may lead to tension in the group, referred to here as relationship conflict, which has a negative effect on decision understanding and decision commitment. Relationship conflict and decision understanding mediate between task conflict and decision commitment to form a model of the decision-making process. Decision-making effectiveness is a function of both decision commitment and decision understanding. The model is tested by partial least squares analysis with latent variables using the results from a sample of eighty-four MBA students who worked in groups of four in a laboratory setting on a strategic management case study written specifically for this study. The hypothesised relationships among the variables are confirmed. Relationship conflict and decision understanding both have intervening roles between task conflict and decision commitment. An important finding is that high relationship conflict, not high task conflict, leads to lack of decision commitment. Group decision-making effectiveness is found only at moderate levels of relationship conflict, not at high levels of relationship conflict.

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  1. Useful reading to accompany this article, therefore, is another paper presented at the 2003 IACM Conference, “Group Identity and Attachment: Two Paths to Trust and Cooperation in Groups,” by Susan Brodt, of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and M. Audrey Korsgaard, of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. It is available at

    Professors Brodt and Korsgaard also argue that the spirit of cooperation is an individual rather than a group dynamic. A successful group is based on the individually determined cooperation of each participant rather than some collective notion of cooperation. The degree to which individual members identify with the group determines the level of trust and cooperation within the group. The authors stress, however, that effective cooperation is not defined by compliance or conformity.

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