Friday, October 12, 2012

Decision Making Techniques Used By Groups

I've been doing a number of courses around leadership and team building so I've started to notice the various vagaries of decision making.  One thing I must admit to being a bit baffled by is the concept of concensus decision making where you aim for an outcome that everyone is all right with rather than coming to a compromise where everyone loses a bit of something.  Unless you're all entirely likeminded, concensus decision making seems to end up a bidding war where people who just don't care as much stop contributing their arguments one by one until the one with the strongest opinion (or ego) is left standing.  That person is often left scratching their heads with a sense of unease that they don't truly have a consensus because most people have, in truth, simply unanimously decided that they just want an outcome and so long as the outcome isn't a terrible one they really don't care anymore.

Now sometimes consensus decision making works out and I'd say it is more often successful in roleplaying games than in other spheres of life.  Everyone airs their opinions and if the most supported option is something even the dissenters can live with then that is the option that will be chosen.  Generally, though, this can take a bit of time and is therefore something I see when the consequences of that decision is high.  In my home city based Demon: the Fallen campaign the players would often spend the first hour coming to a consensus on what they would do and why simply because it was easy for a mis-step in important matters to have hugh complications down the road.

Sometimes decisions are made on shared values or golden rules which tend to create the speedier decisions.  Players often resolve what we should do by the golden rule 'who has the most to lose and is that okay?'  As much as I might love a stealth run through the dungeon, if the clanking paladin has to be left behind on their own in order to do it than unless its a quick exploration they will generally decide against it.  Everyone sort of agrees that leaving out the paladin just isn't worth it according to the team's own values of collaboration and ensuring everyone has some fun.  This is also where players craft their decisions around following plot hooks dangled before them or following certain genre conventions to make the Game Master's job a little bit easier.

Sometimes those same rules of 'who cares the most?' or 'who has the most to lose?' leads to a brief hierarchy.  Well, since the group is already trying to find Demi's mother-in-law and she is a private investigator, let's let her take point and lead the group for a bit.  It's not a true hierarchy as it's more the group delegating authority to her which they'll happily revoke if she starts making decisions they really don't agree with.  This may also be used if its explicitly in someone else's sphere of authority.  The Lions Minister is consulted on the best tactical way to assault the enemy and, while others are happy to offer their opinion, the Minister's plan is more than likely going to be followed.

Sometimes the decisions become democratic although since the group is so small it rarely becomes anything as explicit as a show of hands.  When it is used, it's normally casually consulted and then used in a spirit of irritation as other methods of decision making have often been tried and then failed first due to one or more players' strong views on the subject.  "Everyone but you wants to do this so how about you see its not a good idea?"

Sometimes they'll seek defined compromises where they'll make bargains.  If you do this for me, then I'll do that for you.  "I know you want to run and gun but I just got this new sniper rifle.  Please let me snipe him from afar and I'll totally back you up the next time you want to do a frontal assault."

What do you think?  What has your group generally gone with?

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