Group-Think is not Safe
By the late George Robotham
There is no doubt the most significant OHS change the author has driven has been when he was leading OHS project teams or a member of such a well led team. Working in teams practising good team building principles can develop enormous synergy to crash through barriers to driving effective safety change.
A caution to working in teams is the area of group-think. The author has not seen group-think in action all that often but when he has seen it in action it has a devastating effect.
- Group members stereotype non-members and label them as enemies or outsiders not worth negotiating with or worrying about
- People hesitate to air any discomfort, doubts or uncertainties they feel about the group decisions or policies, so that consensus seems unanimous
- Reluctant to shatter complacency group members do not bring information or evidence that does not conform to the groups expectations and stereotypes to the groups attention
- The group discusses only a few alternatives and reaches a decision quickly concentrating only on good points
- The group feels invulnerable leading to excessive optimism and risk taking
- The group ignores or rationalises warnings or signs that it is operating under false assumptions, making poor decisions or developing poor strategy
- There is strong pressure on group members to conform to group norms
- Train team members in group-think
- Get a diverse team together
- Treat conflict as an essential part of a solid outcome
- Let the group know there are no dumb ideas or questions
- Allow time for decisions as a team
- Bring in a devil’s advocate
- Bring in a specialist
- Do not surround yourself with yes men.
Note Be aware of group-think appearing in your teams and knock it on the head as soon as it starts to appear. If group-think becomes entrenched the situation will piss a lot of people off and be very difficult to recover
From The Penguin Team Leaders Toolkit by K. Cole