Project Management

5 Steps to Avoid Groupthink on Your Team

Groupthink is a major obstacle in many project teams. You do not want everyone on the team to start thinking alike. Groupthink hinders a team’s ability to discuss new information, make project adjustments, and reach effective solutions. Group members try to agree with each other to keep team dynamics friendly or to impress the boss that they agree with him or her. An effective project manager needs to take steps to avoid Groupthink within a team.

1. Risk Management and Mitigation

A project manager should put Groupthink risk management and mitigation in their risk management planning. By taking a firm stance on this potential obstacle before it happens, the team leader can watch and manage it if it appears. Routine check points throughout the project allows the PM to step back and see if this problem is coming up. When it does, a risk plan allows the project manager to take steps to mitigate it and cut its impact.

2. Outside Perspectives

Groupthink is not always easy to spot. A long meeting may end up with a group consensus or with some differing opinions. Those meetings with a group consensus may happen due to group agreement or due to group dysfunction. Bringing in people from the outside at different points in the process can help break the Groupthink barrier. An external perspective can highlight potential problems, find solutions, and make the team dynamic healthier in the long run.

3. Always Go for the Second Solution

When a project team comes up with a single solution, the pressure is on for everyone to agree with this option. When a project manager challenges the team to come up with a second solution as well, that pressure is off. The PM can ask for the second solution with the idea that upper management may reject the first one. By allowing the project team to work through a second solution, it can open up thinking and bring new information into the decision-making process. In the end, both solutions can benefit from the additional information.

4. Request Alternative Perspectives

The openness of a team’s dynamic stems a great deal from the openness the leader of the team encourages. A project manager who works to get alternative perspectives from their team members keeps the open dialogue going. People tend to shape their words around what they think others want to hear. If the boss wants to hear X, then many people will give them X, without any Y or Z added. If a boss asks for alternatives to X, this encourages people to talk about Y or Z, or even A, B, or C.

5. Structure the Team Properly

When possible, a project manager should structure a project team with people from diverse backgrounds. In some cases, the PM has no real say in team members. However, when that opportunity arises, a good team leader will want people with different skill sets. Having people with different backgrounds offers a wider field of perspectives from the beginning of the project. When all the members of a project team are from the same department, it will severely hamper the ability to get different options on the table during discussions and decision-making. Groupthink will come naturally to a homogeneous group.

To sum up, it is important to plan how to get around Groupthink from the beginning of a project. Risk management can help, but choosing diverse team members will also help in this effort. Encouraging multiple solutions and alternative perspectives helps to keep discussion and thinking flowing. Avoid Groupthink and keep your project going strong.