Facilitating Group Decision-Making: Facilitator's Subjective Theories on Group Coordination


  • Michaela Kolbe ETH Zurich
  • Margarete Boos Georg-August-Universität Göttingen




communication, explicit coordination, decision-making, facilitation, group, subjective theory


A key feature of group facilitation is motivating and coordinating people to perform their joint work. This paper focuses on group coordination which is a prerequisite to group effectiveness, especially in complex tasks. Decision-making in groups is a complex task that consequently needs to be coordinated by explicit rather than implicit coordination mechanisms. Based on the embedded definition that explicit coordination does not just happen but is purposely executed by individuals, we argue that individual coordination intentions and mechanisms should be taken into account. Thus far, the subjective perspective of coordination has been neglected in coordination theory, which is understandable given the difficulties in defining and measuring subjective aspects of group facilitation. We therefore conducted focused interviews with eight experts who either worked as senior managers or as experienced group facilitators and analysed their approaches to group coordination using methods of content analysis. Results show that these experts possess sophisticated mental representations of their coordination behaviour. These subjective coordination theories can be organised in terms of coordination schemes in which coordination-releasing situations are facilitated by special coordination mechanisms that, in turn, lead to the perception of specific consequences. We discuss the importance of these subjective coordination theories for effectively facilitating group decision-making and minimising process losses. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901287


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Author Biographies

Michaela Kolbe, ETH Zurich

Michaela KOLBE, Institute of Psychology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, is now at the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Psychology, Zurich and holds a PhD in Psychology. Her research interests lie in group coordination, group decision-making, and methods for group process analysis.

Margarete Boos, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Margarete BOOS, Institute of Psychology, Georg-August-University Göttingen. She holds a PhD in sociology and is full professor and head of the Department of Social and Communication Psychology. Her research interests lie in group decision-making, group coordination, methods for group process analysis, computer-mediated communication, and cognitive representation of brands.


How to Cite

Kolbe, M., & Boos, M. (2008). Facilitating Group Decision-Making: Facilitator’s Subjective Theories on Group Coordination. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-10.1.1244