Group Dynamics: Understanding Group Development

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    Group Dynamics: Basic Nature of Groups and How They Develop

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    Do Your Gathering a Group or a Team?

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    This might seem like a silly question, but it is not. Gatherings of less than 10-12 people are considered by organizational development consultants to be a small group. Information in this section is most useful for forming and facilitating small groups of 10-12 people or less.

    Groups that are larger than that range tend to have another level of complexity not apparent in small groups. For example, the nature and needs of larger groups are often similar to those of entire ongoing organizations. They have their own various subcultures, distinct subsystems (or cliques), diversity of leadership styles and levels of communication. While certain structures are often useful in small groups, they are absolutely necessary on an ongoing basis in larger groups. For example, larger groups should have a clearly established purpose that is continually communicated, and formal plans and policies about ongoing leadership, decision making, problem solving and communication.

    Life Stages of a Team

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    When developing a team, it helps a great deal to have some basic sense of the stages that a typical team moves through when evolving into a high-performing team. Awareness of each stage helps leaders to understand the reasons for members’ behavior during that stage, and to guide members to behavior required to evolve the team into the next stage.

    1. Forming

    Members first get together during this stage. Individually, they are considering questions like, “What am I here for?”, “Who else is here?” and “Who am I comfortable with?” It is important for members to get involved with each other, including introducing themselves to each other. Clear and strong leadership is required from the team leader during this stage to ensure the group members feel the clarity and comfort required to evolve to the next stage.

    2. Storming

    During this stage, members are beginning to voice their individual differences, join with others who share the same beliefs, and jockey for position in the group. Therefore, it is important for members to continue to be highly involved with each other, including to voice any concerns in order to feel represented and understood. The team leader should help members to voice their views, and to achieve consensus (or commonality of views) about their purpose and priorities.

    3. Norming

    In this stage, members are beginning to share a common commitment to the purpose of the group, including to its overall goals and how each of the goals can be achieved. The team leader should focus on continuing to clarify the roles of each member, and a clear and workable structure and process for the group to achieve its goals.

    4. Performing

    In this stage, the team is working effectively and efficiently toward achieving its goals. During this stage, the style of leadership becomes more indirect as members take on stronger participation and involvement in the group process. Ideally, the style includes helping members to reflect on their experiences and to learn from them.

    5. Closing and Celebration

    At this stage, it is clear to members and their organization that the team has achieved its goals (or a major milestone along the way toward the goal). It is critical to acknowledge this point in the life of the team, lest members feel unfulfilled and skeptical about future team efforts.

    Some Types of Teams You Could Use

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    There are many types of teams you could use in the workplace. The type you choose depends very much on the nature of the results that the team is to accomplish.

    1. Formal and informal teams

    These are usually small groups of employees who come together to address some specific goal or need. Management appoints formal teams, that is, teams that are intentionally organized and resourced to address a specific and important goal or need. Informal teams are usually loosely organized groups of people who come together to address a non-critical, short-term purpose.

    2. Committees

    Committees are organized to address, major ongoing functions or tasks in an organization, and the membership of the committees often is based on the official position of each of the members, for example, committees in Boards of Directors.

    3. Problem-solving teams

    These teams are formed to address a particular, major problem currently faced by the organization. Often, their overall goal is to provide a written report that includes recommendations for solving the problem. Membership often is comprised of people who perceive and/or experience the problem, as well as those who can do something about it.

    4. Self-directed and self-managed teams

    These types of teams are increasingly used where a) team members are working to address a complex challenge in a rapidly changing environment, and b) the strong ownership and participation of members are extremely important. These types provide great latitude in how members achieve the overall results to be achieved by the teams. The role of leader in a team might change during the team activities depending on where the team is in its stage of development (see below) and/or achieving is results.

    For the Category of Facilitation and Teams:

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