Discuss the importance of ‘group dynamics’ to organisational performance. What constitutes positive and negative group dynamics and why is it important for managers to have a good understanding of group dynamics? Using business examples, discuss some of the implications of good and bad group dynamics for organisations.
Group Dynamics”Use of work teams; groups of employees with interdependent interaction and mutually shared responsibility, has increased dramatically during the past decade” (Gibson 2003: 444) Fong (1999) attributes the driving force behind this trend to increased competitiveness across industries, particularly those involved in global business. The new organisational culture requires managers to develop new skills in order to lead, direct and motivate groups to act synergistically (Barsade 2002).
However, group dynamics is a concept that many managers have not yet understood. Consequently this can lead to bad group dynamics resulting in negative synergy, reduced productivity and wounded morale (Levi 2001). Managers are obliged to rectify this by building cohesion and trust between group members (Carron & Brawley 2000). Why are some group efforts more successful than others? Robbins & Millet (2001) states group members, group size, level of conflict and internal pressures to conform are all factors to consider.
In order to enhance their competitive position and to benefit from different viewpoints, organizations today increasingly rely on cross-functional teams composed of members from different functional backgrounds. However, cross-functional teams often do not yield anticipated performance gains. (Randel, E. 2003: 763)Paulus & Larey (1995) have performed studies supporting the statement by Randel. Employees of a corporation who had participated in training for effective teamwork were asked to brainstorm about a job-relevant issue in groups of four or alone. Participants rated their performance higher in groups than alone, yet the groups brainstormed only half the ideas of the individuals combined.
This negative synergy is precisely what organisations need to prevent. If teams are formed to increase competitiveness but the result is a fifty-percent decrease in productivity, a serious problem arises. How can managers solve this dilemma?Indeed, there is evidence that the mere fact of increasing worker autonomy and participation may be one of the more subtle disorders of group processes because of the increase in the tension between natural social impulses and those of individuality. Furthermore, there is evidence that when this tension is exacerbated by pressures to increase production beyond the normally expected production level, the tension is resolved in favor of individually oriented behavior. (Klein 1995: 34)The statement put forward by Klein indicates that within a group, social tension is amplified by the expectation to increase productivity.
The consequence is that employees do not participate in the group. “A middle level manager of a company that had begun to implement total quality management (TQM) had this to say, “The year end push for production is causing chaos. Everyone is busting their butts to meet their targets and the quality teams are caught up in it. People are beginning to point fingers and the team concept that we worked so hard to get seems to be breaking down.” (Klein 1995: 34) The pressure leads each group member to remain an individual unit rather than interacting with other members of the team. Levi (2001: 362) states that managers must understand and promote good interpersonal relations among members, based on emotional ties and mutual trust to developing cohesion and good communications. Without cohesion, a group is merely a gathering of unrelated individuals.
Smith reports on a study that indicates the reason for this distrust is the perception of unfair rewards. In such cases, employees may feel that the remuneration for service in the group is not adequate or unfair if others received different amounts than themselves. In many circumstances, the team leader receives the greatest recompense while the ideas and hard work may have been from the group, or an individual within the group. This is particularly damaging if responsibility is shared equally among the group members but the rewards are not.
Welch (2003: 168) has suggested that “Lack of trust is considered by some to be a key factor in restraining business success and with at least 50 percent of wasted time directly attributed to lack of trust.” Once again, productivity decreases with the use of teams without the effective leadership a manager must be capable of. Welch further identifies thenecessary good group dynamics that leaders need to promote within the group; inclusiveness, adaptability, assertiveness, empathy and influence. Each has a role in enabling employees to boldly input to the group and genuinely have an interest in the other members.
Jeff Lane was at his wits end. As a newly appointed production manager, he had tried virtually everything to get his work group to come up to production standard. The equipment was operating properly, and the group had the training and experience to meet expectations, yet it was not performing well. (Accel-Team)If a group is not performing to standard, despite training, how does a manager understand and identify the problem? Informal groups can have a powerful influence on the effectiveness of an organisation. Informal groups are formed around the basis of what the group deems ‘fair’. This can work with or against the group’s goals and is far more effective than coercion. If group dynamics is understood, a manager can manipulate informal groups to the organisation’s advantage. There is a big motivational difference between being told what to do and being anxious to do it (Accel-Team 2004).
Understanding shared social processes in groups is becoming increasingly important as firms move toward a greater team orientation. (Barsade 2002: 644)Organisations utilised group dynamics in order to increase productivity and efficiency. To increase outputs with less inputs. Unfortunately, groups and teams are being implemented without understanding the important role of group dynamics resulting in reduced productivity rather than increased productivity. While the answer to the question of how to create efficient, effective groups is not simple, a manager should have a certain understanding of how team members will interact. Without the understanding of group dynamics, it is impossible to manage and lead a group to positive synergy – a position where the group is capable of more than the sum of what they are capable of producing alone.
“While completing a task successfully is a measure of a team’s success, it is not a true or complete index. The crux is whether or not the team generates synergy.” (Levi 2001: 362)ReferencesBarsade, Sigal (2002) “The Ripple Effect” Administrative Science Quarterly (vol 47: iss 4: pp644)Carron, Albert & Brawley, Lawrence (2000) “Cohesion” Small Group Research (vol 31: iss 1: 88)Fong, Patrick (1999) “Creative Group Problem Solving” Backwell Publishers Ltd (vol 8: iss 3: 210)Gibson, Cristina (2003) “Team Effectiveness in Multinational Organizations” Group & Organization Management (vol 28: iss 4: pp444)Klein, Stuart (1995) “Teams Under Stress” IIE Solutions (vol 27: iss 5: pp34)Levi, Daniel (2001) “Group Dynamics For Teams” Sage Publications (pp362)Paulus, Paul & Larey,
Timothy et al (1995) “Brainstormers in an Organizational Setting” Social Psychology (vol 17: iss 1/2: pp249)Randell, E. (2003) “Performance In Cross-Functional Teams” Academy of Management Journal (vol 46: iss 6: pp763)Robbins, Stephen & Millet, Bruce et al (2001) “Organisational Behaviour” Pearson Education Australia (pp277)Smith, Debora (2003) “Grapes Of Wrath at Feeding Time” Sydney Morning Herald (pp1 to 11)Welch, Jim (2003) “The Best Teams Are Emotionally Literate” Industrial and Commercial Training (vol 35: iss 4: pp168 to 170)Online ReferencesAccel-Team (2004) “Informal Group Dynamics at Work” Online Article (06/04/2004)[http://www.accel-team.com/work_groups/index.html]
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