What is the Difference? Groups are a part of every aspect of our lives. Your family is an example of a group that people are a member of. You may be a member of a social group, a work group, or a small group in your church. According to Johnson and Johnson (2009) the definition of a group is “two or more individuals in face-to-face interaction, each aware of his or her membership in the group, each aware of the others who belong to the group, and each aware of positive interdependence as they strive to achieve mutual goals” (577).
We will look at group dynamics in business and whether groups or individuals are more effective in a work environment. We will also look at group cohesiveness and how does social influence and social interaction affect decision-making. And we will take a look at leaders and if they are an important aspect of groups and finally if teams are more effective than work groups in some situations.
Group dynamics is the field of study within the social sciences that focuses on the nature of groups. People have a need to belong and understanding how people act and react to attitudes and influences of a group will help businesses as they strive to achieve the goals of the company and the individual goals of those that work for them.
Today many businesses have turned to small groups to reach the goals of the company. The technologies that have been developed over the past years have made it easy for groups to work together and not be located in the same town or the same state or country for that matter.
Since groups engage in critical activities such as problem solving, determination of core competencies, decision making, and the like, understanding how they form, interact, and perform is critical in getting maximum commitment and performance from groups. Bruce Tuckerman developed a theory which included five stages of group development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
Forming is the stage where the group is getting to know each other and determining the group’s goals and structure. This stage should not be rushed because trust and openness must be developed. Storming is the stage where members often challenge group goals and struggle for power. Some individuals will be working to become the group’s leader during this stage. Criticism and concerns are voiced during this time. The group must achieve cohesiveness through resolution id the group is to continue through the other stages.
During the norming stage group members recognize differences and also shared expectations. Hopefully the group begins to gel and form an identity. They will also divide responsibilities between members and decide how they will evaluate the group’s progress. Next, performing occurs when the group matures and has developed a feeling of cohesiveness. Group members accept one another and conflict is resolved through group discussion. Decisions are made based on relevant goals rather than emotional issues.
The last stage is adjourning. Not all groups go through this stage but if they do the most obvious reason is the group has accomplished the group’s goals (Smith, 2005). When established successfully, positive interdependence results in group members recognizing that individual success is linked to the success of the group and every other member. This occurs when success is the result of group effort and not just that of individuals managing and completing segments of the task. The structure of the task must demand that each member of the group offer a unique contribution to the joint effort.
The result is every member is indispensable to achieving their mutual goals and that they are both dependent on and obligated to their peers. Research about groups is not always valid and relevant because someone has to decide if group decisions are of high or low quality. Often, results cannot be evaluated objectively or the success or failure of a decision will not come to light for years. There is also an assumption, valid or not, that decision makers are fully informed. Lastly, just because a number of people subscribe to the decision, that in and of itself does not make it the best decision.
Although I think that groups are more effective there are groups that do not meet that standard and in some cases and individual maybe more effective. Our text gives four examples of different types of groups. First is the pseudogroup which is made up of people who have been assigned to work together and are not interested in doing so.
They see each other as the competition and thus the group and its goals are not successful. This group does not make it through any of the Tuckerman’s group stages. In a traditional work group members are also assigned to work together and accept the assignment. Very little of the work here is done as a group and some communication takes place. Next is the effective group whose members are committed to working together and meeting the group’s goals.
This group thinks that they can reach their goals only if the others in the group reach theirs. And lastly, is the high-performance group which meets the standards for the effective group and then goes far and above the goals given them. The commitment of this group to one another is what makes this group so successful. This type of group is rare but when one is formed is highly successful and productive (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, 19-20). Generally, people perform better when they are engaged and dependent upon the group.
This does not mean that those who do not recognize the importance of interdependence will perform better alone. It may mean that these people are poor performers in any venue. Individual performance is based on naturally biased approach and individualized learning.
As stated in the article Great Groups “life in great groups is better” (Bennis & Biederman, 1997). The process is more fun. “If only for the duration of the project, people in Great Groups seem to become better than themselves. They see more, achieve more, and have a far better time doing it than they can working alone” (Bennis & Biederman, 1997). Ralston (1985) states that group participative decision making is not for all situations but in the future will be used to handle strategic, tactical, and change issues (51-56).
Teams bring a wealth of learning and experiences to the table. The result is usually a better decision or solution. Group cohesiveness is that which brings group members together. Johnson & Johnson (2009) define group cohesion as “the mutual attraction among members of a group and the resulting desire to remain in the group” (100). The more cohesive the group is the more likely the group is to be influenced by other members, easier to set goals and for them to meet those goals. An example of this is a basketball team developing a play and carrying it out to score.
If the team is not operating as such then this will be hard to accomplish. Instead you have a group of individuals trying to play a team sport and they will not be very successful. Group cohesiveness is very important. Without cohesiveness, it is just a group of individuals coming suddenly in the same location at the same time, which is more commonly known as an accident.
Since cohesion generally refers to the emotional bond one member has for the others and for a shared commitment to the group and its primary task, the impact on the speed and efficiency of each process undertaken by the group is significant. No or low cohesion, and each process suffers; high cohesion, and processes tend to flow naturally as members work together to achieve the task at hand. Why, people tend not to pull in differing directions.
Group cohesiveness can be increased in groups and one method is to identify a common goal and a common fear (consequence to the group in case of failure). Additionally, varied and exciting activities that play to the strengths of varied members rather than similar activities that require the same skill set.
Group cohesion can be increased by motivating group members. This can be accomplished by doing whatever one does to motivate others such as challenging work, rewards, recognition, promotion, etc., which will increase cohesiveness and productivity of the group.
There is a fundamental human need to belong to social groups. We thus learn to conform to rules of other people. And the more we see others behaving in a certain way or making particular decisions, the more we feel obliged to follow suit. We do indeed become the people with whom we interact, at least in that setting or location. If you are a group leader you can encourage or promote and discourage member’s acceptance of proposals because others tend to follow your lead. If you are not, you can form coalitions and then encourage and or discourage proposal acceptance.
There are all kinds of leaders; Genghis Khan, Benjamin Franklin, Adolf Hitler, and Martin Luther King to name a few. Leaders are an important aspect of any group. Because they are leaders they can influence people for good and for bad.
“A leader is a person who can influence others to be more effective in working to achieve their mutual goals and maintain effective working relationships among members. Leadership is the process through which leaders exert such influence. Being a leader and exerting leadership takes skill. Leadership skills are your ability to help the group achieve its goals and maintain effective working relationships among members” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, 168).
As well as different kinds of leaders there are different leadership styles. There are three classic leadership styles. The laissez faire style implies low control, the autocratic style high control and the participative lies somewhere in between. You can also have charismatic leaders and visionary leaders which are forms of transformational leadership. The primary focus of this leadership style is to make change happen in yourself, others, groups, and organizations.
The dynamic, charismatic leader can make a group (through giving up individuality for group identity) or break the group through overly choleric behavior. So needless to say leaders are a very important aspect of groups. Leaders can emerge from the groups that they are members of. In the course of group dynamics and behavior, members can discover or perfect skill sets required for leadership. As success is achieved, these behaviors are reinforced and become ingrained.
Group members’ perceptions about leadership are important. Simply, perceptions, true or not, tend to become reality in the mind of the perceiver. It is estimated that it takes thirty to forty meetings outside of the forum in which a bad first impression was created to overcome it. If a group member has a negative perception about one or more members and or the leader, one tends to discount their input and may even sabotage that input.
Outcomes will, at best, be skewed and may even run counter to what was intended or expected. Studies have shown that teams are more effective than work groups in many situations. Work groups have been found to have low interdependence and that the individual member is held accountable not the group. An example of this is a tennis team or a swim team. The team score is made up individual scores. The work that each team member does is not dependant on his or her team member.
They are there to give encouragement and maybe talk strategies but the outcome is based on the individual results all put together to come up with a team score. A team on the other hand is more productive than one of its members alone. A team needs a distinct purpose that requires two or more of its members to work jointly. Teams share information, make decisions, and effectiveness is measured by evaluating how the team and the individual meets the teams goals.
Leadership responsibilities are shared. Johnson and Johnson (2009) used the example of the high school basketball team the Killer Bees. This was a team with no depth and little talent but they played as team and not as individuals. They worked hard and developed skills. They also had pride in being a member of this team. It is these qualities that make teams successful to the organizations, to which they belong (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, 525-527).
We have looked at how groups engage in many critical activities and how these activities affect the outcomes and performances of the group. That groups are more effective in work environments and that group cohesiveness is important. Finally, that teams are more effective than work groups in certain situations. Being a part of an effective group takes skills. These are skills that can and need to be learned to be an effective team member.
References Warren Bennis, & Patricia Ward Biederman. (1997, April). Great groups. Executive Excellence, 14(4), 5. Retrieved December 20, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 11393413). Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, F.P., (2009). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (10th ed.). New York: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Ralston, Bill. (1985). Group Participative Decision Making: The Management Style of the Future. Management Decision, 23(5), 51. Retrieved December 20, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1210142).
Smith, M. K. (2005) 'Bruce W. Tuckman - forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopaedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/tuckman.htm