An organisation’s objectives are achieved by its members. However, it is not just members, on their own, who accomplish these objectives. More often than not, these individuals work together towards a shared goal. This collaboration is what ultimately makes it possible for the organisation to realise its objectives. Given this, it is vital to ensure that the teams that work together are built on solid foundations. In doing so, you must properly establish the purpose, roles, and responsibilities that guide work teams and align these with the organisational and task objectives at hand. To start, you must delve into the formation and characteristics of a group.
Every organisation is a group unto itself. By its very definition, a group refers to two or more people who interact with each other. These members share a common identity (a meaning and evaluation of themselves) and come together to achieve common goals, accepting their rights and obligations as group members.
Group dynamics deals with the formation, structure, and processes involved in the functioning of a group. It covers both the interactions and the forces that operate within groups. Understanding the dynamics of groups is essential in understanding your work teams and subsequently, their performance.
Groups are responsible for doing most of the work in an organisation. As such, the effectiveness of the organisation is dependent on the effectiveness of its groups. It must be noted, however, that although all teams are groups, not all groups are teams. Teams are usually difficult to form because it takes time for members to learn how to work together. Although people in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and being part of a team, few understand how to create the experience of teamwork or how to develop an effective team.
In the broadest sense, belonging to a team is a result of feeling like you are part of something much larger than yourself. Being part of a team has a lot to do with your personal understanding of the mission or objectives of your organisation. Groups consist of members who coordinate with one another to achieve shared goals. On the other hand, teams take this a step further and have a mutual commitment to their shared goals and to each other.
In a team-oriented environment, each individual willingly contributes to the overall organisational success, thus working with fellow members to produce this success. Although each member has a specific job function that may differ from others’, everyone is unified in accomplishing the shared overall objectives. The bigger picture drives team members’ actions, and each one’s function exists to serve the bigger picture.
It is generally accepted that teams are better than groups because they are more flexible and responsive to a dynamic environment. For instance, a work group has no opportunity to be involved in collective works like a work team does. Further, work team members have the capacity to work intensely towards a specific shared goal, willingly using their positive energy, promoting both individual and mutual accountability, and employing complementary skills as necessary.
Teams may be categorised based on their function or their size.
|Types of Teams|
|– Based on function:|
1. Problem-solving teams- member only suggest solutions for problems
2. Self-management teams- member operate without a manager
3. Cross-functional teams- miners are experts with different specializations
4. Virtual teams- members meet online
– Based on size:
1. Institutional – comprised of hundreds of members
2. Operational- a small co-operative group in regular contract; members contribute responsibly to achieve task at hand
In order to bring members of any team together, team building is a tried and tested practice. At its core, team building helps increase both intra-group and inter-group effectiveness. It also allows members to share their perceptions of one another and understand each other’s points of view. As a result, problems within the group are more easily resolved, and members are able to work together, by co-operating and collaborating.
Stages of Group Development
Group development is a dynamic process that reveals how group purpose, roles, and responsibilities would emerge through time. It involves stages which a group undergoes; these are suggestive and may occur simultaneously. The stages are:
The first stage of group development is concerned with its formation. This stage is characterised by members seeking either a work assignment (in a formal group) or another benefit, such as status, affiliation, or power (in an informal group). It is important to note the difference in these two groups: a formal group emerges out of necessity, created by a formal authority for a defined purpose. On the other hand, an informal group is formed spontaneously, created by members who share common interests. In organisations, the work team is a formal group. At this stage, members either engage in a busy type of activity or show apathy.
The next stage is marked by the formation of dyads and/or triads. During this stage, members seek familiar or similar individuals within their group and begin a deeper sharing of themselves. This means that members try to build more meaningful connections with one another that go beyond fulfilling the purpose for which they were created. The continued attention and focus members give to subgroups leads to a differentiation in the group. Thus, tensions across the dyads and/or triads may surface. It may also be during this stage that conflict regarding who is in control of the group becomes apparent.
On the third stage of group development, a more serious concern about task performance can be observed. Established dyads and/or triads begin to open up and seek out other members in the group. Members also make efforts to establish various norms for task performance.
During this stage, members also begin to take greater responsibility for the group. The members’ relationship with the group’s authority figure also becomes relaxed, and after norming is complete, the hierarchy of leadership is clarified. The stage concludes with the solidification of the group structure as well as a sense of group identity and camaraderie.
The fourth stage, performing, occurs when members of a fully functional group see themselves as a group and get involved in the task. Each member contributes to the group, and the group’s authority figure is also recognised as a part of the group. Members follow group norms, and collective pressure is also exerted to ensure group effectiveness.
The group may redefine its goals, develop as information from its external environment is discovered, and also display an autonomous will to realise such goals. Additionally, it is during this stage that the group’s long-term viability is both established and nurtured.
A fifth stage exists in the case of temporary groups, like a project team, task force, or any other group with a limited task at hand. This is known as adjourning and may also be referred to as ‘mourning’ (i.e., mourning the adjournment of the group).
In this stage, the group decides to separate. Members may share mixed sentiments on this. Some may view the group performance positively while others may be unhappy because this signals the end of group meetings and interactions.
Norms refer to the standard or boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour shared and defined by group members. These are commonly established in order to ensure group survival, increase the predictability of behaviour, avoid mishaps and embarrassing situations, and express group values.
Each group creates its own norms that may determine anything from the work performance, to way of dressing, to the method of making comments in a meeting. Groups exert pressure on members, compelling them to conform to the group’s standards. At times, this means pressuring members not to perform at higher levels. The norms of the group often reflect members’ level of commitment, motivation, and performance.
In order for behaviour to be accepted, majority of the group members must agree upon the norms set. Members must also come to a collective understanding that the group supports the norms.
If majority of members do not adhere to the set norms, then these will eventually be abandoned and changed; they will cease to serve as the group’s standard for evaluating behaviour. Although it can be noted that the group may violate norms from time to time, members who do not conform to these generally face punishment (e.g., being excluded, ignored, or asked to leave the group).
Cohesiveness refers to group members’ bonding, unity, feelings of attraction for each other, and desire to remain part of the group. Several factors influence the level of group cohesiveness. These include agreement on group goals, frequency of interaction, personal attractiveness, inter-group competition, and favourable evaluation. Groups tend to be more cohesive when they are smaller in size, spending more time together, and/or intensely competing with other groups. The presence of an external threat to the group’s survival also increases cohesiveness.
Cohesiveness is an aspect of group dynamics that can either support or hinder team performance. Highly cohesive groups tend to have higher job satisfaction and the lower the turnover and absenteeism. Members are likely to form strong relationships that would allow them to work cohesively, thus increasing team productivity. They are also likely to develop trust, which would enable them to accomplish goals more effectively and lessen arguments over differences in ideas. Moreover, even if they have such differences, they would be able to view this as an opportunity to provide diverse points of views and information that would help the team in decision-making.
On the flip side, however, high cohesiveness can also have a negative effect on performance. Highly cohesive groups with goals misaligned with that of their overarching organisation may be detrimental to organisational. Members of highly cohesive groups may also be more vulnerable to groupthink, a phenomenon that occurs when group members pressure one another to come to a consensus during decision-making. Groupthink is unfavourable as it results in hasty judgment, unrealistic appraisals, and a lack of proper testing for decisions made.
Likewise, in any group, there are likely to be instances where members would feel excluded. This is especially true when some members have already formed relationships, and such could lead to ill feelings and miscommunication among members. Some members may also be overly critical, domineering, misuse humour or be inappropriate with their comments and remarks. These members may opt not to participate or even dominate the discussion. ‘Social loafers,’ or members who do not participate at all and leave the work to the other members, are also very common among groups. Such members are likely to hinder team performance.
At the proper level, group cohesiveness is beneficial to groups. Experts suggest that groups typically outperform individuals, especially when the tasks to be accomplished require a variety of skills and experience. Further, decision-making done by a group is superior to that done by an individual. This is because a group is able to generate more necessary information, generate diverse alternatives, and increase acceptance of a solution. Groups are also more flexible and can quickly assemble, achieve goals, and disband or move on to another set of objectives. Groups perform motivational functions for their members. Compared to individuals, members of a group are more likely to participate in both problem-solving and decision-making, leading to the increased productivity and empowerment of members.