In the beginning, God made an individual- and then he made a pair. The pair formed a group, together they begat others and thus the group grew. Unfortunately, working in a group led to fiction, the group disintegrated in conflict and Cain settled in the land of Nod -there has been trouble with groups ever since. When people work in groups, there are two quite separate issues involved. The first is the task and the problems involved in getting the job done. Frequently, this is the only issue which the group considers. The second is the process of the group work itself: The mechanisms by which the group acts as a unit and not as a loose rabble. However, without due attention to this process, the value of the group can be diminished or even destroyed; yet with a little explicit management of the process, it can enhance the worth of the group to the many times the sum of the worth of its individuals. It is this synergy which makes group work attractive in corporate organisation despite the possible problems (and time spent) in group formation.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- give reasons for groups
- explain the process of group development
- differentiate between informal and formal groups
- differentiate between primary and secondary groups
- differentiate between “in-group and out-group”
- explain group cohesiveness
- describe group effectiveness and factors encouraging it
- describe team processes.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Definition of Group
A group of people working in the same room, or even on a common project, does not necessarily involve the group process. If the group is managed in a totally autocratic manner, there may be little opportunity for interaction relating to the work; if there is functioning within the group, the process may never evolve. On the other hand, the group process maybe utilised by normally distant individuals working on different projects.
Schein (1965) defines a group as any number of people who (1) interact with one another, (2) are psychologically aware of one another, and (3) perceive themselves to a group. In his view, these three conditions need to be fulfilled if a group is to be distinguished from a random collection of individuals. Schein also assumed that groups share some common aim or purpose. Workgroups, for example, have a clear purpose, spelt out in the picture of the tasks assigned and the standards to be achieved.
Why a Group?
Groups are particularly good at combining talents and providing innovative solutions to possible unfamiliar problems. In cases where there is no well-established approach/procedure, the wider still and knowledge set of the group has a distinct advantage over that of the individual. In general, however, there is an over-riding advantage in a group-based work force which makes it attractive to Management: that it engenders a fuller utilisation of the work force.
A group can be seen as self-managing unit. The range of skills provided by its members and the self- monitoring which each group performs makes it a reasonably safe recipient for delegated responsibility. Even if a problem could be decided by a single person, there are two main benefits involving the people who will carry out the decision. Firstly, the motivational aspect of participating in the decision will clearly enhance its implementation. Secondly, there may well be factors which the implementer understands better than the single person who could supposedly have decided alone.
More indirectly, if the lowest echelons of the workforce each become trained, through participation in group decision making, in an understanding of the companies’ objectives and work practices, then each will be better able to solve work-related problems in general. Further they will also individually become a safe recipient for delegated authority which is exemplified in the celebrated right of Japanese car workers to halt the production line.
From the individual’s point of view, there is the added incentive that through belonging to a group, each can participate in achievements well beyond his/her individual potential. Less idealistically, the group makes provision for an environment where the individual’s self-perceived level of responsibility and authority is enahanced, in an environment where accountability is shared: thus providing a perfect motivator through enhanced self-esteem coupled with two stresses.
How does a group develop? This is the next question to be answered. As a matter of fact, it is common to view the development of a group as having four stages:
Storming is the next stage, when all Hell breaks loose and the leaders are lynched. Factions form, personalities clash, no one concedes a single point without first fighting tooth and nail. Most importantly, very little communication occurs since no one is listening and some are still unwillingly to talk openly. True, this battle ground may seem a little extreme for the groups to which you belong.
The next stage is Norming. At this stage the sub-groups begin to recognise the merits of working together and the in-fighting subsides. At this stage, since a new spirit of co-operation is evident, every member begins to feel secure in expressing their own view points and these are discussed openly with the whole group. The most significant improvement is that people start to listen to each other. Work methods become established and recognized by the group as a whole.
And finally; performing this is the culmination, when the group has settled on a system which allows free and frank exchange of views and a high degree of support by the group for each other and its own decisions.
In terms of performance, the group starts at a level slightly below the sum of the individual’s levels and then drops abruptly to its nadir until it climbs during norming to a new level of performing which is (hopefully) well above the start.
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1
- Distinguish a group from a random collection of individuals. 2. Explain the stages of group development.
- Why is group formed? Explain why you formed the group you belong to.
3.1.1 Informal and Formal Groups
‘Formal’ or official groups are groups forming a pair of the organizational structure, established by management to see to the smooth running of the organization. For example, in a banking industry, looking at a particular ban, there may be marketing team, personnel team, finance team, etc. In each of these teams, there is the expectation of achievement of a specific goal in order to allow the entire bank to keep on moving effectively. Informal groups or unofficial groups are those groups which are established by the employees themselves, for their own purposes rather than to fulfill organizational ends. Informal or unofficial groups have their purposes, which are generally to meet the social and security needs of the employees, for your information, it is good to note that the purposes of these unofficial groups may fit in fairly well with organizational objectives, but more than likely will be opposed to them.
3.1.2 Primary and Secondary Group
Primary Group This is relatively small, simple group of people. People in a primary group are in face-to-face relationship, for example, a family group or a village group. The group usually has some form of performance and it’s small number of people interact relatively intimately, intensely and frequently. This kind of interaction could be likened to one in which an individual often has his earlier form of education and training according to the local culture and values. In this kind of group, the relationship is voluntary and personalised, and everyone is interested in everyone else as persons, having his or her own value. The interaction that exists in primary groups could occur within a relatively defined territory like a village or a ward within a town.
Unlike the primary group, in secondary schools, there is less frequency and intensity of contact between members of the group. It is necessary to note here that all the members of the group do not often know themselves, not all the members live in close proximity, for example, a city or corporation. Although, secondary groups may also have face-to-face relationship but contact between individuals in the group are very ephemeral and impersonal.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISES 2
- Differentiate between informal group and formal group.
- Differentiate between primary group and secondary group.
- Explain why informal group is inevitable in any work organization.
3.1.3 “In-Group” and “Out-Group”
The changes that occur within a group are important in the changing relationship between groups. These changes may form good base for a psychological analysis of group dynamics. Group dynamics has to do with the interactions between groups and the changes in such interactions.
Group dynamics involves in-group/out-group relationship. An in-group is characterised by a ‘we-feeling’. A person has loyalty to this group and makes sacrifices to retain his membership and to maintain the continuity and strength of the group. Members cherish one-another’s comradeship. An in-group carries some element of sympathy amongst members and a sense of attachment to one another. There is often a feeling that what the group has is the best. Members of other groups are out-group members.
An out-group thus refers to intergroup relations. It is a relationship of “we and they”. Such inter-group relations could be friendly or conflictual. In any case, the separateness of the membership and of their identity is maintained.
An analysis of in-group/out-group relations is essential in understanding a society and the processes of control. Such an analysis must take account of the luring nature of some groups and of the relative cohesion and intensity of interaction in one group but absent from other.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISES 3
In your own words, describe what is meant by in-group/out-group relationships.
3.1.4 Group Cohesiveness
The cohesiveness of any group is the extent to which the group members develop strong ties to each other and to the group as a whole (‘team spirit’). It is also a measure of the ability of the group to attract new members. A very cohesive group is one that demonstrates strong bonds of loyalty within its membership and strict adherence to the established norms of the group.
A number of factors have been identified to encourage group cohesiveness’ and these include:
- similarity of work
- physical proximity
- system of work
- task structure
- group size (especially small size)
- external threats
- prospect of rewards
- leadership style of manager
- common social features (age, sex, etc.)
It should be noted here that where a high level of cohesiveness has been achieved in a group, external forces will playa significantly reduced role in bringing about change in the group. Change in such a situation can only be realised if key members of the group agree to adopt the new ways. In a less cohesive group, there is possibility for a change from without.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISES 4
- What do you understand by group cohesiveness?
- In the group you belong, are you highly cohesiveness or lowly cohesive? Describe what makes you that.
3.1.5 Group Effectiveness
In looking at the effectiveness of a group, there are two major criteria for measuring success:
- How effectively were group tasks accomplished?
- What was the level of individual satisfaction with membership of the group?
The first question tends to look on effectiveness from the point of view of organizational goals, the second considers personal goals. Seek success in terms of tasks accomplished, targets achieved, solutions rendered and other benefits. Individuals seek personal satisfaction from membership of the group, opportunities to perform a role and to gain status within the group.
However, it is important to note that both organizational and individual goals can be achieved, but where conflict exists, then it is the role of a leader in charge to minimize the negative consequences of this conflict.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISES 5
What do you understand by Group effectiveness?
How to do you measure effectiveness in your own group?
3.1.6 Team Process
According to Adair (1986), a team is more than just a group with a common aim. It is a “group in which the contributions of individuals are seen as complementary. Collaboration (i.e. working together) is the keynote of a team activity. Adair suggests that the test of a good (i.e. effective) team is:
‘whether… its members can work as a team while they are apart, contributing to a sequence of activities rather than to a common task, which requires their presence in one place and
at one time’.
The most important factor in team is its effectiveness. Woodcock (1965) identified this and as a result he describes the characteristics of effective team work. These characteristics include:
- support and trust
- clear objectives and agreed goals
- openness and confrontation
- sound procedures
- cooperation and conflict
- appropriate leadership, etc.
Above all, Adair (1986) emphasises the importance of careful selection of team members. He noted that the professional competence of team member should not be more emphasised, but the ability to work as a team member, and the possession of ‘desirable personal attributes’ such as willingness to listen, flexibility of outlook, and the capacity to give and accept trust.
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 6
What do you mean by Team?
Groups are like relationships -you have to work at them. In the workplace, they constitute an important unit of activity but one whose support needs are only recently becoming understood. By making the group itself responsible for its own support, the responsibility becomes an acceleration for the group process. What is vital, is that these needs are recognized and explicitly dealt with by the group. Time and resources must be allocated to this by the group and by Management, and the group process must be planned, monitored and reviewed. , Just like any other managed process.
In this unit, efforts has been made to define group, the processes of group development, and bringing out differences between informal and formal groups, primary and secondary groups, and in-group and out-group’. We have also been able to describe team processes, group effectiveness and group cohesiveness. You now know that group is different from a random collection of individuals, and that in a group, three conditions are expected to be met: interaction among members, psychological awareness of one another and perception of themselves to be a group.
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
- . What do you understand by the term, “Group”?
- Differentiate between Informal and Formal Group.
- What do you understand by group cohesiveness?
- State the factors that encourage group cohesiveness.