The aims of this assignment, are to define the term ‘groups’ within the work environment, and discuss the difference between informal and formal groups. Using Tuckman’s (1965) model the way groups form will be examined and also used to discuss the effectiveness of group working. Finally the advantages and disadvantages of groups will be discussed. Throughout the assignment personal experiences will be used and referred to as appropriate.
Explanation of the Term ‘Group’ and Description of ‘Informal’ and ‘Formal’ Groups. Handy (1993) describes a group as ‘any collection of people who perceive themselves to be a group’, whilst Shaw (1981) after reviewing 80 definitions of a group, says ‘ a group is defined as two or more people who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person’. Groups are typically separated into two main categories – formal and informal.
Formal groups are the units established by the management as part of an organisation structure. They are defined in terms of their purpose and roles, they are official in the sense that they have appropriate authority, and they are provided with financial and physical resources. The principal function of a formal group is to further the aims and objectives of the organisation as laid down in policies and mission statements.
A functional analyses described by Cartwright and Zander (1968) describes, a group as one whose members are committed to a set of values that define the overall pattern of activity (meaning), have accumulated or generated the resources necessary for the task at hand (resources), have worked out an appropriate form of role differentiation and developed a sufficient level of morale for the task (integration) and have sufficient control in the form of leadership to coordinate the use of resources by the members to attain specific roles (goal attainment).
Informal groups tend to be employee centred groups whose aims and intentions may be different to those of the official organisation. They tend to draw their norms from themselves, their first loyalty is to their fellow group members, their goals are decided as to what is right for them, their behaviour is derived from interpersonal relationships, they are less permanent, primarily meet social needs, and their group leadership is likely to be exercised on a charismatic basis rather than authoritarian one (Brown 1998).
To illustrate this using my own personal experience, I have chosen an example from when I was an employee at the Isle of Man Post office, and was asked to revise all delivery duties out of the office from where I was based. Throughout this assignment I shall refer to this example. This saw the formation of a formal group within the existing workplace, as a result of the organisation wanting a revision of duties to make us more efficient, but also due to demographic changes through housing development within the catchment area.
For this task we were provided with the physical and financial resources that we needed, e. g. computer software and paid work time. We were therefore ultimately furthering the aims of the organisation, we needed to attain specific goals and we had an appointed leader. It was still a group however, that did have a personal agenda, in that every individual had an interest in how each delivery round would change, and effect their daily working routine. 3. Group Development There are many theories for group development.
These describe different orders of development (Bales & Strodtbeck 1951; Bennis & Shepard 1956; Schutz 1958; Tuckman 1965). Some researchers maintain that there is no normal sequence of phases (Gersick 1988), while others argue that there is no evidence for any phases in group development (Cissna 1984), although there may be continual growth as a group becomes more cohesive and better able to achieve a task (Barker 1991). However, for the purposes of this section of the assignment, Tuckman’s (1965) model is going to outlined and discussed. 3. 1. Tuckman’s Model
Tuckman (1965) devised a model for considering how groups changed over time. He identified four key stages for group development, which was later joined by a fifth stage (Tuckman & Jenson 1977). These were: 3. 1. 1. Stage 1 – Forming The first stage – forming- refers to the initial formation of the group, and is where the group may still be seen as a collection of individuals. It’s also where tasks have to be understood, resources and information acquired, individuals have to get to know one another and no one will want to seem less informed than the other.
There is still considerable reliance on the leader at this stage. Using my personal experience, although each individual of my selected group did know each other, there was to be a change in the relationships as everybody now had to work together to achieve an end result, regardless of whether we had previously ‘got on’ as a group. As the appointed leader, I was looked upon to provide the lead, and achieve the best possible result for all involved. 3. 1. 2. Stage 2 – Storming
The storming stage represents that period when problems begin to be faced more openly than in the earlier stage. Individuals begin to question or challenge the task and have to confront emotional issues between themselves. This stage can lead to disagreement and conflict within the group. This was true within my own group, as each member strove to ensure that their own personal agenda was met. Each member of the group stood to have their daily working practice changed, and thereby stood to gain or lose from the outcome.
Personal feelings were therefore very much in evidence. 3. 1. 3. Stage 3 – Norming This period of relative upheaval then moves into a stage 3, where conflicts are settled, new standards are developed by members, and co-operation begins. The group agrees individual requirements and expectations and develops their own forms of acceptable behaviour. This stage did see some agreement between my group members, as an outline of the duties began to emerge, and it was evident that most members would benefit from the revision.
4. Stage 4 – Performing Stage 3 paves the way for the most productive stage, – performing. The group is now working effectively both in terms of its goals and its internal relationships. Teamwork develops and solutions are found. Stage 4 saw the completion of the revision, and was where the group was working together in a co-operative manner. Members had their personal agenda’s met in a fair and democratic way. For the few who were not initially happy, solutions were found via group consultation. 3. 1. 5. Stage 5 – Adjourning
The last stage, underlines the fact that a group’s life will eventually come to an end as people move on elsewhere in the organisation or as the original purpose is attained and the job is completed. As my group was formed for one task alone, on completion of the revision, adjournment did take place within the group, and the large group returned to the more informal groups that had previously existed within the workplace. 4. Group Effectiveness The measurement of group effectiveness depends very much on the answer to the question ‘for whom is it effective’ (Handy 1965).
Productivity and the fulfilment of task and organisational goals are important measurement factors for the organisation, whilst group member satisfaction is considered more of an important marker for its members (Handy 1965). In order to maximise a group’s effectiveness and ensure optimum efficiency for the organisation within the workplace, it is important for a leader to have the ability to identify any characteristics that make a group effective or ineffective. In order to examine and assess group effectiveness, both quantifiable and qualitative factors will be discussed throughout this section of the assignment.
4. 1. Quantifiable Factors Quantifiable factors are characteristics of work place groups that are easier to measure than qualitative, as they have a measurable outcome. An effective group has a low turnover of members, high attendance and low absenteeism, high quality work output and productivity. However it is still able to achieve the targets of its individual members (Argyle 1989). These positive outcome factors are measurable and desirable for both the organisation and the group members.
In contrast an ineffective group would be one where group membership has a high turnover and absenteeism, group output is low and poor quality, time is wasted due to disputes between members and individual targets are not met. Flynn (1996) uses the example of Hallmark cards to illustrate measurable success from effective group behaviour. Despite being the largest greeting cards manufacturer in the world Hallmark remains a family group run business which puts its achievement down to successful communication and group co-operation, so much so that through a profit sharing programme employees now own one third of the company.