Elements of an effective group. An effective group has several essential elements: – positive interdependence (group members are linked with each other and are aware of this connectedness, they feel that their personal success depends on group success and group success depends on their personal success); – two-way communication (exists when communication channels work in both directions and feedback is appreciated); – distributed leadership (having more than one source of leadership, seeing every member of a group as an expert who is capable of making a difference);
– power based on expertise (those in power are those who hold the expertise; expertise becomes a source of power and an expert can influence others). Comprising all these elements, a group is “more than the sum of its parts” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p. 20). These characteristics foster creativity and open-mindedness, for everyone can freely express his or her thoughts feeling that the feedback is appreciated. Such an environment allows challenging one another’s views, which helps seeing problems from different points of view and finding the optimal decision.
2) Team versus Group. Positive synergy is what distinguishes teams from groups. A group is a collective of individuals who share information and make decisions but who do not have a need for joint work. A group’s performance is the sum of its members’ performance. At the same time, a team is a collective of individuals united by a common goal and the need for joint efforts. A team’s performance is more than the sum of its members’ performance. Team members depend on each other and are interconnected, whereas each of group members primarily works on their own.
Different tasks require different types of groups – for some, joint effort is not necessarily needed and the summation of individual performances of experts will bring the desired results; in other cases, working together is absolutely necessary for achieving the goal. It primarily concerns creative tasks that require innovation and more than one perspective. In such cases, teams can produce a better result than groups. To work in teams, not merely expertise is needed but also the desire and the ability to collaborate (Lecture 1. 1). 3) Team Effectiveness. Effective teams have the following characteristics:
– the goals are clear and coordinated with the individuals’ goals so that each team member is committed to achieving the team goals; – conflicts are not suppressed but managed as the sources of creativity and innovation; – there is two-way communication instead of one-way communication, open relationships rather than closed relationships, and feedback is asked and provided openly; – all team members participate in group work, nobody is left behind; – leadership is shared among team members; – decision-making and problem solving involves all team members and participation is encouraged at all levels;
– risk taking is encouraged and mistakes are treated as the sources of learning rather than failures that deserve punishment (Lecture 1. 3). This is a rather long list but meeting all these criteria is not that complex as it seems to be, for most of these characteristics are interconnected and acquiring one entails another. For me, open relationships and two-way communication are the crucial skills; they involve opportunities for providing feedback, open discussion of goals, of conflict situations, participation in decision-making, etc.
These require open mindedness and results in group’s being “more than the sum of its parts”, which is an essential characteristic of a work team that distinguishes it from a work group (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p. 20). 4) Sources and Value of Diversity. There are three major sources of diversity: – demographic characteristics (ethnicity, race, religion, sex, language, age, social class, regional differences); – personality characteristics (educational level, different attitudes, lifestyles, etc. ); – abilities and skills (expertise in different areas, different technical or social skills, etc.
). Diversity can be a source of conflicts, misunderstandings, and hostility. However, if there is tolerance and respect to others, diversity is a powerful source of learning and creativity. If the mind is open, diversity brings in many new ideas and perspectives. People of different cultures and/or backgrounds often see the same things very differently, and acknowledging their different perspectives allows adopting a new creative and innovative approach. 5) Avoidance of Controversy. Controversy is often avoided in groups and perceived as a negative and stressful phenomenon.
Thus, fear and ignorance stops group members from engaging in controversy. Yet, it should be valued and even stimulated. Controversy is an important part of any decision-making process. It means that more than one view on the problem is presented. Controversy helps weigh all possible views and find the optimal decision. In most situations, there is more than one view on the problem, and controversy helps find out the advantages and disadvantages of each view. Without an opportunity for controversy, the drawbacks of the chosen position may remain unnoticed and lead to tragic consequences.
6) Groupthink (how does leadership identify and prevent? ). Groupthink is one of the factors hindering group decision-making. It takes place when a group adopts an uncritical view of its own judgments. Usually it comes out when the group is homogeneous, values consensus, and has little time for producing a decision. It can be identified by its symptoms which include: – belief that their judgments are right; – illusion of invulnerability; – collective rationalizing of poor decisions; – sharing stereotypes concerning out-groups;
– self-censorship; – maintaining illusion of unanimity; – exercising pressure on those who disagree; – protecting authority (PowerPoint Lecture 2. 2). Some of the strategies to prevent negative effects of groupthink include: resort to the help of outside experts; one of group members should be assigned a role of a critical evaluator who will question all decisions; the leaders should avoid making their own preferences explicit; allow time for discussion and elaborating alternative decisions. 7) Group Norms and how they are created.
Group norms are implicit or explicit modes of conduct within the group that guide group members’ behavior without the direct application of power. Norms establish the rules and define what can be regarded as acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Group members should conform to group norms if they want to be a part of the group. Those who disobey usually experience pressure from the other group members up to the exclusion from the group. Group norms are created as a result of interaction between individuals and agreement on what can be considered right. They experience influence from the dominant culture in which the group operates.
It is a kind of synergy of cultural norms, adopted organizational practices, and individual norms of every group member. Group norms regulate things from how much one can talk at a group meeting to how many times a day one can drink tea without being suspected to be lazy. 8) Experiential Learning (Lewin’s 12 principles). Experiential learning is, in short, learning through experience. It helps change learner’s attitudes, behavioral patterns, and action theories. Lewin defined 12 principles of experiential learning which describe the process of experiential learning and its effects.
This kind of learning is more effective than simply acquiring new information. One of Lewin’s principles states that people tend to believe more in knowledge they discovered themselves than in knowledge taught by others. Experience is a form of active learning that is more effective than a passive process and that is able to change one’s attitudes and action theories. If action theories and attitudes do not change, the effect of learning will be only temporary. For changes in attitudes to occur, perception of oneself and one’s social environment must change.
This kind of change can be easier achieved in a group context than in an individual context, and this context has to be a friendly and supportive one in order to facilitate the person’s ability to experiment with new attitudes. In fact, these 12 principles are the elaboration of the simple truth that we all learn from mistakes and experience. Like a child gets to know that fire hurts from firsthand experience rather than from the precautions of adults, we all tend to acquire new knowledge and change our behavioral patterns according to our own experience rather than taking somebody’s theories on trust.
9) Epistemic Curiosity. Epistemic curiosity is a state of mind that forces the person to search actively for more information in an attempt to relieve tension from conceptual conflict. Conceptual conflict or discrepancies in the existent practices and conditions point out that there is an information gap, which results in uncertainty and dissatisfaction. To eliminate dissatisfaction, the person strives to get more information and fill the information gap thus explaining to himself the discrepancies and acquiring certainty. Thus, epistemic curiosity is a powerful drive for knowledge.
It is one of the ways by which controversies can be resolved. Stimulating data gathering and learning, it helps find optimal ways and grounds for adopted decisions. 10) Group Dynamics (what does this mean? ). The term group dynamics refers to the study of group development and of interactions within the group. Understanding group dynamics, one can diagnose how well the group is functioning, what can be done to improve performance, and intervene to make the required changes. It requires understanding of group processes and stages of group development.
The essential point here is that the group is viewed not as a collection of individuals but as a real unit bound by positive interdependence. Simply put, group dynamics means the development of group over time, the processes that take place within the group, the relationships and interactions, changing attitudes, etc. B. A. R. T. analysis is a useful tool for studying group dynamics as it reveals major dimensions: boundaries (in terms of time, territory, tasks), authority (both formal and informal), roles (multiple formal and informal roles), and tasks (visions, missions, different understandings of the task, practical challenges, etc.
). 11) Stages of Group Development. Different authors describe different stages of group development. Tuckman elaborated a 5-stage model that comprises forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Johnson and Johnson (2009) list 7 stages of group development: (1) defining and structuring procedures, (2) conforming to procedures, (3) recognizing mutuality and building trust, (4) rebelling and differentiating, (5) committing to and taking ownership for the goals, procedures, and other members, (6) functioning maturely and productively, and (7) terminating (p.
28). Both models describe group development from its formation to its dismissal, but Johnson and Johnson’s model is a more elaborated and detailed one. In fact, it breaks the initial stage of forming to three stages that include defining procedures, conforming to procedures, and building trust. Thus, it underlines the normative element at the initial stages of group development. It is interesting also that according to both models rebelling, or storming, should take place before the group begins to function maturely.
It once again proves the value of conflict. 12) Leadership Styles. There are three major leadership styles: – autocratic, when the leader dictates his will and makes decision by himself without consulting group members; these decisions are enforced then; – democratic, when the leader encourages involvement of group members into decision-making process, values opinions of others, and takes into account different views; – laissez-faire, when the leader’s participation in decision making is minimal and group members are allowed maximum freedom.
It cannot be concluded that one of these styles is better than the other, for the choice of style usually depends on the situation, on the leader’s personal abilities, and on company values. Some situations require autocratic leadership (for example, when there is no time for discussion and the decision, either good or bad, has to be made and implemented quickly), whereas in other cases democratic or laissez-faire leadership will work better. Giving freedom to employees make them feel valued and trusted which stimulates them. 13) Sources of Power.
There are five major sources of power: – legitimate power, having its source in the person’s position (group members believe that the person has a right to influence others in virtue of his or her position in the organization); – reward power, having its source in the person’s ability to reward certain types of behavior; – coercive power, having its source in the threat of punishment; – expert power, having its source in the skills and knowledge of a person (group members believe that the person has a right to influence others in virtue of his or her expertise);
– referent power, having its source in person’s being liked and respected by others (group members comply out of respect). Legitimate, reward, and coercive power are usually associated with a formal position of the person, whereas expert power and referent power have its sources in the person’s abilities. Coercive power is very likely to produce resistance, and referent power results in commitment to the person. For leaders and managers, it is better to combine more than one source of power and have expert and/or referent power in addition to power based on formal position.
In this case the followers will comply more willingly. 14) Organizational Culture. Organizational culture is a set of basic assumptions, norms, values, and behavioral patterns that regulate how people interact within an organization and with outsiders. It comprises rules, customs, symbols, visions, organizational environment and structures, etc. It is formed under the influence of the national culture, the management beliefs and values, and the sum of individual beliefs. None of these factors can form organizational culture on itself, but each of them can influence the formation and development of organizational culture.
In fact, organizational culture is what distinguishes one organization from another. It is strong when it can stimulate a sense of belonging in the employees. Changing organizational culture is a very complex task that requires much time and care. The attempts to impose new values at once are likely to rouse a good deal of resistance. 15) Social Interdependence. Social interdependence among group members is the essence of a group. It means that one’s outcomes depend on the others, and vice versa.
Social interdependence theory states that the type of interdependence existing in a group defines the type of interaction among members and, therefore, the results. Positive interdependence facilitates promotive interaction, when group members promote each other’s efforts to achieve the goal. Negative interdependence facilitates oppositional interaction when group members oppose and obstruct each other’s efforts to achieve the goal. When there is no interdependence, no interaction occurs, and group members focus on their individualistic efforts.
Social interdependence makes a group a whole, because when a group member cannot achieve a goal on his own he has no choice but to interact with others. Positive interaction results in higher level of performance, because it creates supportive and collaborative working environment that stimulates each member’s efforts. 16) Gaining and loosing trust. Trust is a complex notion that is difficult to define, but without trust normal functioning of a group is impossible. Distrust increases competition and often results in conflict leading to destructive consequences. To gain trust, risk and confirmation are necessary.
Risk and disconfirmation lead to losing trust. Thus, in both cases risk is an essential factor. A person should risk by disclosing his personal thoughts and feelings to another person, and in case his openness is accepted trust is built, whereas when the person’s openness is betrayed trust is destroyed. Trust is easier destroyed than built. It is enough to betray one’s feelings only once to lose trust, but it takes much time and efforts to restore it. Therefore, one needs to behave very carefully in order not to destroy trust and not abuse the other’s vulnerability. 17) Superordinate Identity (4-steps).
Developing a superordinate identity is one of the four steps of the process of recognizing and valuing diversity in groups. This process includes: (1) appreciating one’s own identity (culture, religion, gender, etc. ), (2) appreciating the others’ identities; (3) developing a superordinate identity, and (4) learning a pluralistic set of values. The superordinate identity is the summation of all personal identities existent in the group; it unites and comprises diverse values in a single group identity. It is based on a pluralistic set of values and does not exclude any of the personal identities of group members.
It helps overcome otherness and value differences. 18) Language Sensitivity. Being language sensitive means understanding which words and expressions are appropriate and which are inappropriate for communication with diverse groups and people of different backgrounds. It is clear that we communicate differently with our friends than with our boss. Similarly, what is good for people of one background may be inappropriate in communication with people of a different background? To avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication, individuals should heighten their language sensitivity and avoid using language that can be abusing for others.
In some cases, the difference between communication patterns is obvious (like in the example with friends and boss); in other situations, we may not even be aware of differences (for example, when communicating with people from different cultures who can be used to absolutely different communication patterns). Therefore, language sensitivity often requires not merely “sensitivity” as it is but sensitivity supported by knowledge about different cultures. 19) Egocentrism. Egocentrism is the opposite of perspective-taking, or adhering to one’s own point of view so that other viewpoints are ignored.
Egocentric person may even not be aware of the other points of view and of possible limitations of his or her own perspective. One’s own views are accepted uncritically whereas others’ views are criticized, and valued only if they agree with one’s own (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p. 297). Egocentrism limits the ability to see things objectively and therefore hinders decision-making process. When each member is uncritical about his personal views, a competition develops that aims not at producing the optimal decision but at proving that “my” view is the best one and making others comply.
It often results in low-quality decisions. 20) Team Ethics. Team ethics is a set of moral principles adopted in a team that govern members’ behavior and define what is right. In this respect, it is related to organizational culture and group norms, for it also relies on common values. Team members are expected to comply with these moral principles, for unethical behavior is never praised. Team ethics develops alongside with team culture and experiences the influence of ethical systems adopted in the national culture and of the ethical beliefs of management and team members.
However, it is usually more than a sum or a compromise of many ethical considerations. Team ethics should not level off individual ethical systems; it should rather provide a more elevated and demanding understanding of what is right. For team ethics to create a collaborative and supportive environment, it has to comprise such values as respect for others, acknowledging each member’s rights and needs, valuing liberty and diversity, respect for human rights, etc. 21) 5 steps to effective problem solving. Five steps to effective problem solving include:
1) identify the problem (formulating a single question the answer to which is likely to resolve the problem; that is why this tactics is also called Single Question Format); 2) create a collaborative setting (an agreement on principle for discussion should be reached and any assumptions and biases brought to surface); 3) identify and analyze the issues (to fully understand the nature of the problem, some minor issues, or sub-questions, should be identified and discussed); 4) identify possible solutions (several possible courses of action as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages should be defined);
5) resolve the single question (choose the optimal solution among those proposed that answers the single question). (Lecture 2. 4. ) This approach has a benefit of focusing attention on the most important issue without dispersing it to minor issues. Defining a problem correctly is a half of success in problem-solving. When the single question is defined correctly, it gets to the root of the problem, and answering it is likely to resolve all minor problems associated with the greater one. 22) Reflections on Virtual Groups and Teams. During this course, we participated in virtual groups.
This experience is very different from participating in face-to-face communication. Many limitations impede group development. First of all, virtual team members communicate directly with each other only rarely, which gives only few opportunities for knowing each other better and developing trust and confidence. Then, technical issues (like the problems some of us had with microphones) may interrupt communication from time to time. Finally, I think that the lack of nonverbal communication is also an obstacle, for we often perceive the other’s feelings and intentions from facial expressions, eye gaze, etc.
In this case, we only had to rely on words. I believe that all these obstacles result in the need for more time for a group to become a team and for trust and confidence to develop compared to face-to-face communication. However, the need for joint work and effort united us, and by the end of the course we were feeling quite confident. Therefore, to unite virtual groups, there is a need for regular and frequent communication and tasks that require joint efforts. References Johnson, D. W. , & Johnson, F. P. (2009). Joining together: Group theory and group skills. 10th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
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