A group’s success is a reflection of individual skills, roles, communication styles, culture, and power. Setting clear and measurable goals is essential to the success of a group. A group is effective when it has a clear sense of where it is going. The cohesiveness of a group drives it toward its goals.
According to Cannon, Griffith, and Guthrie (2006), “a group is a defined set of individuals who interact with each other for a common purpose” (p. 3). This “group” is so defined for its following characteristics and criteria:
- It has the capability to outperform sets of individuals doing similar work.
- It is able to make superior decisions because it draws on more information.
- It is more inspired because it can jointly brainstorm.
- The level of production is greater as synergies develop
- Formal social structure.
- Face-to-face interaction.
- 2 or more persons.
- Common goals.
Group Structure and Goals
Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded (SMART), (Cannon et al., 2006). Specific goals are clear, measurable goals allow assessment as to whether or not the goal has been attained, attainable goals require effort on the group’s part, but are still within reach, relevant goals are within the ability and responsibility of the group, and time-bound goals have a time limit or schedule.
Roles (Formal, Informal, Leadership, Task, and Maintenance)
Roles are a set of expectations defining the behaviors of an occupant of a group position as related to other positions. Depending on the task, each group member has formal and informal roles.
Norms are implicit and explicit rules that tell us how to behave in various contexts and also create order and stability. They make social settings more predictable by acknowledging what is expected and thereby reduce anxiety (Cannon et al., 2006).
In order for a group to be successful and function effectively, it must maintain communication (Cannon et al., 2006).
The process of communication is complex and highly idiosyncratic (Cannon et al., 2006). Different people can hear the same message and have completely different interpretations. The practice of reflection can help group members slow down the interpretation and evaluation of messages so that understanding is more accurate and responses are more thoughtful.
Conflict is a hostile confrontation which occurs as a result of two or more individuals striving for their own outcomes with little or no regard for the needs of others. It is natural and expected that a group encounter conflict from individual differences. It is the group’s energy source. If conflict is managed, it will nurture creativity and individuality. Managing conflict is the basis for quality problem solving activities in a group.
Quality solutions have a modeling place; an effective group spends time figuring out a model or guidelines to solve problems.
Cultural-Context Characteristics (culture and diversity)
On one level, all human beings are unique and, therefore, diverse or different from each other. In order to identify general differences between people, differences in diversity is classified as visible and nonvisible (Cannon et al., 2006). Group members are likely to come from a variety of work backgrounds (nonvisible-functional differences). A group may consist of males and females (visible-demographic differences). Some may have many years worth of experience, and some may have only one or two years of experience (nonvisible-functional differences). Some may have advanced college degrees, some may have no college degree (nonvisible-functional differences).
Sufficient clarity of direction is important for enabling a team to orient itself to a task (Cannon et al., 2006).
Without power, leadership is impossible. Power is the capacity to influence one’s environment and the people in it. Certain group members may have a greater capacity for power and control over others.
Effective organizations pay special attention to how members work together, which roles they fill and whether members are contributing equally. Through group process observation and analysis, problems can be identified before they escalate, hopefully alleviating the need for a major overhaul as the project progresses.
Cannon, M. D., Griffith, B. A., & Guthrie, J. W. (2006). Effective groups: Concepts and skills to meet leadership challenges. Allyn & Bacon
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development