Group Dynamics: Basic Nature of Groups and How They Develop

Sections of This Topic Include

Is Your Gathering a Group or a Team?
Life Stages of a Team
Some Types of Teams You Could Use

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Do Your Gathering a Group or a Team?

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

This might seem like a silly question, but it is not. Gatherings of less than 10-12 people are considered by organizational development consultants to be a small group. Information in this section is most useful for forming and facilitating small groups of 10-12 people or less.

Groups that are larger than that range tend to have another level of complexity not apparent in small groups. For example, the nature and needs of larger groups are often similar to those of entire ongoing organizations. They have their own various subcultures, distinct subsystems (or cliques), diversity of leadership styles and levels of communication. While certain structures are often useful in small groups, they are absolutely necessary on an ongoing basis in larger groups. For example, larger groups should have a clearly established purpose that is continually communicated, and formal plans and policies about ongoing leadership, decision making, problem solving and communication.

Life Stages of a Team

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

When developing a team, it helps a great deal to have some basic sense of the stages that a typical team moves through when evolving into a high-performing team. Awareness of each stage helps leaders to understand the reasons for members’ behavior during that stage, and to guide members to behavior required to evolve the team into the next stage.

1. Forming

Members first get together during this stage. Individually, they are considering questions like, “What am I here for?”, “Who else is here?” and “Who am I comfortable with?” It is important for members to get involved with each other, including introducing themselves to each other. Clear and strong leadership is required from the team leader during this stage to ensure the group members feel the clarity and comfort required to evolve to the next stage.

2. Storming

During this stage, members are beginning to voice their individual differences, join with others who share the same beliefs, and jockey for position in the group. Therefore, it is important for members to continue to be highly involved with each other, including to voice any concerns in order to feel represented and understood. The team leader should help members to voice their views, and to achieve consensus (or commonality of views) about their purpose and priorities.

3. Norming

In this stage, members are beginning to share a common commitment to the purpose of the group, including to its overall goals and how each of the goals can be achieved. The team leader should focus on continuing to clarify the roles of each member, and a clear and workable structure and process for the group to achieve its goals.

4. Performing

In this stage, the team is working effectively and efficiently toward achieving its goals. During this stage, the style of leadership becomes more indirect as members take on stronger participation and involvement in the group process. Ideally, the style includes helping members to reflect on their experiences and to learn from them.

5. Closing and Celebration

At this stage, it is clear to members and their organization that the team has achieved its goals (or a major milestone along the way toward the goal). It is critical to acknowledge this point in the life of the team, lest members feel unfulfilled and skeptical about future team efforts.

Famous Models of Group Development
What Are the Stages of Group Development?
Stages of Development
Groups that Work (overview, including what groups are, their stages, etc.)
Group Development -- How It Impacts Small Business Work and Volunteer Activities
RE: Connecting

Some Types of Teams You Could Use

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

There are many types of teams you could use in the workplace. The type you choose depends very much on the nature of the results that the team is to accomplish.

1. Formal and informal teams

These are usually small groups of employees who come together to address some specific goal or need. Management appoints formal teams, that is, teams that are intentionally organized and resourced to address a specific and important goal or need. Informal teams are usually loosely organized groups of people who come together to address a non-critical, short-term purpose.

Team Building: Informal Groups at Work
Team Building: Formation of Informal Work Groups
Team Building: Leadership of Informal Work Groups
Team Building: Communications of Informal Work Groups (The Grapevine)
Team Building: Informal Group Cohesiveness
Team Building: Informal Group Norms -- Unspoken Rules
Team Building: Changing Informal Work Group/ Team Norms

2. Committees

Committees are organized to address, major ongoing functions or tasks in an organization, and the membership of the committees often is based on the official position of each of the members, for example, committees in Boards of Directors.

3. Problem-solving teams

These teams are formed to address a particular, major problem currently faced by the organization. Often, their overall goal is to provide a written report that includes recommendations for solving the problem. Membership often is comprised of people who perceive and/or experience the problem, as well as those who can do something about it.

4. Self-directed and self-managed teams

These types of teams are increasingly used where a) team members are working to address a complex challenge in a rapidly changing environment, and b) the strong ownership and participation of members are extremely important. These types provide great latitude in how members achieve the overall results to be achieved by the teams. The role of leader in a team might change during the team activities depending on where the team is in its stage of development (see below) and/or achieving is results.


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To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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Recommended Books

Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the business
3. Groups and teams in the business
4. Business organizations
5. As well as all functions within the business organization.

Many of the Library's materials about business, leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.
Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools customized for personnel in nonprofits to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the nonprofit
3. Groups and teams in the nonprofit
4. Nonprofit organizations
5. As well as all functions within the nonprofit organization.

Many of the Library's materials about nonprofit leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.

About Facilitation

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

About Teams

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See

Strategic Planning (Facilitating) -- Recommended Books

Organizational Development (Facilitating) -- Recommended Books




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