Life Cycle of a Group

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Topic: Discuss the life cycle of a group, showing how the process involved in each stage can affect the overall effectiveness of any group in the performance of an assigned task.

A group is a collection of two or more people who, over a period of time develop shared norms of behavior, are interdependent, and interact with each other for the purpose of achieving some common goal or set of goals. There are two types of groups namely; a formal group and an informal group. For example, a formal group in an organization is deliberately formed to achieve specific objectives. This is achieved through organization, co-ordination and delegation of work load within the group. Within a formal group exist set rules and procedures to be adhered to, all information is declared and taken note of. All formal groups have a formal point of origin and an end point.

An informal group however is formed by personal preferences and satisfies psychological and social needs (Mullins, L. 2005). A lack of official information will quickly reveal informal groups within an organization. The grape vine will pass information swiftly through the organization. This cuts through the organization’s structure ignoring the formal channels of communication. The group members are spread across departments; they may be friends who do lunch, or smokers who meet outside the building. This networking is informal, and can benefit the individual member; each group has its own culture. These groups are cross sectional, and are formed without any involvement from the formal structure (Mullins, L. 2005).

According to B.W.Tuckman (1965), as a group develops towards an effective, productive and healthy team it will pass through a number of distinct and natural sequences of stages. Each stage has both specific a task and socio-emotional issues. Knowledge of these stages and relevant behaviors can assist greatly in the understanding of the needs of the group. By understanding this, one can ask the right questions to discover at what stage the team is and what needs to be done to progress its development. The five stages of a group’s life cycle as defined by B.W.Tuckman (1965) are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Each of these stages is unique and is characterized by its own set of distinctive behaviors and issues for the team and the leader (Tony Chapman et al).

The first stage of the life cycle of a group is a stage commonly referred to as “forming” or testing and dependency stage. Forming is the initial meeting stage of proposed members of the group just coming together. The term “testing” refers to an attempt by group members to discover what interpersonal behaviors are acceptable in the group based on the reactions of other group members. It is at this first set of encounters the members of the group decide explicitly on the purpose of the formation of the group and formal rules may be set. At this stage, members establish base level expectations, norms and sort common goals that are agreed upon. The group also begins the process of contact and bonding, and development of trust within its members. Members identify similarities in behavior and may even form sub groups or even allies based on such similarities or differences. Individual roles and responsibilities are usually not set and still unclear to its members. This forming stage of the group, also referred to as the “childhood” stage of the group because of its dependency, is often characterized by feeling of shyness, uncertainty, anxiety, anticipation and diffidence among the members.

An extravert member may rapidly assume some kind of leadership (B.W. Tuckman) in order to commence progression of the group. The leadership of the group however, can be set either by council, members of the group themselves or leadership of the group can be done simultaneously, but must be done in order to provide some sort of structure for the group. There is usually high...
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