Much of the earlier research into group decision making suggested that the ideal group size is about seven. Fewer members might make faster decisions but are less likely to have the optimum mix of skills and abilities. With much larger groups, decisions can get bogged down with too many inputs, or individual contributions are minimized or lost entirely.
Recently, more flexibility is being seen in group size, with as many as 12 members being viewed as a desirable number for most of the types of teams discussed so far. Johnsonville Foods, a Wisconsin sausage-making firm, has self-managed teams of about a dozen. Titeflex, a Springfield, Massachusetts, manufacturer of fluid and gas holding systems, uses six- to ten-person de facto ďsmall business teams or manufacturing cells" to make its products. EDS project teams usually have eight to twelve members. Traditional work groups performing fairly routine, repetitive tasks requiring little coordination might function well with only one supervisor for a group of 50 to 75 employees. However, groups of this size tend to break naturally into smaller, informal groups, whether the formal structure dictates such a break or not.
In fact, for most groups trying to function as teams, 20 may be about as many members as the team can use effectively. Motivation may wane as meetings drag on and even the difficulty of finding an adequately sized meeting space makes larger teams less effective. A major problem in larger groups is free-riding, the tendency for some individuals to perform at less than their optimum in groups, relying instead on others to carry their share of the workload. Free-riding tends to increase as group size increases.
Composition of Groups
Regardless of the type or size of a group, none will be successful without the right mix of skills and abilities. Ensuring that group members have the necessary technical skills to perform a job may be one of a manager's or group leader's most important functions. At EDS, project leaders invest considerable time and effort working through both formal and informal channels to attract skilled team members to their teams. The accomplishment of this task is one of the key success factors of team leaders.
In team-oriented work environments, ensuring optimal team composition can be a massive task, and some organizations have put their computers to work to assist in the process. Cypress, a San Jose, California, computer chip maker, has developed a computer system that keeps track of all 1,500 employees as they crisscross between different functions, teams, and projects. Apple's Spider system instantly tells a manager whether an employee is available for a project, what his or her skills are, and where he or she is located in the company. EDS has a similar system, although the project team leaders seem to prefer the informal to the formal system of soliciting members.
Although the right mix of talents is important, in general, the more heterogeneous a group, the better it is likely to be able to solve problems. Groups with diverse membership may take longer to become cohesive, but are likely to be more productive in the long run.
1. Which of these statements expresses the main idea of the text?
a) Only a group of the ideal size can be successful.
b) Currently, there is considerable flexibility in group size.
c) The problem of free-riding is usual for large groups.
d) To be successful, a group of any size must have the best mix of talents.
2. Are these statements true or false? Correct the false ones.
a) Small groups may have the best possible mix of skills and abilities.
b) Currently, the ideal number of team members is considered to be about seven.
c) Only one supervisor may be needed for a large work group performing tasks that require much coordination.
d) Very large groups are expected to divide into smaller ones.
e) In large groups, some members try to free ride.
f) A group leader must have the necessary technical skills to perform a job.
g) Some organizations use computers to assist in ensuring optimal team composition.
h) At EDS, the project team leaders choose to use the formal system of seeking members.
i) Heterogeneous groups are usually more effective because their members become cohesive quickly enough.
3. Answer the questions.
a) What problems may arise in large groups?
b) What group size do they use at Johnsonville Foods? At Titeflex? At EDS?
c) Is the group size the only factor that influences the group performance?
d) What approach do they use at Cypress to ensure optimal team composition?
5. Write a summary of the text.
Stages of Group Development
How a team functions once it is formed largely determines its likelihood of success. The most highly talented teams must "gel" or they will not be successful. The same holds true for teams in business. Their success depends on how they develop, the norms that evolve in the group, the roles that members perform, and how well they perform a number of important group processes.
Groups, like people and even organizations, have life cycles. They are born, they develop, and most, eventually, are terminated. During this progression, groups pass through certain stages, although the stages may vary in duration from one situation to another, and sometimes even the sequence may be changed. Understanding how group progress can give a manager insight into behaviors needed to help the group function successfully at each stage. Although there are several models of group development, emphasizing different types of behaviors and orientations, one very useful depiction of the process includes five phases: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The leader's role is to help facilitate task and social interactions throughout the stages.
Forming. Group members meet for the first time or two in the forming stage and become acquainted with each other and familiarize themselves with the group's task. They may "test" others for potential friendships and mutual interests and see how others approach the task at hand. Emerging leadership functions and interdependencies are often a concern here. A formal group leader might encourage some informal interaction among group members at this stage. Many groups start, even within the first minute of group interaction, to form a strategy for addressing the group's task. This strategy often lasts through the first half of the groupís allotted time to deal with the task. The manager or team leader can sometimes facilitate this task approach by giving some thought and preliminary work to the task before the group meets, and by withholding the setting of the formal agenda for a period of time.
Storming. Conflict generally occurs during the storming stage as group members begin to assert their roles, jockey for leadership positions, and make known their feelings and thoughts about the task. Some members may challenge the leader's position or show hostility to those with whom they disagree or have personality clashes. Others may psychologically withdraw from the group. Cliques may form and subgroups may argue over task or relationship issues. The group leader should strive to keep everyone involved and communications lines open, thus emphasizing the importance of reasonably sized groups. He or she should also encourage members to manage and resolve conflict constructively rather than allowing it either to escalate or be subdued only to rise again later. If member roles and group norms are not successfully negotiated during the storming stage, then the group may never advance to a more productive level of functioning. It is during this stage that the groundwork for having a true team is laid because interaction patterns start evolving at this time.
Norming. Conflicts are largely resolved and harmony ensues during the norming stage, sometimes to the detriment of giving full consideration to minority opinions. In this stage, a sometimes tenuous balance of interpersonal forces is achieved. Members accept their roles, divide work tasks, have largely resolved leadership issues, and mostly share mutual expectations. The leader must promote a balance between maintaining harmony and continuing to strive to achieve the task at hand. The danger for a group at this time is that members may feel good about themselves but not be getting the job done. Most of the time, groups move through this stage fairly quickly.
Performing. A group reaches the performing stage when members have reached a level of maturity that facilitates total task involvement. Members concentrate on solving the problem or performing the task, and they listen and provide important inputs and feedback on issues. They are not afraid to offer suggestions, and they help other group members express their opinions. Conflicts at this stage are over legitimate task concerns rather than petty personality or power issues. Issues are confronted, not ignored. Members are clear on the goals of the group and the means of accomplishing the goals. During this stage, the leader should concentrate on task-oriented behaviors, while maintaining relationships through encouragement, reward, and positive communication.
Adjourning. The adjourning stage occurs when task forces, project teams, and committees complete their task and disband. At this stage, heightened emotion and some depression over separation from the group and its members are accompanied by positive feelings associated with task accomplishment. The leader may want to commemorate this stage with a ceremony to recognize not only the group's accomplishments, but also the positive associations and friendships. This emphasis on the positive should help promote future cohesiveness should the team or some of its members be reunited.
1. Which of these statements expresses the main idea of the text?
a) Groupsí success depends on how they develop, the norms that evolve in the group, the roles that members perform, and how well they perform a number of important group processes.
b) There are several models of group development
c) The process of group development includes five phases.
d) The leader's role is to help facilitate task and social interactions throughout the group development.
3. Find in the right column definitions of the terms.
1. Life cycle
a) the stage in which conflicts are resolved
b) the stage in which group members have reached a level of maturity
c) the stage in which task forces, project teams and committees complete their task and disband
d) the stage in which group members declare their roles and try to get into leadership positions
e) a series of stages a group passes through from being born till being terminated
f) the stage in which group members meet and familiarize themselves with the groupís task
4. Are these statements true or false? Correct the false ones.
a) The order of stages in the group development is invariable.
b) If a manager knows how groups develop, it helps him or her ensure the groupís success at each stage.
c) In the forming stage, leadership functions and interdependencies may be of interest to group members.
d) Only formal interaction is allowed in the forming stage.
e) The formal agenda for addressing the group's task is always set within the first minute of group interaction.
f) To keep each group member involved in communication during the storming stage, the group size must be rational.
g) The leader should subdue any conflicts in the group.
h) Minority opinions can be disregarded during the resolution of conflicts in the norming stage.
i) In the performing stage, there may be much disagreement among group members over trivial personality or power issues.
j) In the performing stage, there may be some uncertainty over the means of achieving the group goals.
k) Support, reward, and positive interaction are means of maintaining relationships between group members in the performing stage.
l) Members of the group may feel unhappy in the adjourning stage because the task has been accomplished.
m) If the team or some of its members are reunited, existing positive associations and friendships will promote future cohesiveness.
5. Answer the questions.
a) What does the word "gel" mean in the text?
b) What is the leader's role during the group development?
c) At what stage do group members familiarize themselves with the group's task?
d) How can the team leader help the group to form the task strategy?
e) In what cases may conflicts in the group arise during the storming stage?
f) Why is it so important to discuss member roles and group norms during the storming stage?
g) What processes take place in a group during the norming stage?
h) What threat may the group face in the norming stage?
i) What kind of behavior is characteristic of group members in the performing stage?
j) Why may the group leader want to have a commemorative ceremony in the adjourning stage?