a school . A pack of foraging baboons is a troupe . A
game is a group of whales. But what is a collection
of human beings called? A group . …. [C]ollections
of people may seem unique, but each possesses that
one critical element that defines a group:
connections linking the individual members….
[M]embers are linked together in a web of
interpersonal relationships. Thus, a group is
defined as two or more individuals who are
connected to one another by social relationships .
Donelson R. Forsyth (2006)
Attributes of a Group
Jarlath F. Benson ( 2001) identified a list
A set of people engage in frequent interactions
They identify with one another.
They are defined by others as a group.
They share beliefs, values, and norms about areas of common interest.
They define themselves as a group.
They come together to work on common tasks and for agreed purposes
From this she suggests that groups are intended
and organic. They are not some random experience
and as a result they have three crucial
There are parts
There is relationship between the parts
There is an organizing principle.
Types of groups
primary and secondary groups; and
planned and emergent groups.
Types of groups
Primary and secondary groups
Charles Horton Cooley (1909)
established the distinction between 'primary groups' and 'nucleated groups' (now better known as secondary groups):
Primary groups are clusters(group) of people like families or close friendship circles where there is close, face-to-face and intimate interaction. There is also often a high level of interdependence between members. Primary groups are also the key means of socialization in society, the main place where attitudes, values and orientations are developed and sustained.
Types of groups
Secondary groups are those in which members are rarely, if ever, all indirect contact. They are often large and usually formally organized. Trade unions and membership organizations such as the gymkhanas or clubs are examples of these. They are an important place for socialization, but secondary to primary groups.
Types of groups
Planned and emergent groups
Planned groups . Planned groups are
specifically formed for some purpose – either by their members, or by some external individual, group or organization.
Emergent groups . Emergent groups come into being relatively spontaneously where people find themselves together in the same place, or where the same collection of people gradually come to know each other through conversation and interaction over a period of time. (Cartwright and Zander 1968).
Some benefits of groups
Groups offer people the opportunity to work together on joint projects and tasks.
They allow people to develop more complex and larger-scale activities.
Groups can be significant sites of socialization and education – enabling people to develop a sense of identity and belonging, and to deepen knowledge, skills, and values and attitudes.
They can be places where relationships can form and grow, and where people can find help and support.
They can also be settings where wisdom flourishes. As James Suriwiecki (2004) has argued, it is often the case that 'the many are smarter than the few'.
Some dangers of groups
The socialization groups offer might be highly constraining and oppressive for some of their members.
They can also become environments that foster interpersonal conflict.
Furthermore, the boundaries drawn around groups are part of a process of excluding certain people (sometimes to their detriment) and creating inter-group conflict.
There is also evidence to show that groups can impact upon individuals in ways that warp their judgements and that lead to damaging decision making (what some commentators have talked about as 'groupthink') .
Bruce Wayne Tuckman (1938- ) gave this model in 1965. He was
later to add a fifth stage - adjourning (Tuckman and Jensen 1977)
Effective group communication
Three general categories have
been identified as critical to
successful group communication.
1.Commitment – members’ integrity and leadership qualities.
2.Communication – discussion,
listening, and facilitation.
3.Organisation – setting ground
rules for communication, decision making, meeting structure and record keeping.
“ A group isn’t so much about issues
as it is about relationships.”
Overcoming differences and working
towards a common goal requires an
inordinate commitment of time and
effort on the part of all participants. A
successful group demands integrity,
honesty, openness and respect from
all group members.
Member integrity is essentially a personal value, and is therefore difficult to define. However the following will help members evaluate their own and others’ performance. Traits of group members displaying integrity:
Respectful of others
Listens and learns
Willing to expose own vulnerability and weakness
Willing to set and follow rules
Considers new ideas and approaches
Has sincere concern for the issue(s)
Commits time and resource to the group
Stays attached to it for a longer time period
Is a team player
In addition, many groups find it useful to develop
ethical guidelines or rules to guide member interactions.
Express intentions and agendas honestly and openly.
Respect the views and interest of the others.
Do not make disparaging remarks about others,
organizations or the meeting itself.
Listen to others – especially those most opposed to you.
Avoid side conversations.
Selective distribution of material and side conversations are unacceptable.
Group materials are open to anyone, whether or not they are group members.
Be specific from the start about objectives – do not create false expectations.
Be committed to the success of the program.
Do what you say you will do.
Express needs not positions.
Encourage involvement in the group.
Communication is an important cornerstone of all groups, and often the variable, which determines their success or failure. Effective communication builds trust and mutual respect and facilitates learning. Although communication is frequently thought of in terms of written or oral dialogue, actions are also important forms of communication and indicate commitment to stated agreements.
Everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach. Listening is as important a part of communication as speaking. All participants should be aware of the following guidelines.
Stop talking and concentrate on what is being said.
Maintain eye contact.
Maintain a relaxed stance.
Review and summarize what has been said.
Ask for clarification.
Ask open-ended questions.
Don’t interrupt or change the subject.
Don’t concoct retorts or arguments in your head.
Avoid jumping to conclusions.
Try not to get defensive.
Constructive discussion doesn’t just happen
– it has to be cultivated. One of the first
tasks of any group is to reach agreement on
the topics / goals that are important to the
group.It is worth mentioning at this point that
your group could organize a basic workshop
on Strategic Planning or Vision Setting to
ensure the purpose and goals of the group
are shared, well understood and achievable.
Tips for constructive group discussion in meetings:
Always have a concrete agenda and use it.
Arrange tables and chairs so everyone is included and facing one another.
Remove physical barriers between people.
Allow each participant to talk uninterrupted for a period of time about his or her thoughts and feelings regarding the issue at hand.
Keep discussion focused on a single subject: stay on track.
Periodically summarize the discussion.
Frequently check for group consensus on issues, decisions.
Use flip charts or an overhead projector to display ideas and decisions.
Use a facilitator to guide discussion.
Methods of communication
Outside of the group setting, have a clear plan of what you are
communicating and the medium you are going to use. You must maintain
the circle of communication in any network, which will help maintain
relationships and unity.
Deciding on the best and most cost-effective way of getting in touch with
your members is an easy task.
You can survey your group to determine what methods they use, eg. E-mail, fax, phone, letter, newsletter, friends, flyers, etc.
You will find that a number of communication tools are required which need to be applied in a combination or alone depending on your communication goals. Leaflets, fliers, reminder notices, letters, e-mails, newsletters are all appropriate and useful forms of communication.
Notice of meetings, events and other information can be announced in newsletters, local papers and public notice boards, making sure you have appropriate lead times.
As the personal phone call is still the most superior method, you can develop a telephone tree in your group. This is a very effective way of keeping members in touch with each other.
Using a Telephone Tree
Each person on the telephone tree contacts two or three
nominated members and passes important messages along
the line. You could also develop a fax tree or e-mail group. In
this way, urgent and important reminders can quickly be