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Small Group Communication


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  • 1. Small Group Communication A Presentation by Rajiv Bajaj
  • 2. Definition of a Small Group
    • Has 3 Characteristics – Size, Interaction & Goals
    • SIZE
    • Most researchers define a small group as having at least 3 and no more than 12 or 15 members
    • Needs to have at least 3 members, otherwise it would simply be a dyad
  • 3.
    • With 3 members, coalitions can be formed and some kind of organization is present
    • Too large a group (more than 12 or 15 members) inhibits group members' ability to communicate with everyone else in the group
  • 4.
    • Group's members must be able to communicate freely and openly with all of the other members of the group
    • Groups will develop norms about discussion and group members will develop roles which will affect the group's interaction
  • 5.
    • GOALS
    • A group must have a common purpose or goal and they must work together to achieve that goal
    • The goal brings the group together and holds it together through conflict and tension
  • 6. Use & Value of Small Groups
    • 68% of Fortune 1000 companies use self-managing or high-performance teams
    • Average supervisor spends around 40% of the workweek in meetings & conferences. An average executive spends almost 700 hours a year in meetings !
    • Most large companies attribute major cost savings to solutions provided by such working-groups or Quality Circles
  • 7. Why do people join a group?
    • Refers to the idea that two heads (or more) are better than one; OR
    • "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," which also refers to group synergy
    • Groups are often capable of producing higher quality work and better decisions than can an individual working alone
  • 8.
    • Group may be more willing to take on a large project than would an individual
    • With increased ability to perform work, group can provide encouragement and support to its members while working on a big project
  • 9.
    • Individuals often join a group to meet their interpersonal needs
    • William Schutz has identified three such needs: Inclusion, Control, and Affection
    • Inclusion is the need to establish identity with others – the need to be accepted by others
  • 10.
    • Control is the need to exercise leadership and prove one's abilities. Groups provide outlets for this need
    • Some individuals do not want to be leaders. For them, groups provide the necessary control over aspects of their lives
    • Affection is the need to develop relationships with people. Groups are an excellent way to make friends and establish relationships
  • 11. Types of Small Groups
    • Groups form to accomplish some objective
    • Objective may be to complete some kind of task or it may be to promote interpersonal relationships between group members
    • Many groups, however, fulfill both of these functions
  • 12.
    • While all groups will have both social and task dimensions, some groups are predominantly social in their orientation
    • Examples of these groups would be families and social clubs
    • These provide for our safety & solidarity needs and they help us develop self-esteem
  • 13.
    • Work groups function to complete a particular task
    • The task dimension is emphasized. Group members pool their expertise to accomplish the task
    • Examples - Workplaces, Campus Organizations, or Juries etc.
    • As per Ivan Steiner, there are several types of Work Groups
  • 14. Types of Work Groups
    • All group members perform the same activity and pool their results at the end
    • An example of this would be gathering signatures for a petition drive or mobilizing support for a particular cause
  • 15.
    • Members perform different, but related, tasks that allow for completion of a goal
    • Every group member must complete their individual task in order for the group task to be completed
    • Example of this would be an assembly line, in which each worker performs tasks that together build a completed car
  • 16.
    • Members meet to determine the best alternative for a problem or issue
    • There are two types of disjunctive tasks:
    • Judgment Task: Group members must choose one correct answer from all alternatives
    • Decision-Making Task: Group members must choose best alternative from a set of options. There is no one correct answer for a decision-making group
  • 17.
    • Some groups form spontaneously , such as a group of friends
    • Other groups are contrived , that is, they are formed for a specific purpose
    • Organized clubs, social groups, or committees are contrived groups
  • 18. Small Group Development
    • Researchers have studied groups to understand how they develop
    • Several different models have been suggested, but they all tend to follow a similar progression
    • The most common models include Tubb’s Theory, Fisher’s Model & Tuckman’s Model
  • 19. Tubbs's Small Group Development Theory
    • 1. Orientation 2. Conflict 3. Consensus 4. Closure
    • Orientation - Group members get to know each other, start to talk about the problem, examine the limitations & opportunities of the project
    • Conflict - A necessary part of a group's development. Allows the group to evaluate ideas and helps them avoid conformity & groupthink
  • 20.
    • Consensus - Conflict ends in the consensus stage, when group members compromise, select ideas & agree on alternatives
    • Closure - The final result is announced and group members reaffirm their support of the decision
  • 21. Fisher's Small Group Development Theory
    • 1. Orientation 2. Conflict 3. Emergence 4. Reinforcement
    • Orientation - Group members get to know each other & experience primary tension – the awkward feeling people have before communication rules & expectations are established
    • Groups should take time to learn about each other and feel comfortable communicating around new people
  • 22.
    • Conflict - This phase is marked by secondary tension, or tension surrounding the task at hand
    • Group members will disagree with each other and debate ideas
    • Remember that conflict is good, because it helps the group achieve positive results
  • 23.
    • Emergence - Outcome of the group's task and its social structure become apparent
    • Reinforcement - Group members bolster their final decision by using supportive verbal and nonverbal communication
  • 24. Tuckman's Small Group Development Theory
    • 1. Forming 2. Storming 3. Norming 4. Performing 5. Adjourning
    • Forming - Group members learn about each other and the task at hand
    • Storming - As group members become more comfortable with each other, they will engage each other in arguments and vie for status in the group. These activities mark the storming phase
  • 25.
    • Norming - Group members establish implicit or explicit rules about how they will achieve their goal
    • They address the types of communication that will or will not help with the task
    • Performing - Groups reach a conclusion and implement the conclusion
    • Adjourning - As the group project ends, the group disbands in the adjournment phase
  • 26. Poole's Small Group Development Theory
    • 1. Task Track 2. Topic Track 3. Relation Track 4. Breakpoint
    • Marshall Scott Poole & his colleagues have found that group development is often more complicated than the 3 previous models indicate
    • He has argued that groups jump back & forth between three tracks – task , topic, and relation
  • 27.
    • The three tracks can be compared to the intertwined strands of a rope
    • Task Track - Concerns the process by which the group accomplishes its goals
    • Topic Track - Concerns the specific item the group is discussing at the time
    • Relation Track - Deals with the interpersonal relationships between group members
  • 28.
    • At times, the group may stop its work on the task and work instead on its relationships
    • When the group reaches consensus on all three tracks at once, it can proceed in a more unified manner as the 3 previous models illustrate
    • Breakpoints - These occur when a group switches from one track to another
    • Shifts in the conversation, adjournment, or postponement are examples of breakpoints
  • 29. Decision Making
    • Developed by John Dewey, reflective thinking involves a careful, systematic approach to a problem
    • Groups who use reflective thinking to make their decisions use a six-step guide called the "standard agenda".
  • 30.
    • 1. Problem identification - What is the problem? What is wrong with the current situation?
    • 2. Problem analysis - View the current situation as a balance between restraining forces and helping forces. What are the forces in play in your group's situation?
    • 3. Criteria selection - What are the goals of the final decision?
  • 31.
    • 4. Solution generation - Generate as many solutions as possible. Avoid groupthink by listing many solutions
    • 5. Solution evaluation and selection - Measure each solution against the criteria from step three
    • 6. Solution implementation - Enact the chosen solution
  • 32.
    • Another option for decision-making
    • Group members encouraged to generate as many ideas about a particular topic as they can
    • For instance, group members may use brainstorming to generate as many solutions as they can in step four of the standard agenda
  • 33.
    • Group members should be encouraged to say anything that comes to mind when brainstorming
    • Every idea is written down and judgments about ideas are saved until later , when the group returns to all of the ideas and selects those that are most useful
    • A group decision-making tool used when the group must rank order a set of options
  • 34.
    • In order to use this technique, group members work individually to list all alternatives to a problem or issue
    • Sometimes, this technique is used after a brainstorming session is held
    • Then, the group facilitator asks each group member to individually rank all options from lowest to highest priority
  • 35.
    • Finally, the facilitator computes an average score for each idea
    • The lowest score is the highest priority for the group
    • Nominal group technique is a good way to have all of the group members voice their opinions and discussion is not dominated by a few vocal group members
  • 36. Final Decision Making
    • Many ways that a group can make a final decision, decide on a solution, or come to agreement
    • Most popular ways of making the decision include –
    • Consensus : Group members all agree on the final decision through discussion and debate
  • 37.
    • Compromise : Through discussion & readjustment of the final plan, group members come to agreement by giving up some of their demands
    • Majority Vote : Decision based on the opinion of the majority of its members
    • Decision by Leader - The group gives the final decision to its leader
    • Arbitration : An external body or person makes a decision for the group
  • 38. Groupthink
    • Groupthink concept identified by Irving Janis that refers to faulty decision-making in a group
    • Groups experiencing groupthink do not consider all alternatives and they desire unanimity at the expense of quality decisions
    • Occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when under considerable pressure to make a quality decision
  • 39.
    • Negative outcomes of groupthink include :
    • Examining few alternatives
    • Not being critical of each other's ideas
    • Not examining early alternatives
    • Not seeking expert opinion
    • Being highly selective in gathering information
    • Not having contingency plans
  • 40.
    • Some symptoms of groupthink are :
    • Having an illusion of invulnerability
    • Rationalizing poor decisions
    • Believing in the group's morality
    • Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
  • 41.
    • Exercising direct pressure on others
    • Not expressing your true feelings
    • Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
    • Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information
  • 42.
    • Some solutions include :
    • Using a policy-forming group which reports to the larger group
    • Having leaders remain impartial
    • Using different policy groups for different tasks
    • Dividing into sub-groups and then discuss differences
  • 43.
    • Discussing within sub-groups and then report back
    • Using outside experts
    • Using a Devil's advocate to question all the group's ideas
    • Holding a "second-chance meeting" to offer one last opportunity to choose another course of action
  • 44. Leadership
    • Leadership is concerned with control and power in a group
    • Can be aimed at either maintaining the interpersonal relationships in the group or prodding the group to achieve its task
    • Groups will sometimes have two leaders - one for the social dimension and one for the task dimension
    • The three main perspectives on leadership are -
  • 45.
    • First - Some people are born with traits that will make them a good leader
    • Second - The group's leader selects an appropriate leadership style for the given task
    • Third - To some degree, leaders are born with traits that make them good leaders, but that they also learn how to become a leader and use strategies appropriate to a given situation
  • 46. Good Leaders Are Born
    • This approach says that people are born with traits that make them effective leaders
    • The challenge for the group is to find a person with these traits
  • 47. One-Best-Style
    • This approach says that in a given situation, one particular style of leadership is most effective
    • There are four main styles -
    • Autocratic : Leader uses his or her authority to make decisions
    • Democratic : Authority is shared and all group members help make decisions
  • 48.
    • Laissez-faire : A "hands-off" style in which the leader allows the group to make its own decisions
    • Abdacratic : No one in the group exercises leadership. This style, says researchers, leads to group disintegration and is followed by autocratic leadership
  • 49. Contextual
    • This approach says that leaders are to some degree born with leadership traits
    • But the situation, personalities of other group members, pressures on the group, and group norms also determine leadership
  • 50. Roles in Groups
    • Task-Oriented Roles –
    • Researchers Benne & Sheats identified several roles which relate to the completion of the group's task:
    • Initiator-contributor : Generates new ideas
    • Information-seeker : Asks for information about the task
  • 51.
    • Opinion-seeker : Asks for the input from the group about its values
    • Information-giver : Offers facts or generalization to the group
    • Opinion-giver : States his or her beliefs about a group issue
  • 52.
    • Elaborator : Explains ideas within the group, offers examples to clarify ideas
    • Coordinator : Shows the relationships between ideas
    • Orienter : Shifts the direction of the group's discussion
  • 53.
    • Evaluator-critic : Measures group's actions against some objective standard
    • Energizer : Stimulates the group to a higher level of activity
    • Procedural-technician : Performs logistical functions for the group
    • Recorder : Keeps a record of group actions
  • 54.
    • Social Roles –
    • Encourager : Praises the ideas of others
    • Harmonizer : Mediates differences between group members
    • Compromiser : Moves group to another position that is favored by all group members
    • Gatekeeper / expediter : Keeps communication channels open
  • 55.
    • Standard Setter : Suggests standards or criteria for the group to achieve
    • Group observer : Keeps records of group activities and uses this information to offer feedback to the group
    • Follower : Goes along with the group and accepts the group's ideas
  • 56.
    • Individualistic Roles –
    • Aggressor : Attacks other group members, deflates the status of others, and other aggressive behavior
    • Blocker : Resists movement by the group
    • Recognition seeker : Calls attention to himself or herself
  • 57.
    • Self-confessor : Seeks to disclose non-group related feelings or opinions
    • Dominator : Asserts control over the group by manipulating other group members
    • Help seeker : Tries to gain the sympathy of the group
    • Special interest pleader : Uses stereotypes to assert his or her own prejudices
  • 58. Conflict In Groups
    • Conflict can be good for a group if it is managed appropriately
    • By airing differences, group members can produce quality decisions and satisfying interpersonal relationships
    • The first step in managing conflict is to identify the conflict
  • 59.
    • 1. Do the group members know that a conflict exists?
    • 2. Are the group members arguing over competing goals ?
    • 3. Are scarce resources at stake?
    • 4. Are the group members dependent on each other to solve the conflict?
  • 60.
    • Styles of Conflict Management –
    • Researchers Ruble & Thomas have identified 5 styles for managing conflict
    • The styles can be charted on 2 dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness
    • The five styles are –
  • 61.
    • Competitive : High in assertiveness, low in cooperativeness. Competitive people want to win the conflict
    • Accommodative : Low in assertiveness and high in cooperativeness. These group members are easy going and willing to follow the group
    • Avoiding : Low in assertiveness, low in cooperativeness. Avoiding people are detached and indifferent to conflict
  • 62.
    • Collaborative : High assertiveness, high in cooperativeness. These group members are active and productive problem solvers
    • Compromising : moderate in assertiveness, moderate in cooperativeness. Compromisers are willing to "give and take" to resolve conflict
  • 63.
    • Defensive Climate –
    • The climate in which conflict is managed is important. Groups should avoid a defensive climate , which is characterized by these qualities:
    • Evaluation : Judging and criticizing other group members
    • Control : Imposing the will of one group member on the others
  • 64.
    • Strategy : Using hidden agendas
    • Neutrality : Demonstrating indifference and lack of commitment
    • Superiority : Expressing dominance
    • Certainty : being rigid in one's willingness to listen to others
  • 65.
    • Supportive Climate –
    • Groups should foster a supportive climate , marked by these traits:
    • Description : Presenting ideas or opinions
    • Problem Orientation : focusing attention on the task
    • Spontaneity : Communicating openly and honestly
  • 66.
    • Empathy : Understanding another person's thoughts
    • Equality : Asking for opinions
    • Provisionalism : Expressing a willingness to listen to the ideas of others
  • 67. Group Formats
    • 1. Roundtable – A small group discussion conducted in private by means of the Basic Problem Solving procedure
    • 2. Panel Discussion – Involves a small group of well-informed individuals discussing a problem or topic of interest in front of a larger group
    • All panel members contribute freely & equally, and are usually guided through the problem-solving procedure by a leader or chairperson
  • 68.
    • 3. Symposium – Composed of a small group of experts, also in front of a larger group. Instead of free exchange of ideas, each member presents a formal, 5 to 10 minute presentation on an area of the problem relating to member’s expertise
    • Chairperson introduces each presentation. When all presentations are finished, speakers may choose to discuss (agree / disagree with) the formal ideas presented by each speaker; or
    • Continue the discussion using basic problem-solving process
  • 69.
    • 4. Forum – When those present are allowed to participate following a panel discussion or symposium discussion, the discussion is called a Forum
    • May involve a simple question & answer period, a general discussion, or organised buzz groups
    • Selecting the right group format will depend on number of participants, complexity of the problem, and the time available
  • 70. QUESTIONS ? T H A N K Y O U