Throughout the course of history, and becoming increasingly common in today’s interdisciplinary workplaces, teams and groups have been crucial and unavoidable for mankind. One can find groups in every facet of life. From sports teams to marriages, military units to marketing teams, even school projects often times revolve around a group or team. Everywhere one looks, a team is close by. Regarding business, particularly management, teams are of even greater importance. In the workplace, most output in a company is the result of one team or a group of teams. This being the case, understanding how a group functions is absolutely necessary within a company, or any organization for that matter. Once a manager or leader understands dynamics and change within groups, he is able to advantageously steer the group in a productive direction. A manager who is ignorant to the knowledge of group dynamics will simply “reinvent the wheel” each time he oversees a new team. The continuation of this discourse will revolve around the question: “How do groups change over time?” More specifically, this will include an examination of different stages of group development and an alternative model, as well as a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of various group models.
Conducting formal research and studies of groups is a large discipline. A consolidation of these studies is crucial to better understanding and generalizing development within groups. In the 1960’s, Bruce Tuckman, later joined by Mary Ann Jensen, developed the most influential and widely used consolidation to date. Tuckman and Jensen’s model of group development includes five stages. Their model “suggests that groups mature over time and that during each stage, there are specific ways in which people deal with interpersonal relationships and task behaviors” (McKee, 346). The five stages consist of: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Forming is the “honeymoon” stage for a group: The group is new, and members try to avoid conflict and instead build the group on common ground. Storming is the opposite. Here, conflict among members and towards leaders, and a need for power become prevalent. Norming is where the group really begins to take shape. Group norms and roles are established. The group’s rules are created here, for example the importance of timeliness, when and where to work together, and what level quality of work is asked of members. The fourth stage is performing. This is where the group accomplishes what it set out to do. Here, members are far more comfortable and leadership often times is in the hands of different members at different times and on different tasks. The final stage is adjourning. Here the group completes its tasks and dissolves, either by force or group decision. Important in this stage is the discernment of when one should let go and move on. It can be unhealthy for groups to try to stay together when they no longer should. This five stage model is certainly not the only approach to studying group development. Susan Wheelan constructed a similar five stage model for group development; however, Wheelan includes more in-depth descriptions of the stages and also factors in the experience of group members in addition to the change in time as a contributor to group dynamics and change. Wheelan’s five stages are: Dependency and Inclusion, Conflict and Counter dependence, Trust and Structure, Productivity and Work, and Termination. With so many components of groups and a variety of models, it is important to weigh pros and cons of each and further process the information given.
There is certainly merit to both of the models discussed in the textbook. Tuckman and Jensen have devised a visualization of group dynamic that is both simple, yet extraordinarily effective. The five stages described are quite well thought out and can easily be conceptualized. In my own personal experience, looking back, I can clearly remember groups I have been a part of and break down the experience into each segment. During my first year at Towson, one of my classes required a semester-long group project which consisted of various components and was extremely time consuming. I can clearly visualize each of the segments we went through. Forming was mostly out of necessity for the course, and lasted a relatively short time. Storming was a rather difficult patch as a power struggle between myself and another member ensued due to vast differences in opinion on research methodology. I eventually took lead of the group and during the norming stage, despite some hiccups in establishing member requirements, we got a general system of work down. Performing was a little different in that I continually had to remind group members of deadlines and generally was the leader throughout. Finally, as the class ended, we adjourned.
My experience does bring forth at least one flaw of Tuckman and Jensen’s model, however. A groups development cannot be categorized into five, chronological, distinct segments as a rigid formula. While groups tend to develop in accordance to the five stages, they are not static and do not always stay in the past.