Group development

Group development

The goal of most research on group development is to learn why and how small groups change over time. To do this, researchers examine patterns of change and continuity in groups over time. Aspects of a group that might be studied include the quality of the output produced by a group, the type and frequency of its activities, its cohesiveness, the existence of conflict, etc.

A number of theoretical models have been developed to explain how certain groups change over time. Listed below are some of the most common models. In some cases, the type of group being considered influenced the model of group development proposed as in the case of therapy groups. In general, some of these models view group change as regular movement through a series of "stages," while others view them as "phases" that groups may or may not go through and which might occur at different points of a group's history. Attention to group development over time has been one of the differentiating factors between the study of "ad hoc" groups and the study of teams such as those commonly used in the workplace, the military, sports and many other contexts.

= Theories and Models = In the early seventies, Hill and Grunner (1973) reported that more than 100 theories of group development existed. Since then, other theories have emerged as well as attempts at contrasting and synthesizing them. As a result, a number of typologies of group change theories have been proposed. A typology advanced by George Smith (2001) based on the work of Mennecke and his colleages (1992) classifies theories based on whether they perceive change to occur in a linear fashion, through cycles of activities, or through processes that combine both paths of change, or which are completely non-phasic. Other typologies are based on whether the primary forces promoting change and stability in a group are internal or external to the group. A third framework advanced by Andrew Van de Ven and Marshall Scott Poole (1995), differentiates theories based on four distinct "motors" for generating change. According to this framework, the following four types of group development models exist:

Each of the four stages in the Forming-storming-norming-performing-adjourning model proposed by Tuckman involves two aspects: "interpersonal relationships" and "task behaviors". Such a distinction is similar to Bales' (1950) equilibrium model which states that a group continuously divides its attention between instrumental (task-related) needs and expressive (socioemotional).

As Gersick (1988) has pointed out, some later models followed similar sequential patterns. Examples include: define the situation, develop new skills, develop appropriate roles, carry out the work (Hare, 1976); orientation, dissatisfaction, resolution, production, termination (LaCoursiere, 1980); and generate plans, ideas, and goals; choose&agree on alternatives, goals, and policies; resolve conflicts and develop norms; perform action tasks and maintain cohesion (McGrath, 1984).

Tubbs' Systems Model

Stewart Tubbs "systems" approach to studying small group interaction led him to the creation of a four-phase model of group development:

McGrath's Time, Interaction, and Performance (TIP) Theory

McGrath's (1991) work emphasized the notion that different teams might follow different developmental paths to reach the same outcome. He also suggested that teams engage in four modes of group activity: "inception, technical problem solving, conflict resolution", and "execution" According to this model, modes "are potential, not required, forms of activity" (p. 153) resulting in Modes I and IV (inception and execution) being involved in all group tasks and projects while Modes II (technical problem solving) and III (conflict resolution) may or may not be involved in any given group activity (Hare, 2003 uses the terms "meaning", "resources", "integration", and "goal attainment" for these four modes).

McGrath further suggested that all team projects begin with Mode I ("goal choice") and end with Mode IV ("goal attainment") but that Modes II and III may or may not be needed depending on the task and the history of the group’s activities. McGrath contended that for each identified function, groups can follow a variety of alternative "time-activity paths" in order to move from the initiation to the completion of a given function. Specifically, TIP theory states that there is a "default path" between two modes of activity which is "satisficing" or "least effort" path, and that such default path will "prevail unless conditions warrant some more complex path" (1991, p. 159).

Wheelan’s Integrated Model of Group Development

Building on Tuckman’s model and based on her own empirical research as well as the foundational work of Wilfred Bion, Susan Wheelan proposed a “unified” or “integrated” model of group development (Wheelan, 1990; Wheelan, 1994a). This model, although linear in a sense, takes the perspective that groups achieve maturity as they continue to work together rather than simply go through stages of activity. In this model “early” stages of group development are associated with specific issues and patterns of talk such as those related to dependency, counterdependency, and trust which precede the actual work conducted during the “more mature” stages of a group's life. The table below describes each one of these phases.

Based on this model, Wheelan has created and validated both a "Group Development Observation System" (GDOS) and a "Group Development Questionnaire" (GDQ). The GDOS allows researchers to determine the developmental stage of a group by categorizing and counting each complete thought exhibited during a group session into one of eight categories: "Dependency" statements, "Counterdependency, Fight, Flight, Pairing, Counterpairing, Work", or "Unscorable" statements (Wheelan, 1994). The GDQ is used to survey group members and assess their individual perception of their group’s developmental state (Wheelan, S., & Hochberger, 1996). Her academic work has been transferred into a commercial organization, [ | GDQ Associates, Inc.]

In her empirical validation of the model, Wheelan (2003) has analyzed the relationship between the length of time that a group has been meeting and the verbal behavior patterns of its members as well as the member’s perceptions of the state of development of the group. Her results seem to indicate that there is a significant relationship between the length of time that a group had been meeting and the verbal behavior patterns of its members. Also, members of older groups tended to perceive their groups to have more of the characteristics of Stage-3 and Stage-4 groups and to be more productive. Based on this results, Wheelan’s position supports the traditional linear models of group development and casts doubt on the cyclic models and Gersick’s punctuated equilibrium model.

Morgan, Salas & Glickman's Team Evolution and Maturation (TEAM) model

Combining multiple theories and the development models of Tuckman and Gersick, Morgan, Salas and Glickman (1994) created the TEAM model to describe a series of nine developmental stages through which newly formed, task-oriented teams are hypothesized to evolve. The periods of development are labeled "stages" and conceived to be "relatively informal, indistinct, and overlapping", because "sharp demarcations are not often characteristic of the dynamic situations in which operational teams work and develop". According to this model, teams might begin a given period of development at different stages and spend different amounts of time in the various stages. Teams are not always expected to progress in a linear fashion through all of the stages. A team's beginning point and pattern of progression through the stages depend on factors such as the characteristics of the team and team members, their past histories and experience, the nature of their tasks, and the environmental demands and constraints (cf. McGrath, 1991).

The TEAM model identities a total of "nine stages", seven central ones supplemented by two additional ones. The seven central stages begin with the formation of the team during its first meeting (forming) and moves through the members' initial, and sometimes unstable, exploration of the situation (storming), initial efforts toward accommodation and the formation and acceptance of roles (norming), performance leading toward occasional inefficient patterns of performance (performing-I), reevaluation and transition (reforming), refocusing of efforts to produce effective performance (performing-11), and completion of team assignments (conforming). The development of a team might be recycled from any of the final stages to an earlier stage if necessitated by a failure to achieve satisfactory performance or if adjustments to environmental demands are required or if problematic team interactions develop.

The core stages of the model are preceded by a pre-forming stage that recognizes the forces from the environment (environmental demands and constraints) that call for, and contribute to, the establishment of the team; that is, forces externalto the team (before it comes into existence) that cause the team to be formed. The last stage indicates that after the team has served its purpose, it will eventually be disbanded or de-formed. Here. individuals exit from the group (separately orsimultaneously) and the team loses its identity and ceases to exist.

The TEAM model also postulates the existence of "two distinguishable activity tracks" present throughout all the stages. The first of these tracks involves activities that are tied to the specific task(s) being performed. These activities include interactions of the team members with tools and machines, the technical aspects of the job (e.g., procedures, policies, etc.), and other task-related activities. The other track of activities is devoted to enhancing the quality of the interactions, interdependencies, relationships, affects, cooperation, and coordination of teams.

The proponents of the model did not test its components or sequence of stages empirically but did confirm that the perceptions of team members concerning the performance processes of the team are perceived to include both team-centered and task-centered activities and that these perceptions seem to change over time as a result of team training.

=Further challenges=

Apart from the question of the validity of the research methods used and the generalizations that can be made based on the types of groups studied, there still remain some significant challenges in the study of group development. As some researchers have pointed out (e.g. Tuckman, 1965) group development models often provide only snapshots of groups at certain points of their history but do not fully describe the mechanisms of change, the "triggers" that lead to change or the amount of time that a group might remain in a stage. Furthermore, naturally occurring groups tend to be highly sensitive to outside influences and environmental contingencies, but few models account for these influences.

Models of "small" group development are also related to those of organization development but operate at a different level of analysis. Despite their differences, both areas of work attempt to understand patterns and processes of collective change. Both fields should strive to develop "process-oriented" theories, which according to Poole and Van de Ven (2004):

:* Provide a deep understanding of how change comes about by describing the generative mechanism that drives the process;:* Can account for path dependence and the role of critical events in change and innovation; and :* Can incorporate the role of human agency in change without reducing it to causal terms.

A number of questions still remain unanswered in the study of group development over time. As McGrath and Tschan (2004) stated, some of these challenges include:

:* Do groups of all types change in the same way?:* Are the temporal patterns in groups in fact developmental stages with the changes patterned so that the same kinds of structures and processes occur in the same fixed sequences for all groups?:* If there is a fixed sequence of stages of development, are the stages of equal or different durations? Do all groups go through these stages at the same rate?:* Is the pattern of stages immutable or subject to alteration by unique circumstances or events external to the group?:* If a given group does not follow a fixed sequence of stages, is variation in the sequence indicative of malfunction in the group's development or maturation, or does it merely express normal variation arising from initial or contextual conditions? (p.102)

* Arrow, H. (1997). Stability, bistability, and instability in small group influence patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 75-85.
* Arrow, H., Henry, K. B., Poole, M. S., Wheelan, S. A., & Moreland, R. L. (2005). Traces, trajectories, and timing: The temporal perspective on groups. In M. S. Poole & A. B. Hollingshead (Eds.), Theories of small groups: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
* Bales, R. F. (1950), Interaction Process Analysis: A Method for the Study of Small Groups, Addison-Wesley.
* Bales, R. F. (1953), The equilibrium problem in small groups, in T. Parsons, R. F. Bales and E. A. Shils (eds.), Working Papers in the Theory of Action, Free Press, 111-61.
* Bales, R. F., and Strodtbeck, F. L. (1951), Phases in group problem-solving, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46(4), 485-95.
* Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in Groups and Other Papers, Ney York, Basic Books.
* Chang, A., Duck, J., & Bordia, P. (2006). Understanding the multidimensionality of group development. Small Group Research, 37 (4), 327-350.
* Fisher, B. A. (1970). Decision emergence: Phases in group decision making. Speech Monographs, 37, 53-66.
* Gersick, C. J. G. (1988). Time and transition in work teams: Toward a new model of group development. The Academy of Management Journal, 31 (1), 9-41.
* Gersick, C. J. G. (1989). Marking time: Predictable transitions in task groups. The Academy of Management Journal, 32 (2), 274-309.
* Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. The Academy of Management Review, 16 (1), 10-36.
* Hare, A. P. (1976). Handbook of small group research (2nd ed.). New York: Free Press.
* Hare, P. (2003). Roles, relationships, and groups in organizations: Some conclusions and recommendations. Small Group Research, 34 (2), 123-154.
* Hill, W. F., & Gruner, L. (1973). A study of development in open and closed groups. Small Group Behavior, 4(3), 355-381.
* Lacoursiere, R. B. (1980). The life cycle of groups. New York: Human Sciences Press.
* Lewin, K. (1947). Frontiers in group dynamics: Concept, method and reality in social science; social equilibria and social change. Human Relations, 1 (1), 5-41.
* McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups: Interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
* McGrath, J. E. (1991). Time, interaction, and performance (TIP): A theory of groups. Small Group Research, 22 (2), 147-174.
* McGrath, J. E., & Tschan, F. (2004). Temporal matters in social psychology: Examining the role of time in the lives of groups and individuals. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
* Mennecke, B. E., Hoffer, J. A., & Wynee, B. E. (1992). The implications of group development and history for group support system theory and practice. Small Group Research, 23(4), 524-572.
* Moreland, R. L., & Levine, J. M. (1988) Group dynamics over time: Development and socialization in small groups. In J. McGrath (Ed.), The social psychology of time: New perspectives (pp. 151-181). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
* Morgan, B. B., Salas, E., & Glickman, A. S. (1994). An analysis of team evolution and maturation. The Journal of General Psychology, 120 (3), 277-291.
* Poole, M. S. (1981). Decision development in small groupsI: A comparison of two models. Communication Monographs, 48, 1-24;
* Poole, M. S. (1983). Decision development in small groups II: A study of mutiple sequences in decision making. Communication Monographs, 50, 206-232
* Poole, M. S. (1983). Decision development in small groups III: A multiple sequence model of group decision development. Communication Monographs, 50, 321-341
* Poole, M. S., & Roth, J. (1989). Decision development in small groups V: Test of a contigency model. Human Communication Research, 15, 549-589.
* Poole, M. S., & Holmes, M. E. (1995) Decision development in computer-assisted group decision making. Human Communication Research; 22(1) p. 90 -127
* Poole, M. S., & Van de Ven, A. H. (2004). Central issues in the study of change and innovation. In M. S. Poole & A. H. Van de Ven (Eds.), Handbook of organizational change and innovation (pp. 3-31). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Smith, G. (2001) Group development: A review of the literature and a commentary on future research directions. Group Facilitation; 3, pp. 14-45
* Tubbs, S. (1995). A systems approach to small group interaction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995.
* Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.
* Tuckman, B. W. & Jensen, M. A. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group Org. Studies 2:419-27
* Van de Ven, A., Poole, M.S. (1996). Explaining Development and Change in Organizations. The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 510-540
* Wheelan, S., Davidson, B., & Tilin, F. (2003). Group development across time: Reality or illusion? Small Group Research, 34 (2), 223-245.
* Wheelan, S. A. (1990). Facilitating training groups: A guide to leadership and verbal intervention skills. New York: Praeger.
* Wheelan, S. A. (1994a). Group processes: A developmental perspective. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
* Wheelan, S. A. (1994b). The Group Development Questionnaire: A manual for professionals. Provincetown, MA: GDQ Associates.
* Wheelan, S., & Hochberger, J. (1996). Validation studies of the group development questionnaire. Small Group Research, 27, 143-170.

=See Also=
* Group dynamics
* Team work
* Group behaviour
* Team building

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