Teams and Groups

" It is common to view the development of a group as having four stages:


Forming is the stage when the group first comes together. Everybody is very polite and very dull....The group tends to defer to a large extent to those who emerge as leaders (poor fools!).

Storming is the next stage, when all Hell breaks loose and the leaders are lynched. Factions form, personalities clash, no-one concedes a single point without first fighting tooth and nail...True, this battle ground may seem a little extreme for the groups to which you belong - but if you look beneath the veil of civility at the seething sarcasm, invective and innuendo, perhaps the picture come more into focus.

Then comes the Norming. At this stage the sub-groups begin to recognize the merits of working together and the in-fighting subsides. Since a new spirit of co-operation is evident, every member begins to feel secure in expressing their own view points and these are discussed openly with the whole group...

And finally: Performing. This is the culmination, when the group has settled on a system which allows free and frank exchange of views and a high degree of support by the group for each other and its own decisions.

In terms of performance, the group starts at a level slightly below the sum of the individuals' levels and then drops abruptly to its nadir until it climbs during Norming to a new level of Performing which is (hopefully) well above the start. It is this elevated level of performance which is the main justification for using the group process rather than a simple group of staff. "

Accelerating Development

" It is common practice in accelerating group development to appoint, and if necessary train, a "group facilitator". The role of this person is to continually draw the groups' attention to the group process and to suggest structures and practices to support and enhance the group skills. This must be only a short-term training strategy, however, since the existence of a single facilitator may prevent the group from assuming collective responsibility for the group process. The aim of any group should be that facilitation is performed by every member equally and constantly. If this responsibility is recognised and undertaken from the beginning by all, then the Storming phase may be avoided and the group development passed straight into Norming. "

Group Skills

" There are two main sets of skills which a group must acquire:

    Managerial Skills
    Interpersonal Skills 

and the acceleration of the group process is simply the accelerated acquisition of these.

As a self-managing unit, a group has to undertake most of the functions of a Group Leader - collectively. For instance, meetings must be organized, budgets decided, strategic planning undertaken, goals set, performance monitored, reviews scheduled, etc...

As a collection of people, a group needs to relearn some basic manners and people-management skills. Again, think of that self-opinionated, cantankerous loud-mouth; he/she should learn good manners, and the group must learn to enforce these manners without destructive confrontation.



" The two basic foci should be the group and the task.

If something is to be decided, it is the group that decides it. If there is a problem, the group solves it. If a member is performing badly, it is the group who asks for change.

If individual conflicts arise, review them in terms of the task. If there is initially a lack of structure and purpose in the deliberations, impose both in terms of the task. If there are disputes between alternative courses of action, negotiate in terms of the task. "


" In any project management, the clarity of the specification is of paramount importance - in group work it is exponentially so. ... It is the first responsibility of the group to clarify its own task, and to record this understanding so that it can be constantly seen. This mission statement may be revised or replaced, but it should always act as a focus for the groups deliberations and actions. "

The mouse

" In any group, there is always the quiet one in the corner who doesn't say much. That individual is the most under utilized resource in the whole group, and so represents the best return for minimal effort by the group as a whole. "

The loud-mouth

" In any group, there is always a dominant member whose opinions form a disproportionate share of the discussion. It is the responsibility of each individual to consider whether they are that person. It is the responsibility of the group to ask whether the loud-mouth might like to summarize briefly, and then ask for other views. "

The written record

" Often a decision which is not recorded will become clouded and have to be rediscused. This can be avoided simply by recording on a large display (where the group can clearly see) each decision as it is made. This has the further advantage that each decision must be expressed in a clear and concise form which ensures that it is clarified. "

Feedback (negative)

"All criticism must be neutral: focused on the task and not the personality. "

give "feedback frequently, especially for small things - this can be couched as mutual coaching, and it reduces the destructive impact of criticism when things go badly wrong."

Every criticism must be accompanied by a positive suggestion for improvement.

Feedback (positive)

"If anyone does something well, praise it....Progress in the task should be emphasised. "

Handling failure

"Any failure should be explored by the group."

"One practise which is particularly useful is to delegate the agreed solution to the individual or sub-group who made the original error. This allows the group to demonstrate its continuing trust and the penitent to make amends."

Handling deadlock

"...firstly the group should decide how much time the debate actually merits and then guillotine it after that time - then, if the issue is not critical, toss a coin. "

Sign posting

"As each small point is discussed, the larger picture can be obscured. Thus it is useful frequently to remind the group: this is where we came from, this is where we got to, this is where we should be going. "

Avoid single solutions

" First ideas are not always best. For any given problem, the group should generate alternatives, evaluate these in terms of the task, pick one and implement it. But most importantly, they must also monitor the outcome, schedule a review and be prepared to change the plan.

Active communication

" Communication is the responsibility of both the speaker and the listener.... both parties must be sure that the ideas have been correctly communicated perhaps by the listener summarizing what was said in a different way. "

Presentation skills