Managing Groups Revised
28 December 2015
Business Report on Managing Groups
Many organizations in the twenty-first century are resorting to groups or teams in institutions to better their performance and stay competitive in the ever-changing market. These groups may be formal or informal. This report is more concerned with the formal teams that are created by an organization’s management as part of its structure. The groups are adequately equipped with the requisite physical and financial resources, coupled with enough authority to execute their duties (“Definition of a formal group” n.pag.). The chief duty of formal groups or teams is to advance an institution’s aims and objectives as spelled out in its mission and policy statements (“Definition of a formal group” n.pag.). For these groups to operate effectively, proper management is required. The report herein tackles the following issues:
Forming effective groups
Managing such groups
Facing the problems that arise from their management
And the Devising solutions to help increase the productivity of these groups.
To successfully tackle the issues mentioned above, the operations of various organizations have to be looked at. This is to get a clear picture of the flaws in group management in institutions and look at ways to better the already existent solutions to those flaws. Concisely, this report talks about the aspects involved in managing groups and how the whole process can be improved.
Many people might be so conversant with working in teams that they fail to notice the advantages that organizations draw from working in properly managed groups. People who work in groups are seen to gain from one another’s strengths and to complement their individual flaws (Engleberg and Wynn 24). A team spirit can itself be a formidable motivating factor for improvement of the staff’s personal abilities and the staff’s loyalty to their organization (Engleberg and Wynn 24). Coming together to work as groups gives one the opportunity to cultivate new skills and areas of competence (Engleberg and Wynn 28). Apart from this advantage, each team member is privileged to share in the successes as well as the failures of the team. The idea of “team roles” helps in identifying imbalances among teams and areas with gaps that need to be filled within an organization. The knowledge of such gaps can aid the human resource department to perform effective audits and inform any recruitment in the future (Engleberg and Wynn 33). If there is any communication shortfall within an organization, it can be underscored within a single team or between different teams. This interrelation between team members and teams improve a team’s awareness of other areas beyond its scope of responsibility thus creating a general understanding of the broader “organizational context” (Guest 29).
As highlighted before, effective performance of these teams requires proper management. Leadership is a significant factor in the success of any organization, especially in the 21st century (Guest 30). Different organizations need different kinds of leaders with diverse capabilities at every level of the institution. According to Thomson (108), there are typically three types of leaders. The first category is referred to as visionary leaders; these are represented by the top executives in an organization. Their duty is to give “corporate values,” a vision and transform an institution where necessary. They are also supposed to ensure that their organization survives for long and that the stakeholders are happy with the progress of the organization (Thomson 110). These types of leaders need to have a conceptual ‘out of the box’ mindset (Thomson 111).
The next level of leaders, according to Thomson (113) is known as the “integration leaders.” These leaders mainly head departments, regions or sites (Thomson 114). Their chief role is to link their sphere of influence with the organization’s vision and mission (Thomson 114). They are also expected to develop the systems within their unit and process the necessary infrastructure for the operation of their units. Integration leaders need to nurture and advocate for a robust culture and style of leadership within their respective units and bring conflicting goals and interests between units together (Thomson 115). At this level, the required mindset is one that is “medium term,” cutting across boundaries and one that incorporates values of the relevant organization (Thomson 115).
The final type of leader following Thomson’s hypothesis (118) is the “fulfillment leader.” This kind of leader can be found on the team level (Thomson 119). Their role is to make the client or customer happy with the organization (Thomson 119). They are tasked with the duties of delivering results within the desired time frame, continuously improving their team’s operations and ensuring the team’s resources are put to the most productive use (Thomson 120). In light of these duties, the mind of a fulfillment leader should be set at delivering short-term quality results. While executing their duties, they are expected to exhibit “human psychology” and the thinking of a customer service agent. Therefore (Thomson 108-120) brings leadership to a level that incorporates the role of management.
A team’s leadership may be assumed by two kinds of people according to Gibson and Fisher (58); the ‘shaper’ or the coordinator. The person who takes up leadership in a group depends on the nature of the task before the group (Gibson and Fisher 61). A group’s leadership is not always bestowed upon the person who is originally selected by the organization to head the team. It can trade hands depending on the prevailing conditions (Gibson and Fisher 62). For instance, times will come when the team might require the leadership of a specialist if faced with technical challenges. On other occasions, the team may be steered by a person who has prior experience to a certain problem troubling the group at a specific point in time (Gibson and Fisher 64). Successful groups usually benefit from individual member strengths and know when it is necessary to pass the leadership mantle to the most appropriate individual (Gibson and Fisher 73). Nevertheless, there is always an individual member who holds the “team leader” title in the organization’s eyes. This person is accountable for the performance of the team. Requirements of a task alone are not sufficient to decide a team leader (Guest 30). Just like a team has needs that have to be fulfilled, individuals within the teams have needs too. The team leader needs to be considerably aware of both the team and individual needs and see to it that all of these are achieved along with the organization’s overall needs (Engleberg and Wynn 30).
Formation of Effective Groups
Several factors govern how effective or ineffective a group becomes. Such factors include:
The group’s size.
The “membership characteristics” of the group.
The activity that the group is tasked with.
The type of organization within which the group operates.
The team leader.
The procedures and processes of the group.
Communication within the group (Thomson 124).
The Group’s Size
An efficient work team should be made up of about five to seven members (Thomson 126). The group’s size enables every member to equally participate and reasonably interact with each other. As a group gets larger, communication and contributions between and from members become challenging (Thomson 126). However, some teams need to be big as they need more specialists or more representation from different sectors (Thomson 126). In such cases, it is advisable to subdivide the group into smaller teams with specific responsibilities (Thomson 126). The teams should only meet as one large team when it is unavoidable. For instance, committees need to be large since they need to have representation from many sections of the organization. To make them efficient, they have to be broken into smaller task forces with distinct tasks. Failure to break large working teams often leads to low staff morale and high absenteeism levels (Thomson 127).
The membership characteristics of the group
Individuals who act and think alike are likely to feel better if grouped together for work. However, this method has proved to be less effective when it comes to achieving positive results (Engleberg and Wynn 35). It is, therefore, necessary to mix people of different characteristics and skills for a group to perform well. It is imperative to note that several groups are formed by the roles of their individual members within the organization, for example, managers and “union representatives.” Even though these duties might determine which individual ends up in which group, the individual’s role in the group might differ from the title they possess in the wider organization (Engleberg and Wynn 37).
The Activity the Group is Tasked with
The reason individuals come together to form work groups is because the organization has identified a certain task that it feels needs to be undertaken (Thomson 127). These might involve generation of ideas, solving problems, planning and actualizing change as well as making decisions (Guest 31). They might also require a definition of procedures and formation of policies (Guest 32). The type of activity the group is supposed to carry out will in most cases help in selecting who belongs to which team. For example, in the case of a committee, the task ahead will help determine which kind of specialists are required and which sectors of the organization need representation (Engleberg and Wynn 47). Another important aspect is the deadline. If the task needs urgent completion, the group might need to be “highly structured” and have a commanding leader. Where there is sufficient time and creativity is required, a different type of set up might be more appropriate (Thomson 128).
The Type of Organization within which the Group Operates
Different organizations have different norms about how things are done. These norms are often mirrored in an organization’s work teams (Thomson 128). An institution with a lot of bureaucracy like the Army or the “Civil Service” will have a lot of procedures around every task a group undertakes (Thomson 129). The procedures will be followed even when determining the members of groups as well as their group leader. In such organizations, a group leader’s position in the hierarchy of the organization is less likely to be challenged within the work teams (Thomson 129).
The Team Leader
As mentioned earlier in the report. The success or failure of a group depends highly on the leader it adopts (Guest 32). In organizations like the military, it is seen that the leader draws his authority from his position in the institution’s hierarchy (Thomson 130). In less bureaucratic organizations, a team leader does not need to have a high position in the institution to lead a team, all he or she needs is the required expertise to execute a certain task (Thomson 130). One more reason a person may be appointed group leader is if they control the group’s finances (Guest 33). Nonetheless, even if one has been named a leader in the initial stages of group formation, other people might take up the role. If the group leader is found to be incapable of steering the team to the desired success, a more capable leader may take over the position. The position might also be shared among individuals depending on the tasks at the group’s hands.
The Procedures and Processes of the Group
Groups have particular styles of executing tasks and taking care of their members. One model used by many groups to solve problems involves a six-step process (Engleberg and Wynn 49). First, the problem needs to be identified and defined as clearly as it can be by the person who identified it. Then, information needs to be sought to clarify further the team’s comprehension of the problem (Engleberg and Wynn 50). This clarification then leads to the diagnosis of the problem that is the third part of the process (Engleberg 51). After the diagnosis of the problem, individual members can put their ideas forth in step four (Engleberg 51). Step five involves the evaluation of these ideas by other team players who finally join heads to decide in step 6 (Engleberg 53). This approach towards solving problems optimizes the individual inputs of all the team members.
Communication within the Group
When people work together as a team, the style with which they communicate within the group and with other people affects the group’s performance (Guest 33). A communication pattern is often seen to emerge within a group as it carries out its duties (Guest 33). In a small group, one member may successfully take on the task of informing every group member about the ongoing operations within the team (Gibson and Fisher 40). Another pattern is where information is relayed from one group member to the other (Gibson and Fisher 42). This model is usually slow and unreliable since the information risks being distorted as it is relayed. The second pattern is also effective in small groups where people are likely to communicate with almost every other person in the group (Gibson and Fisher 44). As the size of the group increases, the effectiveness of the method diminishes. Communication between a group and members of other departments is very necessary especially when the organization is implementing change. This communication could be effected through formal reports or news-letters to staff in other departments (Gibson and Wynn 53).
To fully understand the problems and advantages that working in groups present, and come up with ways of improving the effectiveness of groups, organizations like the military were studied. The structures within which groups in these organizations operate were keenly looked at and sources of problems in their mode of operations determined. The type of leadership present in these organizations and the way in which these leaders are chosen was also put to the spot. Any issues with the way leaders are selected and empowered to act were noted down for deliberation. Most of the information was obtained through interviewing staff from these organizations. The information obtained was then compared to past documented scenarios and relevant solutions recommended. Due to the secretive nature of organizations like the Army and the civil service, some of the information had to be assumed, based on the provided ones and the ones available in the public domain.
Results and Discussion
The study revealed that teams were very specific and required specific solutions for specific problems. First, the effectiveness of groups was found to depend on factors like the size of the group, its leader, and the mother organization. For the military, it was noted that most groups are required to tackle emergency situations, these, from past occurrences, require an authoritative leader. This reason might explain why the army is so strict with the appointment of the team leaders. It was clear that the hierarchy of leadership in the military had to be maintained regardless of the task at hand. Another aspect that was discovered in the military groupings is the bureaucratic nature of the operations. This process was found to be very slow if compared to the other systems of operations.
It was also discovered that for other organizations, the people who manage the work groups do not necessarily have to be the senior-most officials in the group from the organization’s hierarchy. Depending on the situation the team finds itself in, any person can become the leader of the group. This method was found to be effective in most situations including emergency situations where technical experience is required. While managing these groups, challenges such as conflict of interest and the goals of the organization were noted to arise. To do away with this bad situation, group managers have to find a way to first sort out the very important goals of the organization while showing sufficient consideration to individual needs.
Conclusions and Summary
Effective groups are exemplified by their capability to determine, and “work towards” achieving clearly defined goals (Thomson 125). They can also be identified by the “mutual trust” between members, gifted leadership and fruitful relationships with other teams within the organization (Engleberg and Wynn 37). Such groups rely on productive recruitment training of members to avail to them a creative workforce with an elevated morale (Engleberg and Wynn 38). Although a leader may not have the privilege of selecting the team members he would like to work with, a good manager will evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of the available members to ensure the team benefits from those (Guest 30). If a group encounters a problem that the originally chosen leader experiences a challenge in tackling, the leadership mantle should be passed to a more capable team member to steer the group out of the situation. Depending on the situation as well as the organization and other factors within the group, different problems are approached through differing means (Thomson 127).
All of the study objectives were achieved. The following conclusions were drawn from the study:
Forming an effective group requires the goodwill of both the members and the leaders as well as other sectors of the organization. For a group to be successful, its members must corporate with each other, and there must be effective communication between the team and other teams.
It takes both expertise and rank to manage or lead a group. Some groups require authority from a person of high status. Others simply require the guidance of any skilled member that can help the group in a particular situation they find themselves in.
Problems will arise from work groups no matter how organized they are. When they do arise, solutions should be formulated concerning past experiences while recognizing the uniqueness of each problem.
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Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.
Guest, Peter. “How to Manage Large Multidisciplinary Engineering Groups.” IEEE Engineering
Management Review IEEE Eng. Manag. Rev.: 29-33. Print.
Thomson, Rosemary. Managing People: An Activity Pack for Tutors and Trainers. Third Ed.
Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. 108-130. Print.
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