Importance of groups to organizations and individuals

“An organisation is a social arrangement which pursues collective objectives, controls its own performance and has a boundary separate from its environment” (ACCA).

Groups are essential in every organisation. The effectiveness of groups affects the overall performance as well as getting work done; groups offer social satisfaction to its members. Naylor, (2004).

A group comprises of two or more interacting and interdependent individuals who recognise that they are members of a group and with a purpose of achieving common objectives. Robbins et al ;( 1999). There are formal and informal groups in an organisation. Formal groups are mostly closed groups. Their membership is tight and defined. There is no flexibility however there are rules and unity of purpose which every member must try to adhere to. The unity and cooperation among the members of a closed group removes creative differences ensuring effectiveness. An example of this type of group is a work team. A work team is a group of individuals with complementary capabilities, selected from a group to achieve a planned objective; Naylor; (2004). Apart from the workgroup are other types of formal groups; the command group which is the traditional workgroup as seen in the organisational chart of an organisation where there is a manager with subordinates who are answerable to him, the cross-functional team is brought together because of their knowledge and skills. The self managed team are independent group and taskforce is a type of formal group set up for a specific task and dissolved as soon as task is carried out. Naylor; (2004).

The difference between group and team is that group is any collection of people with a common goal whereas team is associated “with sports, implies selection, similar capabilities, cohesiveness, practice, coaching and leadership” Robbins and Coulter ;( 1999).

Informal group is of a social nature. Such groups are more for the benefit of its members than for the organisation in which they belong. An instance of informal group is the office hiking club. Naylor ;( 2004) Most effective workgroups build shared values and methods of working to meet organisation’s goals and needs of its members. In contrast an ineffective workgroup can be an agony for its members and useless for the organisation. Informal groups are open groups; members could change their membership at anytime as they move up the ladder of leadership. Robbins et al; (1999)

There are different reasons why individuals join groups in organisations. Becoming a member of an informal group could most of the time be spontaneous than joining a formal group. People join groups such as trade unions to defend their employment rights, support groups for emotional support, to help them carry out difficult tasks in other words to help them grow. Formal groups are mostly formed by managers for technical, governing and normative reasons. Technically, in the sense that, with the goal to increase output, it will be easy for the manager to delegate duties and for process control.

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The employees are being empowered, reacquainted with the goals of the organisation and the organisation, through creation of workgroups, intends to reduce conflicts, motivation issues and differences in the workplace. Naylor. ( 2004). There are different stages in the formation of groups as developed by Tuckman’s model; the first stage is the forming stage. At this initial stage, the group is cautiously coming together, At the second stage which is the storming stage, there is conflict within the group as members get acquainted but find it difficult to lose their individuality, At the third stage, the norming stage, the members are getting relaxed to do the task for which they were gathered and they are becoming a knit group and at the fourth and final stage, the performing stage, the individual roles are cleared and shared. Naylor; (2004).

Most of the benefits of groups in organisations are in decision-making. Group decisions provide more complete information than individual decision. As the saying goes “two heads are better than one.”Robbins et al ;( 1999).

Groups are made up of diversity of people and they bring their experience and views to the decision process which an individual cannot offer. For example, group decision was a major instrument in the genesis of Zima, a clear malt beverage product marketed by Coors to the generation Xers. Robbins and Coulter; (1999).

There are more alternatives to solutions generated due to the divers’ membership of a group especially when the group is made up of people with different specialities. Naylor; (2004)

It is quite easy for the group to accept the decision because they have participated in reaching such decision and therefore they could help persuade their colleagues to accept the decision. Group decisions are considered more legitimate than those made by individuals since the individual has not consulted any other to arrive at the decision made. Robbins et al (1999). Individuals are benefitted by group decisions as they are shielded from individual responsibilities, there is great opportunity to learn and enhance self by interacting with different kinds of people with divergence specialities.

Individuals benefit in more ways than notable. Although the outcome of a task is a group outcome, the names of group participants goes down in history. According to some scholars, individual motivation are based on cognitive and behavioural processes; Chen and Kanfer(2006). Self-efficacy is a belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce a given attainments, Bandura;(1997). In teams, individual goal-striving captures members’ allocation of personal effort towards group goals which may involve effort directed at performing their individual role within the group as well as helping others perform their roles. Individual performance and team motivation promotes team effectiveness, Chen et al; (2005). Due to the interdependent nature of individual roles in groups, members are likely to be more efficient regarding their roles when they believe that their group is highly capable of performing its collective task. Individuals look at groupmates as important means for their success in a workteam therefore group efficacy is an important source of self efficacy; Chen and Kanfer (2006).

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There are disadvantages of group decisions to both the organisation and the individual. These are; arriving at a decision by the group is time consuming and may incur some costs since the group has to be gathered unlike the individual decision, In a group some members have more skills and abilities than others, this may mean that some members dominate others in decision making due to the possession of those skills, there is also the pressure to agree to whatever decision arrived at by the group although it might not be acceptable to the individual, therefore there is the pressure to conform to the way of group thinking; Naylor; (2004). Group think is a phenomenon in which members of a group withhold whatever views they may have in order to give appearance of agreement, Robbins et al (1999).

Apart from the above mentioned advantages and disadvantages of groups to both the individual and the organisation, there are factors which hamper group performance in most if not all organisations. These are:

The size of a workgroup undermines its performance since there is no limit to the membership of a workgroup. The number of members depends on the amount of tasks and its related parts that has to be carried out at any point in time. The size of a workgroup not only affects the group’s performance, it reduces active participation of members when the group membership exceeds five or seven, members become authoritarian , participation is inhibited, there is a need for rules and regulations in larger groups. Decisions take longer to reach than in smaller groups, job satisfaction and productivity reduces and there are chances of social loafing or free-riding arising as co-ordination becomes difficult in larger groups; Naylor; (2004).

“Cohesiveness is another factor which could affect group performance. Cohesiveness is a measure of how much members of a group are attracted to and wish to remain with a group.” Naylor; (2004). Small size groups tend to be more together than larger groups. The group is usually made up of people whose skills complement each other, they have a common purpose and they find pleasure in each other’s company.

There are several other factors as noted by Slobodnik and Slobodnik which adversely affect workgroup performance, these are; Some members may falsely give assent to a proposal or a decision, there could be unresolved overt conflict which would cause some members to leave, there could be underground conflicts going on giving rise to distrust, there could be members who may find it difficult to reach closure in an argument, there are members who are rigid in ways of doing things therefore they play the same role at every meeting and members not having equal opportunity at participating in tasks will cause a waste of resources; Naylor; (2004).

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Take for instance the Operating Room (OR) of an organisation such as NHS, the area of human factor involves knowledge and skills which affects the technical performance of Operating Room workgroup. Such factors related to effective communication, group formation and maintenance, leadership and decision-making, management of resources, workload prioritisation, distribution and coping with stress; Schaefer, Helmreich and Scheidegger; (1994). The fact that the human factors of group performance in the OR have been ignored for such a long time due to the narrow minded concentration on technical issues shows in a significant imbalance when the fact that 70% to 80% of anaesthetic and surgical mishaps are caused by human factor issues relating to interpersonal interactions among OR workgroup.

By conducting a systematic observation of the OR workgroup it became apparent to include all OR personnel in a formal training which would address the problems in interpersonal issues. “The elements which make a system vulnerable to accidents are complexity of interactions and tightness of coupling.”Perrow (1984). The use of a systems approach to include every individual working in OR environment took into account the individual, organisational, physical and the social context of all OR workgroup.

According to this approach, interactive processes and overall results depend upon organisational, environmental and individual factors. In this study the most important outcome factors are patient safety and quality of treatment however when resources are limited coupled with “other variables which cause rationing of healthcare, operational integrity become important such as efficient operation, high productivity and improved job satisfaction and working morale” Schaefer et al; (1994). Some organisations handle these issues better than others .This might depend on the culture of such organisation, which is how it thinks, shows awareness, shows a memory and ability to create and to solve problems. What culture is to an organisation, personality is to an individual; Schaefer et al; (1994).

It is the culture of an organisation that determines what tasks are carried out, how they react to failure and mishaps. The practice of effective workgroup coordination, communication, decision making, vigilance and monitoring together with technical task performance should improve to a great extent the probability of optimal operational integrity regarding patient safety and productivity. This will not only boost morale and job satisfaction but also improve attitudes and organisational efficiency; Schaefer et al; (1994).

Mentioned above are the different types of groups, the stages they go through during their development stage and some instances of studies carried out in relation to the impact groups have on individuals and organisations generally.

When groups are set up for inappropriate purposes they can waste resources and can become powerful resistors to change and some members may leave or become less interested and they may see handling with such tress as a waste of time ; Naylor; (2004).

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