My experience of working in groups

It is said that human are ‘social animals’, so get along with others is an important issue in our life. Ability in team working attracted lots of attention in recent years as group working has been more and more popular. Many scholars have worked in group topic, while two of the most influential theories are Belbin’s GROUP ROLE MODEL and Tuchman’s STAGES OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT MODEL. In this essay, I am going to briefly review these two models and using my own group working experience to explain how these can be related in practice.

BELBIN GROUP ROLES MODEL looks into the differing roles people work at in-group situation. Belbin believes that ‘teams with similar personalities did not perform well’. All groups create roles, even those very small groups where an individual need to take on many roles, and each role need different personality and competency. Properly allocating of roles can help the group to work together effectively. Belbin identified nine roles that cover the types of individual behaviour at work in a team – Plant: giving new ideas and strategies on major issues and looking for solution of problems.

Resource Investigator: exploring ideas, developments and resources outside the group. Co-ordinator: making the best use of team resources, recognising the team’s strengths and weaknesses and ensuring the best use of members’ potential. Shaper: shaping the way in which the team effort is applied. Monitor Evaluator: analysing problems, evaluating ideas and suggestions. Team Worker: supporting members in their strengths, underpinning members in their shortcomings, improving communications between members and fostering team spirit generally.

Implementer: turning ideas into practice; carrying out plans effectively and efficiently. Completer Finisher: helping the team avoiding mistakes of both commission and omission, searching aspects need improvement. Specialist: providing technical information, giving professional suggestion on subjects. To effectively assign role for each member, it is necessary to analyse everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, approaches to the work, prior knowledge, prior experience, and resources that can be used.

For example, a Monitor Evaluator suppose to be someone ‘sober, unemotional, prudent’ person, with positive qualities of ‘judgement, discretion, hard-headedness’, and weaknesses such as ‘lacks inspiration or the ability to motivate others’ are acceptable. On the other hand, a Team Worker should to be able to promoting team spirit. 1 While Belbin’s work aimed to improve team members’ corporation and enable maximum use of each member’s competency and potential, Tuchman’s STAGES OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT MODEL on the other hand try to recognize those distinct phases any group need to go through before they achieve maximum effectiveness.

He suggested this process can be subconscious, although an understanding of the stages can help groups reach effectiveness more quickly and less painfully. Stage 1: Forming Everyone in the group try to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict. Serious issues and felling are avoided. But individuals also gather information and impressions about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it. The avoidance of conflict and threat means that not much actually gets done. Stage 2: Storming

Important issues start to be addressed. Members’ patience break, and minor confrontations will arise but are quickly dealt with or glossed over. Some may think it is good to get into the real issues, whilst others still prefer to remain in the comfort and security of stage 1. Depends on each group’s situation, the conflict will be more or less suppressed, but it is there. Stage 3: Norming After Stage 2, the group will establish the ‘rules of engagement’, the scope of groups’ tasks or responsibilities are clarified and committed.

Members get to understand each other better and appreciate each other’s skills and experience. Individuals listen to each other, appreciate and support each other, and prepare to work together as a cohesive and effective group. The groups may experience pressure and change, and may revert to storming stage. Stage 4: Performing Not all groups can reach this stage, which is characterised by a state of interdependence and flexibility. Everyone understands each other well enough to be able to work together, and trusts each other enough to allow independent activity.

Group identity, loyalty and morale are all high, and everyone is equally task-oriented and people-oriented. Further more, ten years after first development the four stages model, Tuchman added another final stage – Stage 5: Adjourning This stage is about completion and disengagement of tasks and groups. Group members will be proud of their achievement and enjoyable corporation. Some also refer the stage as ‘Deforming and Mourning’, recognising the sense of loss felt by group members. Tuchman’s work described the way groups evolve as he observed, whether they were conscious of it or not.

In practice, the model help us to have more awareness what is going to happen through group evolving process, and help it to move to the Performing stage. Bind these theories in mind, I revised my own experience of being a part of a charity project group while in college. During my business course in college, we were divided into 5-6 people groups, and required to produce a business plan in any preferred business. After discussion, we chose the greeting card business, which would be sold in UK marked, based in London for design and management, and outsource production in China.