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9.1 Group

Learning Objectives

  1. Explain the definition of group.
  2. Differentiate between group and teams.
  3. Understand the models of team development.
  4. Understand the stages of the team performance model.

Looking at the picture above, can you tell if it is a group or a team? How do you know it is a group? Many organizations have several different kinds of groups. These groups can be informal or formal. Formal groups are usually assigned by a supervisor or higher administrator. Formal groups can include: sales teams, work teams, problem-solving groups, management teams, and unions. Informal groups usually occur due to common interests and/or social compatibility. Informal groups can include: Christmas office particies, coffee breaks, poker night, car pooling, and complaining sessions. Informal groups do not have specific rules about membership or the types of communication in that group. Every group is essential for people to accomplish their tasks and seek social support.

John Baird defined groupTwo or more people that think they are a group, have a common goals, structure, and interactions to achieve their desired goals. as “a collection of more than two persons who perceive themselves as a group, possess a common fate, have organizational structire, and communicate over time to achieve personal and group goals.”Baird, J. E., Jr. (1977). The dynamics of organizational communication. New York: Harper and Row, pg. 9. In essence, a group is two or more individuals who communicate with each other to attain their goal. Because this is a book on organizational communication, a group in this context will have specific goals, influence, and interactions. These specific goals might be to have an advertising campaign completed, financial portfolios on all the organization’s clientes completed, and/or updating new technology programs on all the computers in the organization. Influences that groups might have may be to help management understand the importance of having a day care facility onsite or assist managers in acquiring potential resources for employees. Interactions might include co-workers being informed about specific changes in the organization and/or warnings that employees should be aware of. Notice that the key importance in these definitions is the word communication. For instance, five people waiting for the bus is not a group. They all have the same goal: to get on the bus. However, each person is not influencing the other and they do not have to communicate with each other. Group members need to be able to communicate with each other. Often times, organizations will use groups to accomplish organizational gorals. Work groups are created to perform tasks in an efficient and effective manner. Problem solving groups are used to discuss organizational dilemmas. These groups will convene to examine, analyze, and dissimenate information.

Group vs. Team

You have probably heard the old saying that there is no “I” in “TEAM”. And it’s true! However, do you know what the differences are between a group and a team? Most people might say that a team has a common goal or purpose. In addition, they might say that each person on a team is interdependent. In other words, each person on the team recognizes that every person is valuable and knows what needs to be done to accomplish their goal.Lee, G. V. (2009). From group to team: Skilled facilitation moves a group from a collection of individuals to an effective team. Journal of Staff Development, 30(5), 48–49.

On the other hand, groups might include people that have similar roles or tasks, such as all medical nurses. Groups can eventually become teams. The main difference is that teams need to support each team member. It takes a lot of characteristics for a group to become a team. The main difference is that in a team each individual is not only responsible for their efforts and contributions to the group, but also for the collective outcome of the group. Moreover, the emphasis is not on the individual but the team. Hence, the communication is different, because in teams, people want to discuss and come to a conclusion about how to solve the problem. In groups, the main reason why people communicate is to share information without much discussion. These differences are displayed in Table 9.1 "Differences between Groups and Teams".

Table 9.1 Differences between Groups and Teams

Groups Teams
Every person is accountable. Everyone is accountable for their work to the group & others’ work.
The focus is to share information and opinions. The focus is to discuss, make decisions, solve problems, and strategize.
Emphasis on individual goals. Emphasis on team goals.
Outcome is on each individual’s contribution. Outcome is on the entire group’s contribution.
Identify every person’s roles & tasks. Indentify every person’s roles & tasks in regards to help the collective effort. Each person can often switch and/ allocate parts of their tasks to others.
The focus is each person’s outcome and struggles. The focus is on the team’s outcome and struggles.
The objectives and goals of the group are placed by a manager or leader. The objectives and goals of the group are placed by team leader with team members.

Tuckman’s Model of Groups

Bruce Tuckman’s model of groups is well known for explaining how teams develop. He noted that these stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing (Figure 9.1 "Tuckman’s Model of Groups").Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequences in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384–399. Tuckman realizes that groups will have many differences in assumptions, values, and goals. This model addresses the groups’ need to examine and resolve certain questions before the group can work together effectively. This model is important for any team member to recognize that before the team can move forward from one stage to another they need to make sure that the core issues are being met before they can advance. If the team does not move forward, then it means that certain issues are not being satisfactorily met. This model also helps team leaders identify signs that issues need to be address appropriately before the team can actually perform their task effectively.

Stage 1: Forming

The group is in its beginning stages. Individuals are trying to figure out the climate and the types of communication that would be appropriate. Members heavily rely on the team leader for direction and information. Members are still trying to develop their relationships and associations with others. For instance, one of the authors of this book was involved on a job search committee. The organization picked the members and expected the group to pick a leader. It was pretty chaotic because everyone was still trying to figure out everyone else.

Stage 2: Storming

In this phase, conflict is present. Members communicate to obtain influence and acknowledgment. Members may become polarized or take stand on certain issues. Conflict can arise out of personal or task related issues. If the group can confront and solve the problems, then they can move towards the next stage. After the group leader was selected, conflict arose in who we thought we should hire and why. Everyone had their own opinion on the matter.

Stage 3: Norming

Unlike the previous group where conflict was present, the group moves toward more open and accepting styles of communication. The group wants to work in an effective and harmonious manner. More team members feel better due to the fact that the communication has changed from a confrontational style to a non-confrontational style. Members have shared values and attitudes. There is a difference between behaviors and feelings. In the previous example, after the members understood their roles and their agendas, then the group was more cohesive in terms of determining what to do next.

Stage 4: Performing

In this stage, members can concentrate on accomplishing the group’s task. Because they have been able to solve the groups’ problems, they can direct their energy towards the completion of the task. Group members feel a better sense of shared responsibility and a sense of personal accountability. After everyone was able to communicate and share their opinions, they were able to really produce quality results for finding the right candidate for the job.

We are sure that you can think back on group projects that you have worked on and recognize the storming and forming phases are real. If you are involved with groups where forming and storming are preventing you from accomplishing the task at hand, you need to address your group and their concerns before you can move forward.

Figure 9.1 Tuckman’s Model of Groups

Team Performance Model

Many times, team leaders will try to form groups using ice breakers, enforcing the idea of professionalism, assuming that norms will counteract the group’s differences, and relying solely on agendas, and activities to compensate for the group negativity or dissatisfaction.Lee, G. V. (2009). From group to team: Skilled facilitation moves a group from a collection of individuals to an effective team. Journal of Staff Development, 30(5), 48–49. One new model that illustrates a better way of developing teams is Allan Dexler, David Sibbet, and Russ Forrester (2009)’s Team Performance Model.Drexler, A., Sibbet, D., & Forrester, R. (2009). The team performance model. San Francisco: The Grove Consultants. The model consists of seven stages that illustrate how a team can be formed and then complete their task: orientation, trust building, goal clarification, commitment, implementation, high performance, and renewal (Figure 9.2 "Team Performance Model").

Stage 1: Orientation

In this beginning phase, group members come together and ascertain the about the task or directive at hand. Most of the time, these individuals do not have a work history with the other people on the team. Hence, group members may question their purpose with the group. For that reason, team members must be informed about how the group was formed and the reason why each person was selected for that task. Drexler et al. noted that if a certain individual feels unsatisfied for being on this team, then they will experience puzzlement, indecision, and possibly fear. Moreover, if certain members feel a disconnect from the group, then they will focus on this disconnection and possible make the other group members feel uncomfortable. The disconnected group member may become more reserved and detached from the group. In some conditions, the disconnected group member might provide some uncalled-for comments and possibly never attain much value in the team’s mission. For instance, one of the writers of this book was asked to be on a group analyzing other graduate programs. It was very nerve-wrecking because none of the group members knew each other or why they were put together. The team leader explained that we were selected based on our experiences and we could provide the best input.

Once the orientation stage is settled, then group members are in the process of becoming a team. Everyone in the group has a new perception of the group as a team, they use terms like “us,” feel a connection with the group’s purpose, and think about the team’s possibilities for achievement.

Stage 2: Trust building

Most everyone will agree that trust is an essential element for team performance. A team is interdependent. Thus, group members have to be able to give up control and reliance on others so that they can execute their task. Think about all the people you trust and how over time this trust has allowed us to know the other person even more. In the previous example about the group analyzing graduate programs, each person in the group had a specific task and a deadline. Each member had to trust the other members to complete their task otherwise the group would fail and not be able to accomplish their goal. The same holds true in teams. The development of trust allows teams the ability to create more efficiency. If teams lack trust, then they will be more guarded of others, and not be willing to communicate the truth. Teams that lack trust will also lack integrity because group members are not expressing their true feelings and opinions. The result of these behaviors hinder the legitimacy and genuineness of the work. At the same time, lack of trust will prevent cooperation and collaboration among the group members.

Stage 3: Goal Clarification

In this stage, team members are trying to figure out the team’s ultimate goal(s) and their agenda. Team members create a shared vision with clear and concise goals. They have explicit assumptions with each other about the goal. In the previous example, it was at this stage that certain group members were wary about their comments and were worried that their comments would not be taken seriously. The team leader had to meet with the group again to reassure them that their comments were valuable for the success of the organization. At this stage, some members become apathetic or skeptical about the goal. In addition, there may be some extraneous competition among group members. The key factor in this stage is to make sure all group members know the goal or expected outcome for the group.

Stage 4: Commitment

After the group is clear in their goal, there needs to be some communication about certain roles. Group members need to collectively decide how resources, such as time and effort will be allocated and utilized for maximum efficiency. Each member realized that their comments were important so they worked harder to accomplish the goal.There will be group members who will become dependent on others to complete their task, which will delay the outcome. There will also be some resistance from group members who may have different perceptions in how their time and effort could be used best.

Stage 5: Implementation

Once the decision is made on how each person will contribute to the group’s goal, then there will be a better sense of the execution of that goal. Teams are informed with all the basic information of who, what, when, where, and why. Teams can move forward and implement the task. They can put all their resources, comments, input together and finalize their task. In any event, there may be conflicts at this stage. There may be team members that will miss deadlines and may feel non-allied in the team’s main object. If group members can figure out what works best, then work can be completed.

Stage 6: High Performance

When all group members know when and who is doing what towards their team’s goals, a group reaches a state of high performance. They may realize that the methods have been performed well, then they can be more flexible. They are more likely to say “Wow!” at their progress and possibly surpass expectations. In this stage, there is more interaction and synergy. Disgruntled team members may feel disharmony or overburdened, so it is important that the team be able to adapt and accommodate all group members to be able to perform effectively. After the group gets into a groove, and is completed to finishing the task, the group will be amazed at the ending results.

Stage 7: Renewal

After the team has completed their task, they may ask whether it is worth it to continue or add new members. The team needs time to reflect on whether they should continue, stop, or form a new team. Often team members will feel burnout or boredom after the task has been completed. The team needs to take time to celebrate the completion of their goals and recognize key team members. In the previous example, the team leader took everyone out to dinner to celebrate on a job well done!

The benefit of this model is that it allows us to understand the communication situations that can occur during each phase. The model illustrates the importance of having such conversations at each stage.

Figure 9.2 Team Performance Model

Key Takeaways

  • Groups can be informal or formal.
  • There are many differences between groups and teams. Group stresses individual outcomes, whereas team stresses individual and collective outcomes. The individual is a key element in the group. Teams share responsibility. Moreover, the communication is very different.
  • Team development takes place in phase: forming, storming, norming, and performing.
  • The team developmental model showcases seven stages that groups go through before they can work efficiently and effectively as a team.


  1. Think about a group you are currently working in at work, home, church, etc. Fill out the survey on: After completing the measure, what did you learn about your group? What can you do to improved your group communication?
  2. Looking at the Team Performance Model, what do you think is the hardest stage? Why? What do you think is the easiest stage? Do you think this model is accurate? Why or why not?
  3. Create a list of at least two groups and two teams that you belong to? What differences do you see between these two lists and the types of organizational accomplishments they’ve had?