BUS209 Study Guide

Unit 3: Managing Groups and Teams

3a. Compare and contrast groups and teams, their identities, development, and dynamics

1. Chances are that you have been involved in many groups in your experience. You may have worked on a group project for an assignment in a school or a group effort to address some work situation. The text defines a group as "a collection of individuals who interact with each other such that one person's actions have an impact on the others". As companies downsize, outsource, and right-size their organizations, the result is a reduction in the number of employees available to work on issues that arise. This creates an increasing need to gather employees from different parts of the organization to use form working groups, both formal and informal.

  • Informal groups are not organized by the company but result when individuals work on a task. Briefly, can you describe a time you participated in an informal group? What was the task?
  • Thinking about this event, what were the dynamics among the members of this group? Write a sentence or two on some of the positive interactions.
  • Now, see if you can list some of the interactions that were not as effective as they could have been. Can you think of some ways that you could have improved them?

2. When you think about the value that groups can contribute, whether in business or some personal endeavor, we must make every effort to make a group project as effective and efficient as possible. As discussed in the text, informal groups can come about for many reasons, not the result of a planned effort. We will often need to organize a group for a particular task.
Let's consider a business scenario. You are managing a business, and there seems to be a problem with a major customer account. You need to identify the specifics of your customer's concerns and develop an action plan to address them. As the issue involves products, shipping, and customer service, you assemble a group of experienced employees to work on this problem.

  • As you consider who you will appoint to this team, list 5/6 traits that you think the group members should possess to help this group work together.
  • Once you have selected the people who will work together, make a list of 3/5 instructions you want them to follow.
  • Finally, in one or two paragraphs, explain your expectations for this assignment to this group of employees. Clearly define the authority you give the group to proceed and define the end goal.

3. Assembling a group of employees to address business issues would seem to be a straightforward task. However, a group consists of individuals with their own skills and experiences, which can impact interpersonal relationships. "American organizational psychologist Bruce Tuckman presented a robust model in 1965 that is still widely used today. Based on his observations of group behavior in various settings, he proposed a four-stage map of group evolution, also known as the forming-storming-norming-performing model".

  • With one or two sentences, define each of the stages in the development of a group.
  • In your opinion, which stage of development might be the largest contributor to strained interpersonal communication? Why?
  • At which stage of this development process does the group get down to the real work?
  • As a manager who wants this group to be effective and achieve the stated goals, can you think of any steps you could take to assist the group in forming to performing as quickly as possible? List 4 or 5 actions you could take.

4. Once a group has been assembled, they need to establish how they will work together. They should discuss the roles that may be needed, a project schedule, deliverables, etc. Time spent at the beginning of this process can save much time later. You are one of four employees assigned to a group by your supervisor and directed to address quality issues with a new product.

  • What action items should be on the agenda at the first group meeting? Make a list and, in a sentence or two, explain the purpose of each item.
  • Effective teams identify the roles needed to accomplish the various tasks required to complete the project. Let's assume the first role to be filled is 'group leader'. List a few attributes that you think the leader should have. Write a sentence that describes the importance of each attribute.
  • Now that you have a leader in place, what roles might be appropriate for the other three group members? Can you write a brief job description for each?

There is a requirement for some pre-group planning to increase the probability of the group being successful. A clear idea of the project to be undertaken, the make-up of the members (skills, experience, training, etc.), and the identification of appropriate roles. Sometimes, the company may also find it necessary to provide group training before the project begins. This training might include project management, product knowledge, communication, or any other skills the members need.

5. Groups are made up of people with their own personalities, character traits, emotions, and ability to work with others. It should come as no surprise then that the dynamics of groups will vary per the members' make-up. Let's review some of the dynamics that can affect group performance.

  • The size of the group matters. Create a chart that lists the advantages and disadvantages of a small group and a large one.
  • Diversity in group members affects group dynamics. Discuss the potential benefits of assembling a diverse group to address a business issue in a paragraph or two.
  • Groups can use different methods for making decisions. Briefly define consensus and unanimity, and discuss the difference between the two. Which type of decision-making do you prefer, and why?
  • In any group, conflicts can arise. One frequently occurs when one of the members is 'loafing', or not meeting the group's expectations. If you were the group leader, what would you do? Write a short paragraph outlining your steps to reduce or eliminate the conflict.

Interpersonal relations are a fact of any group activity. Understanding how individuals interact and communicate in a group is one of the fundamental concerns of organizational behavior. To learn more, do a web search on the subject. You can search for: effective group communication, social loafing, group decision-making, interpersonal relationships, and group dynamics to get started.


3b. Explain the benefits and costs of teams from the organization's perspective

1. A team is "a cohesive coalition of people working together to achieve mutual goals". We have all heard about the need for 'teamwork', or how individuals can work together for a common purpose. It involves everyone putting forth their best efforts for the team's benefit, not for their own individual preferences.

  • Based on your understanding and/or experience, list five benefits a business can gain by using teams to work on projects.
  • You are assembling a team from 3 or 4 different departments to work on a project. Make a list of ways that you might use to motivate the team members to put forth their best efforts.
  • One of the business's objectives is to improve employee satisfaction levels. Maybe in your experience, you've participated in a survey that wanted to determine your level of satisfaction. In a paragraph or two, tell us if you believe that employee teams increase or decrease employee satisfaction, and explain why you believe that.

2. While there are certainly several positive outcomes from employee teams, there are also genuine expenses involved in team-based initiatives. Consider just a few:

  1. Training requirements to ensure that team members have the skills needed for the task
  2. Need to provide outside support to cover team members' usual responsibilities while involved with the team
  3. More complex reporting requirements involved with cross-functional, interdepartmental teams
  4. Allocation of resources to facilitate the team's work
  • As a new manager in your firm, you want to create an employee team to develop ideas for a new consumer product. You will meet with the company president to present your idea, knowing that the discussion will include cost. Prepare a list of 2 or 3 items, in addition to those listed above, that you will include in your budget.
  • You will also want to consider how you will reward this team if they successfully meet the project's goals. You know that your company has awarded bonuses to employees in the past. In a couple of paragraphs, outline your bonus proposal for the team. Consider if it will be individual bonuses or a group bonus. Explain the reasons for your choice.

Other costs can be incurred depending on the location of the employees and the need for technological support. It is not unusual for large domestic companies to have employees throughout the US. Travel costs can add up very quickly. These costs can be even higher for global firms establishing teams from locations in several countries. Of course, there is also the possibility of employing virtual team meetings, but these have a list of issues.


3c. Discuss the skills required for working effectively in teams

This unit discusses many benefits a company can gain from using employee teams. A search on employee teams and teamwork on the web will yield an extensive list of resources available for your review. With the increasing use of teams and their importance in helping companies improve their financial performance, you will want to ensure that any teams you create succeed.

  • As you assemble a team, prepare a checklist (8 to 10 items) of the skills you want the team members to have. Remember that not everyone needs the same skill set. For example, one team member may need to understand a product/service, while another may need experience with a process.
  • In addition to helping a company meet its goals, employee teams can also affect employee engagement. Go to the website for the Gallup Organization (gallup.com), and search for any research reports they have published on employee engagement.
  • In your opinion, can employee teams positively affect employee engagement? In a short paragraph, explain your reasons.

Employees' productivity, job satisfaction, and commitment to the company increase when they are engaged. However, we can't just hope that our employees will be engaged; we must proactively find ways to let them know how important they are to the company and that their voices will be heard.


3d. Identify and discuss interpersonal communication styles within groups and teams

1. Wherever we have more than one person in a group, the need for clear and effective communication is of vital importance. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and after they left, you wondered if they heard what you were saying? One would think that communication is a simple task. After all, you've been communicating for years. Anyone who has left a department or team meeting, and then had conversations with colleagues trying to understand what you just heard, knows the problems that can occur with communication.

  • Review the basic communication model (shown below). Study each step in the process, from the sender to the receiver.

As you review this model, list each step in the communication process, and define it in a sentence.

  • In communicating our positions or opinions to a group of colleagues, we should be aware of those things that can interfere with how our message is received. These barriers include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotional disconnects, lack of source familiarity or credibility, gossip, semantics, gender, bias, and culture. Pick three of these that you may have experienced or are interested in learning more about. In one or two sentences, define each one, and suggest an approach to minimize the effect on communication.

2. With understanding the importance of communication and recognizing that sometimes there are issues with the clarity of communication, we should spend some time discussing how communication can be improved. As with so many interpersonal relationships, once a concern is identified, it is possible to work on ways to eliminate those concerns.

  • Communication channels are directional. They can flow down (supervisor to employee), up (employee to supervisor), or laterally (among peers). Describe something that could be communicated for each channel in one or two sentences.
  • Communication can also be oral, written, or non-verbal. The key is the richness or completeness of conveying all the information as clearly as possible. Different circumstances require different methods of communicating. Describe a possible use for each of these methods in a sentence or two.
  • There is no doubt that technology has transformed the way we communicate. E-mail, texting, and social media have become daily forms of communication for both personal and business topics. Identify three benefits and three disadvantages of electronic communication. Think about the issue of message richness as you consider this technology.
  • We are in the age of global business, whether the company is large or small. Cultural diversity can present some challenges to effective communication. How would you address this issue for your company? Write a paragraph that outlines some specific steps you will take.

We cannot underestimate the importance of effective communication in our personal and professional lives. The more important the message we wish to deliver, the more critical it is to communicate it clearly and ensure that it is received exactly as intended. The good news is that there is a volume of research on this topic, as the WWW search can show. We need to make an effort to understand the potential barriers that can impede the reception of our message and to learn about methods to reduce, or eliminate, those barriers.


Unit 3 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you answer some of the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

  • communication channels
  • consensus
  • emotional disconnects
  • filtering
  • group conflict
  • group dynamics
  • group roles
  • information overload
  • interpersonal communication
  • selective perception
  • semantics
  • social loafing
  • unanimity
  • virtual teams