Unit 3 Study Guide: Managing Groups

The following study guide is meant to help you prepare for the final exam. This material is for your practice and review only. You will not be asked to turn in your responses to the questions and activities below. As you work through these study guides, take note of your confidence level with the material. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with your grasp of these topics, and take the suggestions for resources to re-watch or re-read seriously before proceeding to the final exam.

For your convenience, Microsoft Word and PDF files of this study guide are linked below.

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3a: Compare groups and teams.

3a.1. Chances are that you have been involved in any number of groups in your experience. You may have worked on a group project for an assignment in school, or a group effort to address some situation at work. 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 is creating an increase need to gather employees from different parts of the organization to use form working groups, both formal and informal.

A. Informal groups are not organized by the company, but result when individuals get together to work on some task. In a brief paragraph, can you describe a time that you participated in an informal group? What was the task?

B. Thinking about this event, what were the dynamics among the members of this group? Write a sentence or two on what some of the positive interactions were like.

C. 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?

3a.2. When you think about the value that groups can contribute, whether in business or in some personal endeavor, it is important that we make every effort to make a group project as effective and efficient as it can be. As discussed in the text, informal groups can come about for any number of reasons, and they are not the result of a planned effort. But, in many instances we will need to put together a group for a very specific 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 decide to assemble a group of experienced employees to work on this problem.

A. As you consider who you will appoint to this team, make a list of 5/6 traits that you think the group members should possess to help this group work together.

B. Once you have selected the people that will be working together, make a list of 3/5 instructions that you want them to follow.

C. Finally, in one or two paragraphs, explain to this group of employees what your expectations are for this assignment. Clearly define the authority that you are giving to the group to proceed, and define what the end goal is.

 

3b: Describe and identify group and team development.

3b.1. Assembling a group of employees to address a business issues would seem to be a straight forward task. However, a group consists of individuals, with their own skills and experiences, and these can have an impact on 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 a variety of settings, he proposed a four-stage map of group evolution, also known as the forming-storming-norming-performing model.”

A. With one or two sentences, define each of stages in the development of a group.

B. In your opinion, which stage of development might be the largest contributor to strained interpersonal communication, and state why you believe this?

C. At which stage of this development process does the group get down to the real work to be done?

D. As a manager who wants this group to be effective, and to achieve the stated goals, can you think of any steps that you could take to assist the group in going from forming to performing as quickly as possible? List 4 or 5 actions you could take.

3b.2. Once a group has been assembled, they need to establish how they will work together. They should discuss the various roles that may be needed, a project schedule, deliverables, etc. Time spent at the beginning of this process can save a great deal of time later. You are one of four employees who has been assigned to a group by your supervisor, and directed to address quality issues with a new product.

A. At the first group meeting, what action items should be on the agenda? Make a list and in a sentence or two, explain the purpose of each item.

B. Effective teams identify the roles that will be needed to accomplish the various tasks required to complete the project. Let’s assume that the first role to be filled is that of ‘group leader’. List a few attributes that you think the leader should have. Write a sentence that describes the importance of each attribute.

C. Now that you have a leader in place, what roles might be appropriate for the other three members of the group? Can you write a brief job description for each?

There is a requirement for some pre-group planning to take place 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. In some cases, the company may also find it necessary to provide some training for the group before the project begins. This training might include project management, product knowledge, communication, or any other skill that is needed by the members.

 

3c: Explain group dynamics.

3c.1 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 make-up of the members. Let’s review some of the dynamics that can affect group performance.

A. The size of the group matters. Create a chart that lists the advantages and disadvantages for a small group, and for a large one.

B. Diversity in group members’ effects group dynamics. In a paragraph or two, discuss the potential benefits from assembling a diverse group to address a business issue.

C. 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?

D. In any group, conflicts can arise. One that occurs frequently is 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.

 

3d: Explain the benefits and costs of teams from the organization’s perspective.

3d.1. From the text (Chapter 9), 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 benefit of the team, not for their own, individual preferences.

A. Based on your understanding and/or experience, list 5/6 benefits that a business can gain by using teams to work on projects.

B. 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 members of a team to put forth their best efforts.

C. One of the objectives in business to improve the levels of employee satisfaction. 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.

3d.2. While there are certainly several positive outcomes from the use of employee teams, there are also very real expenses involved in team-based initiatives. Consider just a few:

  • Training requirements to ensure that team members have the skills needed for the task.
  • Need to provide outside support to cover team member’s usual responsibilities while they are involved with the team.
  • More complex reporting requirements involved with cross-functional, interdepartmental teams.
  • Allocation of resources to facilitate the team’s work.

A. As a new manager in your firm, you want to create an employee team to work on developing ideas for a new consumer product. You will be meeting with the company president to present your idea, and you know 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.

B. You will also want to consider how you will reward this team if they are successful in meeting the goals of the project. 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 located throughout the US. Travel costs can add up very quickly. These costs can be even higher for global firms, who are 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 as well.

 

3e: Discuss the skills required for working effectively in teams.

3e.1. This unit discusses many benefits that a company can gain from the use of 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 will be able to succeed.

A. As you begin the process of assembling a team, prepare a checklist (8 to 10 items) of the skills that 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 team member may need experience with a process.

B. In addition to helping a company meet their goals, the use of employee teams can also have an impact on employee engagement. Go to the web site for the Gallup Organization (gallup.com), and search for any research reports that they have published on employee engagement.

C. In your opinion, do you believe that employee teams can have a positive impact on employee engagement? In a short paragraph, explain your reasons.

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

 

3f: Identify and discuss interpersonal communication styles within groups and teams.

3f.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.

A. Chapter 8 begins with a review of a basic communication model (shown below). Each step in the process, from the sender to the receiver, should be studied.

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

B. In the process of 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.

3.f.2. With an understanding of 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 areas of interpersonal relationships, once a concern is identified, it is possible to work on ways to eliminate those concerns.

A. Communication channels are directional, i.e., it can flow down (supervisor to employee), up (employee to supervisor), or laterally (among peers). In one or two sentences, describe something that could be communicated for each channel.

B. 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. In a sentence or two, describe a possible use for each of these methods.

C. There is no doubt that technology has transformed the way we communicate. E-mail, texting, and social media have become a daily form of communicating 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.

D. 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 both our personal and professional lives. The more important the message we wish to deliver, the more critical it is that we 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 a search of the WWW 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.

  • biased language
  • group dynamics
  • semantics
  • body language
  • groupthink
  • social loafing
  • collective efficacy
  • high performance teams
  • stages of group development
  • communication
  • idea-generation tasks
  • team conflict
  • communication channels
  • informal work group
  • team contracts
  • communication process
  • information overload
  • team leadership
  • consensus agreement
  • interpersonal communication
  • team norms
  • cross-cultural
  • listening skills
  • team roles
  • emotional disconnects
  • non-verbal communication
  • teams
  • empowerment
  • organizational effectiveness
  • unanimous agreement
  • external communications
  • problem-solving tasks
  • upward/downward communication
  • filtering
  • production tasks
  • verbal communication
  • formal work group
  • punctuated-equilibrium model
  • virtual teams
  • grapevine
  • selective perception
  • group cohesion
  • self-managed teams
Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 5:55 PM