Why Care about Group Dynamics For Teams?

February 21, 2019


If you have clicked on this article, you are probably asking yourself what has gone wrong? You have hired great specialists in the field, you try to motivate them with a clear collective goal, and yet the results are low. You do not feel like your employees are engaged and really understand their mission. One thing is clear: there is a problem with your team’s group dynamics.

It is already a well-known fact that people working in a team often have distinct roles and behavior. Your job as a leader is to see what the roles are and how they are performed. The problem may lie at the surface. Maybe there is an aggressor in the team, or a person who makes inappropriate jokes. It may seem like it should not affect the the team’s efficiency, but in fact it can really undermine the success of your efforts.

The concept of group dynamics helps to tackle such issues in software development teams. In this article, we are going to explore the concept, stages, elements, examples, as well as factors affecting group dynamics and how to mitigate or eliminate them entirely.

Group Dynamics Theory

As it turns out, it is not enough to find the best experts, put them in one team and wait for mind-blowing results. On the contrary, the room full of the brightest people can create a total chaos in the working process. The reason is simple: this is not how the system theory works.

To organize people into a harmoniously working team you need to account for personal characteristics of each individual. You should analyze how this or that personal trait can affect other team members. You need to understand what is the perfect blend of characters for your team.

What are Group Dynamics?

The term “group dynamics” was first coined in 1940s. It was Kurt Lewin who claimed that the roles and behaviours of each person in the group affect it as a whole. Whether the distribution of roles is effective or not can truly influence the efficiency and in the long run the success of the project, venture, etc.

Group dynamics for teams can either be positive or poor. If they are positive, you can notice the team is working unanimously, their communication is based on trust and altogether the workers are aiming at achieving the collective goal. However, poor group dynamics examples can show lack of respect within the team, absence of a mission objective, and difficulties in reaching decisions.

What are the Elements of Group Dynamics?

The elements of group dynamics include roles, principles, communication patterns and status differentials.

  • Roles

The roles define what functions each team member has. The roles can be given formally or informally.

  • Principles

Principles are the core norms and values of the team. Principles define what members of the team believe in. They help to regulate the group and establish an engaging working process for the employees.

  • Communication Patterns

Communication can be performed in a wide array of ways. Still, the top priority is to make clear and convenient. Emails, meetings, shared documents, chats, and other means should make the flow of information fast and improve the work efficiency.

What are the Types of Group Dynamics?

There are two types: formal and informal groups.

  1. Formal

Formals types are regulated by the organization itself. There are some specific rules, standards and principles to follow. As an example of a formal group, we can take a board of directors, or various committees.

  1. Informal

Informal types are created in the workplace depending on the preferences, social needs, and psychological traits of employees. The main difference from the formal type is instability. It is highly important to observe the interrelation between formal and informal groups to reach high levels productivity. You probably know that there can be various difficulties when for instance an informal leader appears and goes against the formal one.

Group Dynamic Roles

Expectedly, there is always a leader in group dynamics. There is an abundance of data on how to become a perfect leader. Still, it is not enough to simply define who is the leader of a group.

If you want to improve group dynamics for teams, it is essential to analyze all the functional roles within a group. There are different approaches towards the roles. We have decided to have a look at roles singled out by Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management theorist known for his work on managing teams.

Group Dynamic Roles
  • Shaper

As it can be understood from the name of the role, this person is ready to shape the future. In other words, a shaper is not scared of challenges and is always eager to start a discussion with the aim to reach a decision.

  • Implementer

Implementers are practical people. It is not easy for them to embrace new things, but they are the best when it comes to doing things properly in accordance with traditions and tested methods.

  • Completer-Finisher

As it is implied in the name, this type of person locs on completing tasks. They always meet deadlines and scrupulously check all the details. However, they can be at the edge of the nervous breakdown, as they do not trust anyone with the task and try to do everything by themselves.

  • Coordinator

Unlike the completer-finisher type, coordinators easily delegates tasks, clarify goals, and help others understand their missions and responsibilities.

  • Team Worker

The team worker resembles a group psychologist. They support and encourage other members of the team. That is why they are often communicative and sensitive personalities.

  • Resource Investigator

These team members are good at seeking external information and bringing ideas from the outside of the group.They are open to change and always optimistic, however, sometimes their optimism can be a bit unrealistic.

  • Plant

If you are looking for a creative introvert who always comes up with mind-blowing solutions, Plant is the team member to approach. They prefer working outside of the group, leading them to offer impractical ideas at times.

  • Monitor Evaluator

These people are the best when it comes to critical thinking. They will observe, analyze, weigh up pros and cons and then arrive at a perfect solution.

  • Specialist

Specialist is a professional in a narrow field of knowledge. Their knowledge is essential to the team and can be applied only to a specific area.

Sometimes people stick to specific roles only in accordance with their character and psychological traits. Nevertheless, it is normal when members interchange the roles depending on the situation.

What are the Stages of Group Dynamics?

There are 5 main stages of group dynamics: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Let’s explore them in detail.

  1. Forming

At this stage, the members do not know each other well, they observe and adjust. It is highly important to have a leader at this stage to make it easier to define the duties and responsibilities of each team member.

  1. Storming

This stage involves confrontation among the members. There are discussions on how to achieve goals and what can be done by each individual.

  1. Norming

At this point the members arrive at some collective decision and agree on how to reach a common goal. The leader needs to support each individual and the team as a whole.

  1. Performing

This is a productive stage. The tasks are assigned, everybody knows their mission and role. The team works to succeed with the project.

  1. Adjourning

The last stage is adjourning. After completing a project, the team surely wants to celebrate their success. This is the time when the members praise the efforts that enabled the project to be finished.

Now as we are through with definitions, let us have a more detailed look at how to ensure that the elements of group dynamics work.

Principles of Group Dynamics

To establish a productive, healthy, and friendly working environment, the following principles need to be followed:

  1. The members of the team must have a strong sense of belonging to the group
  2. The workers must communicate with each other
  3. The influence of a team member often depends on how much the other team members like that individual.
  4. Any information that is vital to the common objective should be shared by the members of the group
  5. The effectiveness of work depends on positive group dynamics.

Examples of Group Dynamics that are Poor

Let us have a look at problems that must be solved immediately if you want your team to work effectively.

  • Poorly Defined Roles

The roles should be clearly defined. Otherwise, the working process will be chaotic. As a result, your team will not complete tasks on time, the team members will argue over and over again, etc.

  • Aggressive Behaviour

Sometimes, the working environment resembles a school class no matter the age of team members. A software development team can have its own bullies, too. The leader needs to solve this problem by establishing a safe working environment and make every team member feel valued and motivated.

  • Lack of Understanding

Communication matters. If you notice that some of your team members cannot reach a decision because they do not understand each other, you should sort out this issue immediately by helping them get their opinions across to one another.

  • Personal Conflicts

Finally, there can be a conflict of personalities. It is the leader’s job to find a solution on how to make it work between the employees in a given situation.

Group Dynamics Exercises to Help Your Team Work Effectively

We have already discussed the stages of group dynamics and it should be mentioned that at the forming and storming stages it is essential to use various games for connecting. In other words, these exercises are known as team-building.

These team-building exercises aim at helping people get to know each other. For example, you can try  the “2 facts and 1 lie” game. A person tells three facts about themselves and the rest of the group needs to guess which is a lie. It is a great basic connecting exercise. Plus, it is really fun.

However, sometimes a team needs to grow. As enthusiasm and energy may lower, you need to keep people motivated. Look closely at the current state, how well do the members cooperate and what they like, and think of an original and fitting way of how to raise the spirits of your colleagues in a way that can appeal to everyone.

Summary of Key Points on Group Dynamics for Teams

Here are the key brief takeaways from our foray into this important subject:

  1. Group dynamics matters
  2. There are formal and informal groups
  3. Group roles affect the work in the team
  4. Group roles should be clearly defined
  5. Follow 5 principles to create an effective team
  6. Closely follow and solve your team’s problems
  7. Use fitting exercises to improve your group

As a leader, it is your job to observe, analyze, and notice the problems as early as possible. If you see that something is not going well with your team, take actions immediately. The sooner you deal with the problem, the fewer consequences will emerge.