According to Daniel Levi, a leading expert on group communication and success there are three basic tenets for evaluating the success of a work group or team. These three criteria are: completion of tasks and goals, maintenance of good social relations and the promotion of its members’ personal and professional development. Additionally, Levi also stresses five key factors that are needed for the success of the group or team which are: “clear goals, appropriate leadership, organizational support, suitable tasks, and accountability” (May, 2003, 241) Utilizing these three criteria for evaluation of success and these five key needs of a group for success this work will develop a thesis supporting that all of these nine factors require effective bilateral communication skills to create the possibility of such success within a business and/or organization group. This work will argue that with any one of these eight aspects missing the foundation of the group will be undermined and the group will not achieve successful results, through the definition and support of each of the nine concepts noted above.
No group can function without the development and understanding of goals that are reachable and rational. Each individual member must be able to develop his or her own concrete idea of what the broad and immediate goals of the group are.
All members understand the group’s purpose and believe in the value of the objectives and the ability of other members to contribute meaningfully to the group product. In the best of circumstances the group will have a common goal. This common goal supercedes the many other goals present in the group. (Gottlieb, 2003, 11)
The common goal of the group should be understood and supported by all group members, as the primary purpose of the group.
Leadership is an aspect of group dynamics and communication that is discussed frequently, but rarely defined. In Levi’s development of leadership, for the purpose of group development and communication he qualifies the term leadership with the term appropriate. Appropriate leadership connotes a type of leadership that is demonstrative of the flexibility of a leader or leaders given the context of the group in which they work. According to Gottlieb leaders emerge in group dynamics either through the development of an informal leader or through the acceptance of a leader from another arena i.e. A manger or superior that is trusted and stable in his or her abilty to communicate effectively the needs of the group and the needs of the group’s goals and tasks.
A during the first stage, those members who appear quiet, uninformed, or dogmatic are rejected by the others. In the second stage, people who try to lead in an authoritarian or manipulative manner are eliminated. Finally, the person most skilled in verbalizing ideas emerges as the leader by the consensus of the group. (Gottlieb, 2003, 36)
Leaders are also good at self-monitoring, or knowing how to communicate effectively to the group, to avoid rejection in the future and to assist the group in its goals. Good self-monitors are social cue readers and responders, who pay attention to contextual cues, social perception of others and respond flexibly to what is communicated by such cues. (Gottlieb, 2003, 36) Lastly Gottlieb stresses that leadership, and according to Levi appropriate leadership, or contextual leadership is the most essential aspect of organization and group communication.
Leadership plays a significant role in how information flows in the organization. Strong stable leadership requires an understanding of both the formal and informal communication channels in the organization and the ability to apply techniques and strategies for influencing that communication. (Gottlieb, 2003, 37)
The development of appropriate leaders is then an aspect of group communication success that cannot be ignored or be absent from any given work group.
Organizational support is demonstrative of the fact that the group cannot function without the broader support of the entire organization enveloping the group. Management, other supervisors, leaders and external team members must show and act in a way that is supportive of the goals and tasks of the whole and the group. Within this a collaborative sense of communication between the broader organization and the task group must be present for the group to function.
If, after diagnosing your company’s problem and researching potential solutions, it appears that a particular management tool would be useful, trainers need to make sure it’s sustainable before jumping in with both feet. No matter how good the training may be, it still requires thorough organizational support to be successful in the long run. (Caudron, 2002, 38)
As in Caudron’s example, above there is a sense that the development and functioning of any given group is impossible if that group does not have buy in from the whole organization, or at the very least the key stakeholders of the organization. If this is not the case then resource allocation, communication breakdowns and other shortfalls will undermine the functioning of the group and stifle its actions and plans.
Levi’s qualifier in the task category is similar to that of leadership, “suitable.” The definition of a suitable task is one that is understood and is within the scope of purpose and ability of the group. In other words, a group dedicated to the development of an acceptable safety protocol for a manufacturing line cannot also be responsible for interviewing new applicants, unless their role in such interview is specifically geared toward safety issues. A better task for such a group would be to create a safety library and communicate new, unclear or fundamental safety messages to line workers.
Groups according to Overton and Burkhardt must be action oriented, with such suitable tasks. If groups are not action oriented with suitable tasks they are unlikely to form cohesive and communicative relationships which sustain them.
Groups are sustained over time not only by the internal and symbolic relationships that they value but by the actions that define them. A partnership that remains unexpressed in deed is little more than a good theory. An orientation to act on the vision that holds individuals and groups in partnership is absolutely critical to the partnership. Leadership bears the responsibility of building a commitment to the coordinated and persistent fulfillment of the vision and must infuse into the partnership that sense of urgency and purpose that makes action inevitable. (Overton & Burkhardt, 1999, 226)
Overton and Burkhardt clearly express that suitable actions are demonstrative of effective group functioning and that if such functioning is absent then groups will be unlikely to pass the final three tests of group success, expressed by Levi.
Accountability seems to be one of the most current and common expressions of modern group development and dynamics. Organizations and groups demand accountability of groups and individuals for their action and inaction according to goals and in many cases this means a system of transparency that has evolved over many years to create a greater understanding of process and expectations.
Accountability. How does this translate into behaviors? In some measure, it means the careful creation and implementation of the work of the partnership in ways that both respect and extend the capacities of the group at all times. It also entails the cultivation of an ethos of personal and group accountability. Each individual and each participating entity must act as if it is fully accountable for all commitments made to the partnership. It also commits the partnership to an ongoing objective process for monitoring and evaluating outcomes and redeveloping strategies as conditions change. (Overton & Burkhardt, 1999, 226)
Accountability requires that all individuals and groups fulfill goals or express reasons why such goals and tasks have not been fulfilled. In doing so individuals, groups and the whole of organizations develop a sense of the barriers that might exists for the completion of goals, so such goals might be reevaluated or even in the long run groups may be disbanded and/or reformed to better meet the goals.
Conclusion: Evaluation of Group Success
Completion of Tasks and Goals
Within the development of accountability it is clear that the first evaluative marker of group success is that of the completion of its tasks and goals. This development of success not only means the completion of the tasks and goals of the immediate group but also fulfilling such tasks within the overarching goals of the organization.
Maintenance of Good Social Relations
Above all else a group, regardless of its goals is a development of a social circle. Within this social dynamic all members must be satisfied, to some degree by the experience, therefore the social relations of the group must be satisfying to each member, to some degree for the group to function effectively and to complete task sin any setting. For some this means communication with kindness, but for most it means the development of a trusting group dynamic that meets the emotional needs of the individual.
Schutz contends that every group, no matter what its function or composition, given the time, goes through inclusion — with initiation rites to gain membership and belonging, control for leadership — with task structuring, and then affection — where interdependence issues abound. All of the phases are continuously present, although one may predominate at different times, depending on the nature of the group. (Wheelan, 1990, 15)
Though some would consider the functions stressed by Wheelan above are not reflective of a business group, the truth is that all a sense of fulfillment of social needs that stresses independence, to some degree.
Promotion of its Members’ Personal and Professional Development.
Some might consider that final of the three measures of group success to personal for a business dynamic and yet it is also clear that group participation depends on the willingness of its members to make sacrifices that are equal to or lesser than those things they might gain. “Individuals have goals that may be shared with others in the group, or they may be divergent and personal.” (Gottlieb, 2003, 11) it then becomes clear why the development of the five needs of successful groups are utilized to develop the evaluation of the works of such groups, clear goals, appropriate leadership, organizational support, suitable tasks, and accountability are all fundamental aspects of the development of the three final evaluation tools.
Caudron, S. (2002, June). Just Say No to Training Fads: Management Fads Come and in Their Wake. Here’s How to and Become the Business Partner Your Executives Want. T&D, 56, 38. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002479788
Gottlieb, M.R. (2003). Managing Group Process. Westport, CT: Praeger. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=106955568
May, G.L. (2003). Group Dynamics for Teams. The Journal of Business Communication, 40(3), 241. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002650672
Overton, B.J., & Burkhardt, J.C. (1999). Drucker Could Be Right, but.: New Leadership Models for Institutional-Community Partnerships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3(4), 217-227. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=76971283
Wheelan, S.A. (1990). Facilitating Training Groups: A Guide to Leadership and Verbal Intervention Skills. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=14283127