What Are the Basic Principles of Group Dynamics?

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Bruce W. Tuckman was one of the first psychologists to study and define group dynamics. In 1965, he recognized and defined the stages of group development, suggesting that groups must experience all five stages of development to reach maximum effectiveness. These stages can help you understand other basic principles that come into play with group dynamics.

Group Development Stages

  • Tuckman first described four distinct stages but later added a fifth. Groups go through these stages subconsciously but the understanding of the stages can help groups reach the last stage effectively. The five stages are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Although groups go through these stages in the order listed, a group can be at a later stage and go back to a previous stage before continuing forward. For example, a group might be working efficiently in the performing phase, but the arrival of a new member might force the group back into the storming stage.

Communication

  • The communication network is another characteristic of group dynamics. An informal group uses communication processes that are simpler than those of the formal organization. In the informal group, the person who possesses the most amount of vital information frequently becomes the leader. Knowing about this group dynamic allows supervisors to provide this strategically placed leading individual with information that the group needs. Giving the group and its members relevant information encourages harmonious relationships between the supervisor and the informal group.

Rotational Leadership Dynamic

  • In informal group dynamics, rotational leadership is a specific attribute that is less common in formal organizations. An informal leader generally arises when a team member shows leadership qualities that others see as critical for a specific situation. Unlike a formally appointed group leader, the informal leader can only guide the group toward the completion of a project’s objectives. The informal leader does not possess any formal power, and the group can replace such a person if the need arises. This group dynamic phenomenon often happens subconsciously and constantly evolves during the lifetime of the group.

Group Norms

  • Another characteristic of group dynamics is the presence of group norms and values. Defined norms, established during the norming phase, assist the group in clarifying thinking and determining which behavior patterns are acceptable. Norms also keep the group functioning as a system and measure the performance of group members.

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