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After a group has formed, a number of interesting transformations take place as its members try to assert their own authority or position within its ranks. In his theory of group dynamics, American psychologist Bruce Tuckman refers to the second stage of group formation as storming. This process involves a cycle of conflict and disagreement as individuals try to gain power positions. Members criticize each other and voice concerns about the direction of the group during this time; if they are able to do so openly and the other members accept the comments and try to correct any issues, the group is more likely to succeed in the end. Unfortunately, most groups collapse under the pressure of internal scrutiny and struggles and either disband or simply fail to gain effectiveness.
Those groups that do move into the next stage of development, according to Tuckman, accept their goals and expectations in a process called norming. The process of creating norms generates a cooperative idea of the status quo that is designed to produce results. The group assigns responsibilities to each member that include not only tasks but also representation as a unit of the whole. During this performing stage, according to Tuckman, the group establishes routines, tolerance, and cohesiveness. In order to meet its goals, rational evaluation takes the place of emotion.
Although Tuckman introduced his concepts of group formation in 1965, he later added a stage called adjourning. Adjourning describes the disbandment of the group. Such events usually happen because the group has reached the end of its mission or finished its tasks or because members embark upon new relationships or endeavors.
Groups form for a variety of reasons. Formal groups generally develop to accomplish organizational goals. Command groups generally consist of a supervisor and his or her subordinates. In this type of group, the supervisor assigns tasks and the members work to complete them. A task group defines a band of people working as a unit to realize a common mission. Members divide tasks, set deadlines, outline expectations, and delineate the values and brand of the group. A functional group performs specific goals within a larger organization, such as a marketing department, an information technology team, or a membership committee.
About the Author: After completing the rigorous Master of Business Administration program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jay Hirshberg worked as a management consultant at a large firm before founding a number of successful technology startups.