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Understanding Group Process

Understanding Group Process


(Adapted from the work of Richard Weber, NTL, 1982)

During our lives, both professional and social, we all have experienced times in being in or with groups that have worked and those that have not worked. Why is it that some groups come together and develop form and grow from a collection of individuals to a cohesive functional unit? Is there any way that we can prepare for the process or is it just “fate”?

The experience of a “good Group” is frequently equated to a “mystical” experience├é┬á something “just happens,” and it happens either by divine intervention, or the planets are just right, or maybe “chemistry.” On the other hand, when we experience a “bad group” we often ascribe it to poor leadership, or a lack of affinity among the members, or not enough time, or just not paying attention. All of these factors can affect our group experiences.

What is not evident is that groups are not static things that “just happen,” but they are complex living entities, similar in many ways to a person. Few people think about the development and growth of groups.

Each group goes through three major stages of development in the life of the group. The stages can be compared to the infant, adolescent, and adult stages of a person. Further, each stage has four dimensions that need attention: Group Behaviour, Group Tasks or Issues, Interpersonal Issues, and Leadership issues. Each stage is different from the other stages and different in the way which each group experiences and lives through it. The trainer needs to know that each stage is lived through by all groups that develop into cohesive, functional units.

So, as in the development of an individual, certain stages may be more of less pleasant for us to experience. Anyone who has had a problem teenager knows this. Each stage must be lived through, however, and each can be treasured as our own unique experience in an inevitable cycle of development.

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