We’ve been talking a lot recently about the inner workings that makes a group able to form, specifically looking at topics like communication processes and relevant background factors. However, these subjects are just gears in the overall structure and the machine still requires a proper frame to function. So now, let’s turn our focus towards how groups are organized so that they work efficiently, using examples of my past experiences in various groups.
Whoever coined the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen“, had it right when it comes to working in groups. The overall size of the group determines the efficiency at which they can work; too small and production slows down because the group becomes overwhelmed, whereas a group that is too big doesn’t work either, because of the high chance of people butting heads.
When I worked at a movies, we would sometimes fall behind while cleaning theaters if we only had two or three people working on a busy night, because we couldn’t clean fast enough to keep up with five or six shows breaking all at once. While at the same job, there was no point to having people working at all six registers at the snack bar, because the space wasn’t large enough to have everyone moving back and forth like they did, so it was difficult to retrieve popcorn for guests when you had to share two kettles and scoops with five coworkers. According to Tubbs and other sources, many experts agree that the optimum group size is five, which I would agree with unless you were in similar conditions to the one I just mentioned.
When organized groups are called to meet, you must also consider the seating placement of its members. For example, in a standard classroom setting, all of the students are sitting at desks facing the professor, clearly giving the latter a position of leadership and control. In workplace settings, this setup can lead to conflict if the person in the leadership role doesn’t consider the ideas or opinions of his peers because they feel a sense of superiority.
Ideally, groups should be organized in a circle, so that everyone can feel like they are on equal standing. This works especially well in a classroom setting, because students will feel more comfortable having discussions with each other and the professor, and in the end, this will lead to a more productive learning experience.
Lastly, relating back to the topic of communication, groups work more efficiently if the network of communication is nonlinear and everyone has access to speak to every other member of the group. I have been in multiple situations where one person told someone else to tell me to do a task, but along the way the message got a little scrambled, so when I did the task, it wasn’t done exactly as the first person wanted it to be done. Had they talked directly to me instead of sending a messenger, I probably would have have done the task correctly.
All of this is to say that there are many, many details involved in creating properly functioning and productive groups. While it may be a lot to take in, once you start applying these concepts, it will become second nature to you and you will be able to assist in propagating strong group dynamics, regardless of whether they are in the workplace, at school, within your family, or anywhere in between.