Here’s what MBA students need to know about group dynamics
Any manager interested in accomplishing business goals needs to understand group dynamics. After all, if you are going to manage people and projects, it’s essential that you know how to inspire teams to put forth their best effort. That’s why many MBA programs have students work in groups.
Managers must coordinate the activities and interactions within groups. They also must understand how group dynamics can affect the success of a team. When dynamics are good, the group works well together and work gets done. However, poor dynamics can lead to a lack of effectiveness from the group.
How do managers improve team dynamics? There are a number of approaches that can be taken to encourage positive group dynamics. But, it starts with an awareness of how the group functions and the roles people play within the group.
In the 1940s, theorists Kenneth Benne and Paul Sheats described functional roles of group members in their widely respected article on the topic. Their work influenced other research on group dynamics.
Benne and Sheats defined three categories of group roles: task roles, personal and social roles and dysfunctional or individualistic roles. Here are some of the descriptions of those roles.
These are the roles that relate to getting the work done.
- Initiator/Contributor – Proposes ideas, tasks and goals.
- Elaborator – Develops plans from other people’s ideas.
- Procedural Technician – Facilitates group discussion by handling logistical concerns.
Personal and Social Roles
These roles contribute to the positive functioning of the group.
- Encourager – Affirms, supports, and praises the efforts of fellow group members through friendliness and warmth.
- Harmonizer – Supports reconciliation of differences.
- Gatekeeper/Expediter – Regulates the flow of communication.
Dysfunctional and Individualistic Roles
These roles disrupt group progress and weaken its cohesion.
- Aggressor – Makes personal attacks using belittling and insulting comments.
- Recognition Seeker – Uses group meetings to draw personal attention to him or herself.
- Self-Confessor – Uses the group meetings as an avenue to disclose personal feelings and issues.
Managers can improve dynamics by asking what roles are being filled, which additional ones might be required and which are not needed. Roles vary depending on the stage of group development and the tasks at hand. By recognizing functional roles and specific behaviors, managers can encourage positive group dynamics.
Alvernia University helps their MBA students learn about teamwork by having the students collaborate on experiential-based learning projects. Previous students developed a five-year strategic plan for Habitat for Humanity and have worked together on projects for other local non-profits.