Characteristics of Effective Groups

Every single group is unique. So it's only natural for group process, structure, and culture to vary from group to group as a function of the group's task, stage of development, and membership. Still, there are certain barometers of group effectiveness that seem to apply almost universally and that correlate well with group performance.

What effective groups do

⇒ The group periodically takes time to reassess its performance, purpose, and process.

⇒ There's no tyranny of the minority (a pushy or dominating subgroup or individual).

⇒ Group members stay involved, interested, and listen to one other.

a model of creative ideation

⇒ Most decisions are reached through genuine consensus or concordance.

⇒ The group task is well understood and, when action is taken, group members are clear about their roles and assignments.

⇒ Members aren't afraid to propose creative ideas or to express feelings."

⇒ The emotional atmosphere feels comfortable and tension-free.

All group members participate in discussions, which relate to the group task.

⇒ The group is okay with disagreement, and criticism or conflict is constructive and expressed in frank, respectful ways.

⇒ It's clear who the group facilitator is, but she or he doesn't dominate the group.


What ineffective groups do

⇒ The group never discusses its own process or performance.

⇒ The atmosphere reflects apathy, boredom, or high tension.

⇒ Actions and decisions are unclear and occur before the real issues have been discussed and resolved.

⇒ A few people dominate discussions, while others sit silent.

⇒ From what's being said, it's hard to figure out the group task or objective.

⇒ Group members don't listen to each other, so people often repeat themselves.

⇒ Conversations after meetings reveal that people were holding back their real feelings.

⇒ Disagreements get swept under the rug, as if they are threatening or counterproductive.

⇒ An individual or small subgroup is so aggressive the group often accedes to its wishes.

⇒ Any criticism produces tension or embarrassment in the group.