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Organizational Behavior Course Notes – Groups

Advantages and disadvantages of heterogeneous groups vs. homogeneous groups

Advantages

Disadvantages

Do groups make better decisions than individuals?

The answer to this one is an unequivocal “sometimes’. It depends on the type of task/problem (routine or complex), and the make-up of the group. Groups tend to do well on the following types of tasks:

Disjunctive Tasks – Tasks which require a group to develop or choose a single “best” answer. The group decision is as good as the best answer/best person.

Compensatory Tasks – Tasks which do not have a single “best’ answer. Typically these are very complex problems.

If so, under what conditions?

Use a group when:

Any group project should begin with a decision on the PROCESS (i.e. how you will attack the problem) to be used. Group problem solving has numerous benefits and costs.

Benefits:

  1. Resource pooling – allows the group to draw from the combined physical and mental assets of the group members.
  2. Synergy – allows members to build upon ideas that they would not have developed on their own and perform at higher levels of accomplishment because of the group dynamics.
  3. Decision-making benefit – group agreement on the solution creates a sense of “ownership” and helps to alleviate tension during implementation.

Costs:

  1. Time constraints – it takes longer because various options have to be discussed.
  2. Potential Dysfunctionality – Someone regarded as an “expert” might be wrong and lead the group to the wrong decision.
  3. Over-conformity/group-think is also a potential problem.

Framework for Analyzing Work Groups

Contextual factors: background factors out of which a group arises and in which a group operates.

Social capital: credibility, acquired over time, and recognized in the group and the firm.

Three design factors of groups:

  1. People- characteristics that are important to analyze are skills and interests, members learning styles, values and assumptions, and individual tendencies (loose structure? Varying activities?)
  2. Task requirements- interactions required, activities variety, novelty of tasks, and work pace
  3. Formal organization- hierarchy, reporting relationships, reward systems, selection and recruitment procedures.

** Proper management requires setting up these three to maximize the group’s abilities. Emergence of the group is dependent upon these managerial decisions.

Group Patterns Emerge

How does group culture affect performance of the group? Of the individual?

The foundation, composition, and functional aspects of the group will affect the performance of the group as a whole (i.e., quality of solution and length of time to arrive at best workable alternative) and individual (ability to express unique opinions through framework of forum for discussion)

Structure of the group

Homogenous vs. heterogeneous

What are the advantages/disadvantages of conflict within groups?

Advantages: Conflict and disagreement might lead to evaluation of alternatives that would not be considered otherwise. The most important benefit of conflict is to avoid group-think or over-conformity on an incorrect answer/solution.

Disadvantages: The group might spend so much time and energy on conflict resolution that it is unable to come up with an optimal, or even a decent, solution.

How can the conflict be managed?
Modes of Conflict Resolution:

What factors influence whether or not a group is cohesive

Contextual factors such as the background out of which a group rises and in which a group operates is an important factor. Another important factor is social capital i.e., credibility acquired over time and recognized in the group and the firm. The three major design factors of a group are

To maximize a group’s abilities to function as a cohesive group, the above three factors must be properly managed through sound decisions.

Once a group is formed the culture, norms, roles, rituals and maps of the group that emerges will further influence the cohesiveness of the group.