Group Work Analysis
Analysis of group experiences is very important for developing some personal qualities and reaching higher levels of group performance. I think that the most effective stage of analysis is identifying strengths and especially weaknesses, as the latter can be turned to strengths in future. The purpose of this work is analysis of the recent event that happened in a team at two levels – individual and group. Work in the group that I analyzed turned out to be effective with certain drawbacks in the sphere of members’ participation and responsibility delegation.
The event that I am going to analyze in this paper happened in my group in MGN412 when we were to prepare a presentation. The members of the group were all international students and worked together for the first time. The process of presentation preparation wasn’t flawless, as we faced several serious obstacles right from the beginning. One of the most serious problems was fair knowledge of English and all the relative difficulties with gathering information, its interpreting and overall communication between the group members. Moreover, the members of the group mostly had a part-time job, which means that the amount of time they could allocate for the assignment was quite limited.
The situation was also difficult due to the fact that our international group not only had to prepare everything in English, but also present the obtained information in front of the audience. It was clear at once that we had to pay special attention to organization of the work process, which required a strong leader to work on the team motivation and other organizational issues. At first there was no leader in our group, and I decided to take this role for me. To solve the problems that I observed, I organized the first meeting where the regulating rules were established. I gave an assignment to everyone – to get familiarized with the topic of our work. At the next meeting the roles were given to the team members and the groups of two were formed for each important aspect of the topic. We paid a lot of attention to the presentation as well – one part of our team was preparing for oral presentation, the second was creating the presentation and the third was researching technical information for the presentation. Owing to these efforts everything was done at a very high level of quality.
One of the two dimensions, in which the group work will be analyzed, is individual. There are different theories that can be found in this sphere, but I have chosen the theory of self-efficacy for close analysis. To analyze the group experience from this perspective, it is necessary to understand the basics of this theory. Bandura defines self-efficacy as beliefs about human ability to control events that affect his life (Wood et al., 2010). Our actions in a particular situation depend on the mutual influence of the environment and our consciousness, particularly on the conscious processes associated with the belief that we can or cannot implement some of the steps required to change the situation in the best way for us (McGee, Peterson, Mueller & Sequeira, 2009). Bandura called such expectations self-efficacy.
According to Bandura, the force that controls a person is not in the external environment for him/her, but comes from the interaction of the environment, his own behavior and personality. Self-efficacy is an important personality characteristic and, combined with specific goals and knowledge about what to do, it can significantly influence the future behavior. It is not the same thing as our expectations regarding the results or consequences of our actions. Bandura differs self-efficacy from the outcome expectations. Self-efficacy is a person's confidence that he can carry out some action, while the outcome expectations are related to what he thinks about the possible consequences of his activities (Abele & Spurk, 2009).
Self-efficacy arises, increases or decreases depending on one of the four factors, or combinations thereof: (1) enactive attainment (success rises self-efficacy, while failure lowers it), (2) vicarious experience (if someone can do it, I can do it also), (3) social persuasions (encouragement and discouragement from society), (4) physiological factors (some physical factors a person tends to feel in stressful situations). Information about oneself and the world derived from these sources is processed by consciousness together with the memories of past experiences, affecting the self-efficacy. In addition, it is influenced by internal standards of behavior.
When thinking over the ways how team work could be improved in our case, I took self-efficacy theory as one of the basic ones. Owing to it, I knew the main factors and how I could influence them to increase the self-efficacy levels of each team member. Owing to it, the general effectiveness of team work also increased.
The theory I chose for analysis at the group level is the one of group effectiveness. On the whole, group effectiveness is a measure of group activity success that both qualitatively and quantitatively reflects the relation between the achieved and desired result, planned or the maximum attainable (Wood et al., 2010). Often researchers of group effectiveness believe that such a measure can exist only in cases where there are formal production quotas and temporary regulations. However, in this case, the essence of psychological measure of group effectiveness is not only narrowed down sharply, but it is also practically reduced to zero. Even in terms of terminology we can speak about the productivity of group activities. The term successful group activity (not to mention its effectiveness) is significantly broader than the psychological reality that can be described via the results. In fact, the socio-psychological component of the group effectiveness concept not simply as a necessary, but as a key component, includes an analysis of satisfaction with team members and the work process itself, its results, and those psychological effects that occur in intragroup and personal terms after summing up the activity of the group work.
There can be defined several factors that make group work effective. I want to analyze our group work on the basis of these factors (Baninajarian & Zulhamri, 2009):
1. Objectives. They should be absolutely clear to all group members and shared by them to a large extent, i.e., members agree with the goals and support them. In the case of our group the goals were known to everyone from the first meeting, and our group members totally supported them. It was one of the strengths in the group due to successful leadership
2. Communication: it should be effective and include both senses and organizational moments, such as information related to the task. In our group successful communication was established due to constant monitoring of messages on Facebook and email. It allowed us to be always in touch and prepare the required work on-time and without any significant problems.
3. Leadership. It should not belong entirely to the formal leader, but widely shared and implemented by all members of the group. The group should adhere to the participative style. Our group had certain problems in this relation conditioned by the lack of language knowledge, experience and free time. That is the reason why it was important to have strong formal leader. But this is one of the spheres that require further improvement in future.
4. Influence. The influence of the group moves on a rational basis, such as information or expertise. Our group was successful based on these considerations. The influence and attention was shifted based on the priorities important in different periods of time – from information gathering to actual preparation for the presentation delivery.
5. Conflict. The conflict is seen as a natural consequence of dedication to the common activity. Absence of conflict will result in an anxiety, because it would low level of participation. Openly expressed and resolved conflict is seen as a positive source of high-quality solutions. In our group there were several conflicts that were resolved in a good, but not the most effective way, to my mind. It is another sphere that calls for improvement.
6. Decision-making. In general, decisions are made on the basis of open debate, although the process is adjusted in accordance with the nature of the decision and its consequences or importance to the group members. Being a leader, I paid a lot of attention to decision making, because I thought about it as an important basis for successful team work. I think that in future I will have to work more on participation issues, but on the whole I think our decision making to be successful.
7. Interpersonal relationships. Their importance for the group unity is emphasized. Each individual team member is equally valuable for its unique contribution to the cause. Interpersonal relations were well-established in our group and based on the feedback from group members, I can say that no one felt discriminated.
8. Monitoring and review. Group work and its processes are subject to continuous monitoring and regular review. In our group regular meetings were an important factor that allowed for achieving positive result.
The set of characteristics presented above can be used in case of any group – working, academic or other. It allows for identification of weaknesses inside the group and changing them to strengths in future (Wood et al., 2010).
On the basis of the analysis presented above, it is possible to make certain suggestions and recommendations. First of all, I understood that in future it is necessary to work on active participation of the group members in the work process. Although this time everything finished successfully, it wasn’t easy for me to check everything and keep it under control. I think that I took too much work, which could have been distributed among the team members more wisely. Along with increase in participation level that I want to reach, there is a chance that the number of conflicts will increase as well. That is why, it is recommended to pay more attention to the conflicts handling. The responsibility and tasks delegation spheres also require further improvement.
Abele, A.E., & Spurk, D. (2009). The longitudinal impact of self-efficacy and career goals on objective and subjective career success. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 74(1), 53–62.
Baninajarian, N., & Zulhamri, A. (2009). Groups in Context: A Model of Group Effectiveness. European Journal of Social Sciences, 8(2), 335-340.
McGee, J.E., Peterson, M., Mueller, S.L., Sequeira, J.M. (2009). Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy: Refining the Measure. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(4), 965–988.
Wood, J., Zeffane, R., Formholtz, M., Wiesner, R., Creed, A., Schermerhorn, J., Hunt, J., Osborn, R. (2010). Organisational behaviour: Core concepts and applications (2ed ed.). Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia.