Right Mix for Group? LO3783

Tue, 21 Nov 1995 07:01:40 -0500

It seems clear that many people on this list have adopted the view that
the work of groups is a key part of the Learning Organization. We all
know that there are many kinds of cake, and that ingredients vary
drastically from one cake to another. So I guess a question like "what is
the right mix for a working group?" could have some relevance.

TIME SEQUENCING. In my experience, one could profitably consider any
group work to follow a period of preparation, and to precede a period of
interpretation of results. A reason for a period of preparation is to try
to create conditions that are likely to be most productive (in the most
general sense of the word). The reason for a followup period of
interpretation is to allow a little soak time to rethink what happened and
then to summarize it as a group product that can be put on the record for

FUNCTIONAL TRIAD. The functional triad called "context, content, and
process" is often useful in trying to get organized during the preparatory
period. In that period, attention is given to CONTEXT and PROCESS. The
advantage of specifying carefully and broadcasting the context for the
group work is that it avoids abusing people by putting them into
ill-prepared group situations and wasting their time; thereby making it
more likely they will have a good, productive experience. There are two
major advantages to specifying the processes to be used ahead of time:

(1) The group can concentrate on the substantive purpose for which it is
brought together

(2) Members of groups are seldom very expert on process, and moreover may
disagree on what should be done, thereby opening up the amateur hour and
also inciting conflict (whether overt or covert), before the group ever
gets around to serving the purposes that brought them together

The group facilitator who, as many do, asks the group to design its own
process, is raising a question as to why the facilitator is even present
at all.

GROUP MEMBER ROLE. The role of the group member should NOT be to design
process, nor to determine context (unless it is done before the group
meets). The role is simply defined: it is to provide content with
respect to the substantive issue.