Organizational Consultation XXIII: Empowerment (Part Three)
The developmental sequence of small groups, as identified by Bruce Tuckman (1965) , concerns two distinct areas of behavior. First, almost all groups are convened to accomplish some specific task. Groups have agendas that must be followed, as well as problems to solve, and decisions to make. Behaviors related to getting the job done are called task behaviors. Second, since groups are made up of people, members of a group will establish interpersonal relations with each other, whether they wish to or not, over the course of the group’s development. Behaviors related to this interpersonal dimension of the group’s life are called interpersonal behaviors. Tuckman proposes that groups follow a predictable pattern of development over time in the areas of both task behavior and relationship behavior.
Stage 1: Forming
When a group is first established, it will inevitably go through a period of organization and orientation. This is a period of orientation to the task. During this stage the group will be concerned with identifying the task at hand and deciding what information and experience will be relevant to that task. In essence, the forming stage will be devoted to establishing the ground rules under which the work of the group will be conducted. In the area of interpersonal behavior, the forming stage is concerned with testing and dependence. Testing refers to attempts by group members to discover what kind of interpersonal behavior will be acceptable to other group members and to the formal leader of the group.
Dependence refers to the tendency of group members in this early stage to rely on the formal or informal leaders of the group to provide structures and guidelines for interpersonal behavior. In the realm of task behavior, group members during the forming stage seek to answer the question: “What is the task of this group, and how will I be able to contribute to that task?” In the realm of interpersonal behavior, group members during the forming stage attempt to answer the question: “What kind of behavior is acceptable in this group, and how am I to behave in this group?”