An investigation into Group and Team Dynamics

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This report, An investigation into Group/Team Dynamics, is an assignment for a Personal and Professional Development Module, Semester 1, Bsc Hons in Computing at National college of Ireland 2010.

It has been compiled by A.D.E.P.T. - the name we gave ourselves as a group. There are four Members of Adept; Alex, Declan, Eoin and Paul. Over the course of the semester it is our goal to move from being a group to becoming a team. Hopefully this project will take us a few steps closer to This goal.

The report will cover the areas of Belbin's Classification, groupthink and Social LoafingWe will discuss each topic individually, their pros and cons, and evaluate how each subject applies to our group.

For Belbin's Classification we will discuss:

· Meredith Belbin

· Belbin's Theory

· Belbin's Classification of roles

For groupthink we will discuss:

· Groupthink definition?

· The pros and cons of groupthink

· Preventing groupthink

· Measures we implemented to prevent groupthink within our group

For social loafing we will discuss:

· What is social loafing?

· The pros and cons of social loafing

· Methods of preventing social loafing

· Measures we implemented to prevent social loafing within our group

Finally we will discuss our findings in relating to the three subject coveredand what bearing they had on our group. We hope you find this report well defined and informative.



(Alex, Declan, Eoin & Paul)

What is a group?

Two or more people could be classified as a group. But for it to be considered a group, frequent interaction and a sense of identity must be present. Each member of the group must depend on the group, and have a shared value system, norms and a shared goal or task.

Some groups may form organically while others are formed artificially, which is the most common forming within a business task or project.


Attitubes and behaviors specific to different groups are known as norms. They are not the formal rules one would find pre-defined for a group, but instead the normal behaviour and characteristics associated within a group and formed during the early stages of a groups development. It is not uncommon for norms of a group to conflict with formal rules and structure.


When norms of a group become apparent, members are required to behave in a predictable way. It starts to develop the co-ordination of the groups structures, and division of labour. We can see a role as the individual characteristics and expected behaviour of individuals within a groups structure.

The advantages of role definition within a group is understandable. It allows group members to perform specialised tasks to their strengths, allows decreased individual workload and increased output and performance. Responsibility is also shared when concrete roles have been defined.

We will discuss roles further when we report on Belbins classification.


As with all social animals, ethology, the study of animals behaviour in a normal environment, shows us that a division appears, forming hierarchies within a group. That is to say, each position in a group holds a different class system value.

Reference: Wikipedia. (2010). Aplha (Ethology). Available: Last accessed 14th Oct

It is generally the higher status individual, or the 'alpha's' of the group that holds the leadership type roles. People of specialised talent or specific knowledge or value to a group are also held in high regard within a groups structure.

The benefit of this status system is that it can provide stability within a group, and allows people to concentrate on the tasks required of them rather than the task of finding their 'place' within a group. In parallel it can also reduce progess, as it may prevent open thought and discussion, and development of individuals within the group.

Group Development

Whether organically created or artificially, a groups characteristics are almost malleable during its development stage. There are five stages during a groups development.


This stage involves collection of member to form a group. It can be, for some members if not all, the first social encounter of the group. It is an uncertain time, where relationships are formed, and a leadership role is depended upon to bring some level of structure.

People are afraid to put forward ideas and plans at this early stage, due to uncertainty and fear of non acceptance, as norms have not been defined, and for this reason the group can be slow to progress.


This too can be a difficult stage in a groups development. Through unsteadiness and instability, the group tries to define itself, by setting down boundaries, roles, and develop norms.

Often extroverted members or those who would be considered assertive member of the group, will be seen at the forefront socially, making a bid for control and leadership.


This is a positive stage of development whereby the group now moves its focus away from the struggle for power and focuses on structure and cohesion. Norms have completed the development stage and are now established amongst the member of the group. Stable friendships and relationships form. And individual members have been assigned specialised roles.


The group is now a well oiled engine, with a high level of cohesion and trust among its members.

It can now fuel itself , as it becomes an almost entirely self sufficient entity, with its own identity. During this stage it may be difficult to make additions to a group as it could affect the balance and symmetry.


This can be a difficult time for members of a group. A strong sense of camaraderie, can make it difficult for people to let go. A euphoric sense of achievement is felt if a particular goal or achievement has been met, and a tremendous regret or dissappointment in the case of failure.

A ritual ending will often occur, to provide transition from a group and a feeling of closure.

A group or a Team?


From the greek syn-ergos is defined as a group of individuals working together and producing a result more than the sum of production of each of the individuals of that group. In other words synergy is increased output from cohesion within a group.

Reference: Wikipedia. (2010). Synergy. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct

A team can be defined as a particular type of group with specific goals, and a high level of co-ordination, cohesion and trust. A clear objective is needed for success and all members are required to sustain a high level of involvement and effort.

Responsibility is shared within a team and creativity and innovation is encouraged. A sense of the 'collective' has been established for each of the members, and a successful team will harness the collective knowledge base and strengths of its members.

Team types

Top Management

Senior officials and staff, that develop an overall strategic goal and direction, for the main function of the business. Members of this team are usually experienced and have an aptitude for the analytical, and the ability to make decisions after complicated considerations.

Project team

This model, probably best describes the type of team that ADEPT would like to replicate. Although many members during the forming stage of a project team have never met, they manage to build relationships quickly and reach a high standard of organisation and colaboration, to reach a specific goal or achievement.

Although project teams are short lived they are often cross-functional in that they use expertise and knowledge from a wide spectrum of angles to solve problems and complete tasks.

Self Managing team

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Gender and diversity?

Belbin's Classification

Meredith BelbinDr. Raymond Meredith Belbin was born in 1926. He studied at Clare College, Cambridge. After completing his doctorate, Belbin was appointed as a research fellow at Cranfield College. His early research focused mainly on older workers in industry. He returned to Cambridge and joined the Industrial Training Research Unit and subsequently became chairman. While acting as chairman for Cambridge's Industrial Training Research Unit, Belbin took a position as OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) consultant running successful demonstration projects in Sweden, Austria, UK and the United States.


Wikipedia. (2010). Meredith Belbin. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct

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It was in the late 1960s, that Belbin was invited to carry out research at the Administrative Staff College at Henley-on-Thames. This was the work that formed the basis of his 1981 book "Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail" in which Belbin discussed the ideas of team members having specific roles within the team. It was some time before Belbin received recognition for this work.

In 1988, Belbin and his son established Belbin Associates to publish and promote his research.


Wikipedia. (2010). Meredith Belbin. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct

Belbin's Team Inventory (Classification of Roles)

Belbin's team inventory is the result of the observational research carried out by Belbin in order to determine what influenced team success or failure. The results highlighted that successful teams, are teams that have a balanced skill set that enable them to work together and manage all the various tasks required. These results also highlighted that even if teams contained all highly intelligent team members, they most likely would not succeed if they did not have the skill sets to complete the task, and likewise, teams with less intelligent members would be far more successful as long as they had the required skill sets. Belbin's team roles allow us to assess teams and evaluate if they have the required skill sets to achieve the job at hand.

Belbin defined the team roles as follows:

Team members to fill in their researched roles below


Plants are creative members of a group, unorthodox, and the generators of ideas and innovation, generally they are bright and free thinking, and tend not to get bogged down in detail.Communication can be an issue with Plants for this reason. .Sometimes Plants can overlook practical concerns regarding a task. Multiple plants in a team can cause problems and arguments as they can tend to get offended if their ideas are ignored or challenged.

Resource investigator

Resource invstigators are probably the most immediately likeable members of the team. They bring new ideas, new developments and information back to the team. They are relaxed and sociable . They are good at communicating with people both inside and outside the company. Their responses tend to be positive and enthusiastic and when they are under pressure they are very active, although they have the tendency to loose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget small details.

Reference: 19:15 11/10/10


The coordinator is the most likely candidate for the chairperson of the team. This is due to their ability to take a step back from the task at hand to see the big picture. Coordinators are confident individuals, stable and mature. They recognize the abilities in others and are good at delegating tasks to the right person for the job. Coordinators clarify decisions, helping the team to stay focused on their individual tasks.


The Shaper is task focused, driven and work best when under pressure. They love a challenge and relish in "nervous energy". The Shaper can convince other group members to see things their way and can be tough-minded at times. More than one Shaper can lead to conflict. Shapers can be aggressive when trying to get their point across.


Monitor / evaluators are very observant and judge what is going on in the team. They would would be very intellegent and take a broad view when solving problems. They can be very unpopular within the group because they can be very critical, damping enthusiasm for anything without logical reason to an issue. They are the least enthusiastic individuals in the team. It is important for Monitor / evaluators to be fair-minded and open to change. There is a danger that they will turn depressively negative and allow their critical powers to outweigh their receptiveness to new ideas.

Reference: 19:15 11/10/10

Team Worker

A team worker is generally a good listener, diplomatic, sociable with a good sense of humour. At the core they are a people person. Where possible they will try to avoid confrontation, and try to divert other member of the Group away from potential disagreement or friction. Teamworkers can go unnoticed due to their low profile, and are seldom recognized as a valued member of a group, until they are missing, and issues arise that require a third party to intervene, or small but important tasks are not completed.


An Implementer is someone who can be guaranteed to get their work done. They do the jobs that others don't want to do. They are rational thinkers and take the concepts and ideas from the group and turn them into real practical actions. Other group members may get annoyed by the Implementer as they may see them as inflexible or think they are resisting change.


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Specialists are passionate individuals who tend to be focused on one particular area, but have in-depth knowledge in that area, and most likely enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. They also strive to improve that knowledge and build upon their expertise. They bring a high level of skill, discipline and concentration to their team, but only within the area of their specialization. The Belbin Team Inventory was revised to include the specialist, as specialist knowledge was not required for the original simulations conducted by Belbin.


Wikipedia. (2010). Belbin Team Inventory. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010


Business Balls. (2010). Personality Styles Models. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010


Ced training. (2010). Personality Styles Models. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010


Mind tools. (2010). Belbin's Team Roles. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.

The role of Personality Types

When we look at the 9 belbin roles individually, it becomes apparent that we can associate each role with a personality type. In other words certain types of people or certain types of personalities directly associate with each of the belbin roles.

This would not always be the case, as in a real life situation, or a working environment people would not always appear to fit a role that would be appropriate to their personality, and may emerge as quite different when their attention is focused on a task based situation. But for the most part it could be said that certain personality types would fall into a certain role during a team/group based task.

If we take the researcher role as an example, we would see in a regular social situation outside the confines of a task or goal based environment, a person who would be slightly extroverted, dominant, relaxed, well liked by the group. The same 'type casting' can be said for most of the Belbin roles. Another example could be a shy, introverted person who would rather avoid confrontation, would most likely take the role of a team worker in a group.

If we look at the table below, we can see when grouped together, each of the roles listed have a rather interesting grouping. A prominent group category emerges for each of the nine roles.

They can be divided into three groups. One group for thinking and problem solving, one for people and feelings and a final group for doing and acting . Another way of looking at this grouping would be that each of the three category groups can be called head, heart and hands.

Monitor/ Evaluator

Sees the big picture. Thinks carefully and accurately about things. May lack energy or ability to inspire others.

Thinking / problem-solving


Solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas. Can be poor communicator and may ignore fine detail.


Has expert knowledge/skills in key areas and will solve many problems here. Can be disinterested in all other areas.


Respected leader who helps everyone focus on their task. Can be seen as excessively controlling.

People / feelings

Team worker

Cares for individuals and the team. Good listener and works to resolve social problems. Can have problems making difficult decisions.

Resource / investigator

Explores new ideas and possibilities with energy and with others. Good networker. Can be too optimistic and lose energy after the initial flush.


Well-organized and predictable. Takes basic ideas and makes them work in practice. Can be slow.

Doing / Acting


Lots of energy and action, challenging others to move forwards. Can be insensitive.

Completer/ Finisher

Reliably sees things through to the end, ironing out the wrinkles and ensuring everything works well. Can worry too much and not trust others.

The first group contains the Monitor/Evaluater, the Plant and the Specialist. These are the group members who carry out the thinking and problem solving. These members are the Head.

Coordinators, Team workers and resource/investigators make up the second group. These members are about people and feeling. The coordinator manages the members, the resource/investigator is about social and networking, and lastly, the team worker, who is a carer for the individuals of the group. These members are the Heart.

Finally, we have Implementers, shapers and completer finishers, who all tend to have a high focus on details. They tend to be more about action itself, than the bigger picture. The doing and the action. These are the hands.

Head, Heart and Hands. The head is about cognitive function and being logical. The heart is about affective function, emotions and feelings.The hands are about practicality, action, physical effect.


Changing minds. (2010). Belbin's team roles. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.


What is Groupthink?

William H. Whyte, an American Urbanist and organisational analyst coined the phrase 'Groupthink'. He used the phrase in 1952 when asked to write a piece for Fortune magazine, which later become a 1956 Bestseller titled 'The Organisation Man'.

Irving Janis however, is widely known as the pioneer of the theory. A research psychologist at Yale University, and a Professor at the University of California, he carried out extensive research into the subject mostly around unsuccessful American foreign policies and the decision making process behind them.

Groupthink occurs as the result of conformity within groups. Initially this conformity happens as a means of generating affiliation with other members within the group, to strengthen bonds and satisfy their need for acceptance into the group. This may involve compromising some of their personal beliefs in order to do so. This can be good for the team as the effectiveness of the group is enhanced by agreement among its members.

Groupthink is the negative offshoot of this conformity, and occurs when the group is so keen to gain consensus it ignores important warnings and dissenters to do so, with potentially disastrous results.

Example of Group Thinking:

Conformity as a Positive allows:

· The buildup of affiliations and allegiances within the group

· Group enhancement in relation to basic ideas and principles

· Commonality of views can allow for more efficient decision-making

· A united front can build the groups confidence

Negative effects of groupthink:

· The group perceives itself as invulnerable.

· The group disregards the morality of its actions

· Conformity may be enforced by ridicule or exclusion

· Agreement may be rushed through without concern for arguments that disagree with the decision

· Potentially innovative ideas or concepts can be disregarded without investigation


Henry McClave (2008). Communication for Business. 4th ed. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p263-265.


12 Manage. (2010). Explanation of Groupthink of Irving Janus. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.

Preventing Groupthink:

Appoint a devil's advocate

You want people to think "outside the box" and not just stick to the same old ideas, re-hashing the same thing over and over. One way to do this is to make a person "devil's advocate", i.e. you tell a person that they have to have a certain opinion and argue for it. It doesn't matter if they agree or not, the point is that it'll open up discussion on a topic where there would not normally be any.

Leader should not initially state a preference

If a leader (or coordinator) states their opinion when introducing a topic for discussion, they immediately influence the whole group. People will instantly side towards that opinion. Not stating an opinion puts the onus on the group members themselves.

Set up independent groups and divide groups into subgroups

The more groups you have the more likely it is there will be broader range of discussion and ideas. The smaller the groups more likely it is that people will be confident enough to voice true opinions and engage in real conversation rather than just going along with the general mood of a larger group.

Invite others to the group

Outside opinions are vital to avoid groupthink. If members of a group are working closely together for any decent amount of time they're likely to develop some form of group thinking. Getting people from outside of the group and inviting them to engage in conversation is a perfect way to keep ideas and opinions fresh and free from stagnation.

Discuss ideas with trusted non-group members

Similar to the point above, members should speak with trusted non-group members, share their ideas with them and see what they think. As they are not discussing their ideas with a group, the responses to their ideas are not spoiled with groupthink-mentality. Depending on the person, the responses may be well thought out and honest.

What did we do to prevent Groupthink in our own group?

· Each team member researched the areas of Belbin's roles, groupthink and Social Loafing individually and wrote a brief report on their findings.

· Setting up of a shared space for recorded conversation and file storage allowed individuals to review the other group members work at their leisure and formulate their own opinions.

· We then combined the best parts of each report to give a full and concise document with well balanced concepts contributed by each member.

· A final document was circulated to all group members for approval before committing to it in full.



12 Manage. (2010). Explanation of Groupthink of Irving Janus. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.

Social Loafing

What is Social Loafing?

In a nutshell, "Social Loafing" is when people don't work as hard when they are in a group than when they work by themselves. They think it's easier to be lazy when in a group of people as not everyone will notice them not pulling their weight.

Origins of Social Loafing:

In 1913 a research was carried out by Max Ringelmann's . He found that some individuals within groups would not put as much effort into a task if there were other people to pick up the slack, one of the main reasons for this is the feeling that an individual feels confident enough that he or she will not be found out as its more difficult to evaluate and individuals effort within a group and the group will absorb any shortfall in their efforts.

Research shows that there is some degree of social loafing within every working group, no matter how well the group peforms. This is the tendency for people to perform worse on simple tasks, yet better at complex tasks when they are in the presence of others.

Pros and Cons

Although any reasonable person wouldn't consider there to be any "pros" to social loafing, for an active social loafer some of the benefits could be:

· Reduced workload

· Gaining credit for work they haven't contributed towards

· Free time to apply to other areas

· Reduced stress

Some of the disadvantages of social loafing to the team are:

· Increased workload

· Disruption of plans/schedule

· Incomplete or substandard results

· Failure and / or bad publicity

How do you prevent it?

Reduce group size

Social loafing has been shown to occur more often in larger groups. The bigger the group the easier it is to get away with it. The smaller the group the less likely it is that this will happen.

Discuss the concept

If the social loafer knows that everyone in the group is aware of social loafing what it is, then maybe they will be less likely to actually engage in the act or it will more likely be noticed and discouraged by other team members.

Write and discuss job descriptions / roles

If a member does not have detailed tasks to carry-out it can be argued that they are not expected to actually complete anything. Laying out tasks and jobs for each individual member makes social loafing more difficult to get away with, as it'll be obvious who has done their work and who hasn't.

Evaluate each other's contributions anonymously

If people know they're going to be evaluated they are more likely to work harder at their task. If it's anonymous then the other members can give their honest opinions and without fear of having the person find out who said what.

Increase cohesion in the group

Make sure that the group members all get along. If it's full of people who don't get along then they're less likely to do their tasks as they are not concerned with being seen as the "social loafer" by people they don't like. If however they do get along and like each other then they're probably going to put in a lot more effort.

How did we prevent Social Loafing in our group?

Shared workspace was set up:

We created a shared workspace online where all relevant documents were uploaded and shared out to each group member. This helped prevent Social Loafing because each member knew that all the documents were fully visible to everyone, so if that person was not pulling his weight we would all know.


We discussed the idea of Social Loafing amongst ourselves on several occasions. All members were fully aware of what it was. This fact (as mentioned in the previous section) reduces the likelihood of members engaging in Social Loafing.

Joked about it:

As well as discussing it we would make jokes about it, accusing each other (or ourselves) of social loafing, this helps create a sense of ease within the group, and can be used as a polite way to give someone a nudge without causing conflict.

We reviewed each other's work:

Whenever we had something to write or research, we would bring our work into class or upload it to the shared workspace, making it possible to easily review each other's work.


Changing minds. (2010). Social Loafing. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.


Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM. (2010). Three tips to overcome social loafing. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.


Michael Johnson. (2010). How To Prevent Social Loafing. Available: Last accessed 14th Oct 2010.