Groups Can Work!

Some leaders go out of their way to work in groups. They feel they dilute productivity, increase miscommunication, and generally waste time. They are also quick to point to the economic cost of group meetings, generally done by combining the number of persons, their wages per hour and the length of the meeting. The truth is, sometimes they are right. Perhaps they are right often. But not always.

Here are two recent examples where doing group or team work is far and away the more efficient way to go (with some details changed in order to protect the players):

1) An association changing its constitution and bylaws, gathered all committees to do their edits in one morning all together — a mini-retreat with a celebration luncheon at the end. A governance task force floated throughout the room to help groups get past their stuck points. The alternative would have been one committee at a time, across at least three meetings, taking months instead of a morning. 2) A CEO wants her team to develop individual business plans for their arenas of responsibility, and as a subset of the organization’s business plan. Rather than do this in one to one conversations, or department by department, she decides to do this as a departmental manager day-long event.

Here are some benefits from doing this type of work in groups rather than individually: - The amount of time involved to move from point a to point b is reduced. - Communication can be misconstrued whether done in groups or individually.  When done in a group, however, it contributes to building consensus and reinforcement of that communication. - Working in groups provides the opportunity to build organizational alignment and strengthen organizational culture.

Key to success in this type of group work is the leader’s commitment to participate in the process. If it is a manipulative game — with intended outcomes already worked out — colleagues and employees will sniff it out and become jaded, sit on their best ideas, or even act with passive-aggression. If so, then new reasons will be found to avoid group work because they dilute productivity, increase communication and generally waste time.