As teams move through Tuckman's stages of team-building, they increase acquaintance, attraction and committment to the team. These are most pronounced in the "norming" stage where unwritten expectations about conduct are formed. As cohesion increases, norms are used to set standards of performance, and members exercise sanctions to increase conformity and reduce deviance from norms. When a very strong culture is built with high conformity, group think can also occur. The effects of group think combine to reduce innovation and decision making effectiveness. The same factors that build cohesion can be facilitated to reduce cohesion and group think.CohesionCohesion refers to the attraction a group of people have to relate, maintain group membership, and be identified as a group. It is desirable for teams to build rapid cohesion because it tends to unify and align efforts, enable group pressure for sanctioning deviance (see below), and increase team esprit. Teams that have high cohesion also tend to develop strong culture and norms, have high morale and satisfaction, are loyal and committed, and are productive.
Cohesion can be enhanced by these factors:
- Membership Boundaries. Having barriers to membership in which inclusion must be earned.
- Note: early studies on "hell week" in fraternal organizations and "boot camp" in the military showed that the more difficult it was to gain entrance to a group, the more highly valued membership was when it was finally attained. Although it is reasonable that new employee harassment is no longer acceptable in most organizations, consider that this may have some dampening effect on the level of commitment. That is, "if anyone can get in, what makes it special?"
- Familiarity. Increasing the proximity and frequency of interaction among members tends to increase cohesion. Facilitating self disclosure and acquaintance, especially when people discover they are similar can also enhance cohesion.
- Shared goals. Having a common set of goals and direction, or a superordinate goals under which members can accomplish their individual goals increases alignment and cohesion.
- Homogeneity or at least complementarity of styles. Having people who are all similar (e.g., Jungian style) leads to rapid cohesion (although they may also share the same blindspot). Lacking same styles, if people can see how their different styles complement each other, this too can build cohesion.
- Identity. Teams find ways of identifying themselves, such as names, logos, t-shirts and other apparal.
- Territory. Similar to boundaries, teams claim "turf" such as a meeting room or other space which is "theirs" and cannot be used by others. They cand ecorate it with awards, team pictures, samples of their productiveness as ways of enhancing and expressing cohesion.
- Team successes. Attaining goals, exhibiting high performance, and achieving recognition for efforts add momentum to cohesion.
- Recognition. Recognition by significant others outside the team increases cohesion. For example, a newspaper or organization newsletter might report on the teams performance.
- Common enemy or competition. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"--so goes an old Arabic saying. Having a common external enemy or competitor makes people draw together and minimizes their differences in contrast to the external threat.
- Team size. A small team usually becomes more cohesive than a large one. In addition, a large team risks becoming fragmented by formation of subgroups.
- Physical isolation. Isolation (such as retreats at remote sites, or separate buildings for worksites) tends to increase team interaction, and decrease interaction with those outside. There are fewer distractions as well.
Additional factors that may create team pressure and thereby become preconditions for GT include:
- Time pressure. Demands to produce work within certain time frames may pressure members to disregard details, alternatives, and overlook critical judgement. Fast pace of work can also contribute to overlooking flaws.
- Performance Pressure. Paradoxically, pressure to perform at high standards may make members myopic, and focus more on the outcome than the process.
- Transition period. Transitions are notoriously mushy in their required attention to procedures, policies, and rigor. The urgency to move through them can create oversight.
- Complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. These conditions produce anxiety in many people who then tend to focus on easy, simple, and obvious solutions.
- High risk and/or low recovery from failure. These pressures tend to make people more cohesive partly due to anxiety and partly to shared source of threat.
- Budgetary and other resource constraints. Cutting corners on costs can also cut decision effectiveness and consideration of options.
- Tasks and people are highly interconnected. This can make it difficult for people to object to others since it can affect their relations with or dependencies upon them.
- High visibility for success and failure. Visibility can make the team very conscious of dissention that will be observed by outsiders.
Sources of Norms
Norms are the usually unwritten, implicit expectations about "the way we do things here." They are standards of performance and behavioral guidelines about what is and is not acceptable. They are formed in four ways:
Conformity is generally defined as the attraction of members to
group, or motivation to remain in a group. It also refers to the
of behavior that are expected and considered as acceptable or
Groups can have a strong effect on influencing conformity as shown in
Deviation from Norms
When a person deviates from norms, member interaction with that person increases (Schachter, 1951). The person is asked to explain and clarify the deviant behavior. Opposing information is directed to the person in an attempt to correct their deviancy. Finally, the person is excluded, ignored, or disempowered.
Deviance may serve a positive function (Hanke & Saxberg, 1985). For example, workers who raise constructively deviant questions (e.g., challenge assumptions), can be productive workers and make valuable contributions. Deviance also incurs sanctions that clearly communicates to other members what the norms are, as part of the enculturation process.
Some members can earn "idiosyncratic credits" (Hollander, 1960) to deviate for a period. Credits refer to helpful past behaviors that are valued by the group, so that the deviate earns a limited degree of variance from norms. For example, if a member works on a team project late into the night for the benefit of all, that member may come late to a meeting even though they have a strong norms about being on time. The extra effort has allowed a degree of deviation without sanction.