Where’s the power in groups… really?

For years we’ve talked about how organisations and society are essentially just large groups of people, and should be approached as such, but we know this view hasn’t been widely shared. Not really.

During the CV19 pandemic we think this idea of the world has become more apparent. We’d go so far as to say, undeniable.

As the offices have emptied and people have worked from home, connecting via online platforms like zoom, it feels even more visible that, fundamentally, organisations are just people working together in groups and that group performance is fundamental to organisational performance as well as individual wellbeing.

The challenging question that emerges once we start to dig into this view of the world is this:

What is the work we REALLY need to do to enable a group of people to do great work together?

In most organisations the work that gets prioritised when groups come together looks like this:

  • Updating each other on the projects and work each are individually involved in
  • Updating everyone on the decisions and strategies decided by senior people
  • Getting commitment and ‘buy in’ to projects that one person or a subgroup are working on

This quality of work in a group means that the group never truly becomes anything more than just a group of individuals, sharing information and keeping updated.

Under these circumstances, groups are doomed to never finding their power!

The power of a group lies in the ability of the individuals to truly connect and properly collaborate, to create results that are greater than any one person could achieve alone.

Whilst this aspiration exists in many organisations and communities, and is the root of why teams are put together to work on things, the flaw lies in thinking that simply bringing a group of people together is enough for the alchemy of a group to arise and for that collaborative power to be unleashed.

An additional complexity in most large organisations is the systemic forces that promote and sustain individualism.

Things like individual appraisal systems and reward mechanisms actively work against groups achieving their collective potential and mean we have to work even harder to become more than a group of individuals in these systems.

It’s not all doom and gloom:

With skill and intention we can work against the dark forces of individualism to create collectivism and cohesiveness in groups which leads to the performance we aspire to whenever we start a new group.

This work requires us to pay attention to:

  • Group process – the patterns of interaction within the group – HOW the group works together
  • Group maintenance – attending to the relational aspects of the group, in particular, trust, conflicts and power dynamics
  • Information flow – what information is shared, with whom – and how transparent and connected the flow of information between group members is
  • Group impact – how decisions are made in the group and how they are acted upon, in the collective, by the collective

Having spent decades working in and with groups we know that there are some essential practical tools and skills that make for effective group work.

It’s not rocket science and it’s not a dark art.

The issue is that these are not yet pervasive in our workplaces and society.

There are a number of ways that we are working to change that:

  • Our Webinars share theories and content
  • Our Workshops are designed to develop practical skills
  • And our Learning Labs are aimed at honing our individual presence and impact in groups, in service of the group’s power!

We have a programme of sessions scheduled for the Autumn and are looking forward to supporting those who join us there in unlocking the power of groups. Really!