GROUP FACTOIDS Group Size Although three is the minimum number of people needed for group communication, a maximum size is more difficult to recommend. In general, the ideal group size for a problem-solving discussion is five to seven members. To avoid ties, an odd number of members is usually better than an even number. Groups having more than seven members tend to divide into subgroups. As groups grow larger, individual satisfaction and commitment to the group often decreases. Members may feel left out or inconsequential. On the other hand, groups with fewer than five members often lack the resources and diversity of opinions needed for effective problem solving. Group Stages According to Bruce Tuckman, most groups go through predictable stages of development, each of which contains both task and maintenance functions: Stage 1: Forming. Members cautiously explore their own goals in relation to the group and its goal. They may avoid controversy and conflict and be reluctant to express their personal opinions and feelings. Although little gets done during this orientation phase, members need this time to become acquainted with each other and think about the group’s goal. Stage 2: Storming. Members compete with one another to determine individual status and to establish group goals. Members may feel they are becoming winners or losers and will look for structure and rules to reduce conflict. Stage 3: Norming. Members resolve conflicts and work as a team to develop methods for achieving group goals as well as “rules of engagement.” In general, members feel more comfortable expressing personal opinions. Stage 4: Performing. Members focus their energy on doing the work needed to achieve group goals. Roles and responsibilities change according to group needs and group energy is channeled into the task. Generally, group identity, loyalty, and morale are high. Group Structure Group communication scholar Marshall Scott Poole identifies structured procedures as “the heart of group work [and] the most powerful tools we have to improve the conduct of meetings.” Even a simple procedure such as constructing and following a short agenda enhances meeting productivity. Time and effort spent on using a well-planned, structured procedure can reap the following benefits: Balanced Participation. Procedures can minimize the impact of a powerful leader or member by making it difficult for a few talkative or high-status members to dominate a group’s discussion. Conflict Resolution. Procedures often incorporate guidelines for managing conflict, resolving disagreements, and building genuine consensus. Organization. Procedures require members to follow a clear organizational pattern and focus on the same thing at the same time. Procedures also ensure that major discussion items are not missed or ignored. Group Empowerment. Procedures provide a group with a sense of control. This happens when members know they have followed a procedure well, managed conflict successfully, given all members an equal opportunity to participate, and as a result have made a good decision. Source: Isa N. Engleberg and Dianna R. Wynn, Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007), pp. 5-6, 32, 239-240.