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.