The coalition has been selected and is ready to begin addressing the challenges that lie ahead. To be effective and efficient, the members need to understand important group processes. Using these will help the group work together and do more.
When people gather as a group, they may not act in the same way as when they are alone or with one other person. Each group develops its own pattern of interaction as it goes through various phases, as members become comfortable, learning to know and trust one another. As trust develops at least four things should happen:
Forming a group requires teamwork, perseverance, cooperation and imagination. The group's facilitator and members each have unique responsibilities to helping to make the coalition successful and to meet its goals.
Having a good facilitator and willing members form a coalition does not imply they have a cohesive group. It may appear the group members like each other and seem to get along. However, cohesive characteristics come with time, as the group works together. In Group Process, Joseph Luft suggests four criteria have to be met before a set of individuals can he considered a group.
The group must develop a strong feeling of "we-ness," member talking in terms of "we" rather than "I." "We" team members:
Trust is the most important ingredient to developing a cohesive
group. The first crisis most groups face involves the ability of
members to trust themselves and each other. Trust will reduce a
members' fear of acceptance and support. It involves everyone's self
Increasing Group Cohesiveness
Factors that increase group cohesiveness:
Source: Holli, B. B., and Calabrese, R. J. (1991) Communication and Education Skills (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lee and Febiger.
Every group makes decisions. Groups that make effective decisions usually use a decision-making process. They select alternative solutions and chart a course of action. The way a group makes a decision influences how members feel about the group. It also can determine how well the group members support the decision. Steps in group decision-making are:
The problem should be written clearly so all group members know and understand it. Larger problems should be divided into sub-problems. This will allow for better understanding among group members, thus, finding a successful solution.
There are different methods to arrive at a decision. They include consensus, voting and the leader deciding. Let's look at some advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Consensus is the synthesis of ideas. When alternatives are discussed, the group hears the views of all the members and discusses the issue until it is felt everyone agrees. A vote is not taken, but the facilitator gives any member the chance to object. If there is objection from any one member the group must continue to look for an alternative. Advantages to this system include:
Voting is another acceptable method. After the information has been gathered and alternatives listed, the group decides which will be the best way to solve the problem. The idea behind the system is that though the majority rules, the minority must go with the decision. The main advantage is this method requires less time to make a decision. However, members who were on the losing (minority) side may not feel committed to the decisions. They may not wholeheartedly help to accomplish the task.
Letting the leader decide is a method that would only be used in extreme cases when time does not allow input from other group members. Even if a leader is unable to meet with the group, he or she should contact some members of the group for their ideas. This method takes members completely out of the decision-making process and, thus, the group commitment level will be extremely low.
Information on the problem should be shared. The more that is known, the more productive the discussion of alternatives will be. All members should be allowed to add specific information to the pool of information.
Members should list all the possible solutions to the problem. This is not the place to limit thinking! List responses so none are forgotten.
For each solution, list the pros and cons. Consider all implications of each alterative. This will provide direction as the group moves closer to deciding on just one solution.
This is the point of deciding which alternative is the best solution and will move the group ahead. Remember all members need to have a stake in the decision and a part in the plan of action.
The way a group feels after making a decision is important, especially if the group plans to have a continuing positive relationship. High levels of harmony are noted by positive feelings, a high percentage of membership participation and shared decision-making.
Critical thinking is:
Am I a critical thinker? For each pairs listed below, which one best describes your actions as a coalition team member?
Barker, L. L., R. J. Kibler, K. J. Wahlers and K. W. Watson. Groups in Process: An Introduction to Small Group Communication. 3d ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1987.
Bull, N., and J. Jones. "Are We Fostering Critical Thinking in Our Adult Learners?" Unpublished manuscript, The Ohio State University.
Holli, B. B. and R. J. Calabrese. Communication and Education Skills. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lee and Febiger, 1991.
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