group management, small teams, small team management, group management dynamics, group management tools,

Group dynamics: groups vs. teams and why you need to account for both

Groups vs teams: Aren’t they the same thing?

Often, we think of the words ‘group’ and ‘team’ as being interchangable. We use them intuitively without need for a strong distinction. For our purposes today, let’s think of a ‘team’ as a small subset of a larger, ongoing group that comes together for a short time to work together on a specific goal that the larger group has set.

A small team is more effective at getting time-critical goals accomplished, like an event planned and orchestrated. The overall group may already be defined by strong communication, shared accountability, and decentralized leadership. If that is the case, fantastic news! You’re ahead of the curve! Over the lifetime of the group, small teams that form to organize and accomplish chunks of work will need to figure out how to create or translate the competencies of the broader group to their unique small team dynamic.

Most enduring groups benefit from decentralizing leadership. Without a central figurehead in place, groups are better able to communicate and collaborate without any barriers to action. If one person falls out of the mix, it does not totally shut down all progress when everyone else is able to step in and step up. If the central leader of a group with top-down leadership goes MIA, everything shuts down completely from communication to decision making and planning.  No mystery there.

Small teams focus on one chunk of work

Groups may divide up into small teams out of necessity when it comes time to accomplish certain goals. These goals may be things like planning a fundraising drive, hosting a workshop, or organizing a community outreach event. The small team will likely benefit from having point people for different aspects of the project. There may not be one specific figurehead that is holding accountability for the overall work of the small team. However, the dynamic will be more structured around each point person on the team being the accountable leader for their chunk of the work. The dynamic has shifted from the dynamic of the broader, enduring group.

A recovery group we host recently held a small workshop. One person signed up to facilitate the event and introduce the speakers. One person signed up to find the participating speakers and panelists. Another person took charge of soliciting feedback beforehand to find out what the group was interested in hearing about and what types of questions they would want to have covered. Finally, one person signed on to be in charge of communications leading up to the event. Clearly, none of these jobs could go undone. Each was critical to the success of the event.

Whereas in the broader group dynamic, these folks all were members participating at the same level and sharing in the broad mission and overarching flow of group activity, in the small team there was a clear benefit to a more hierarchical leadership. Each member of the team was responsible for their own work products, but the work was interdependent. If one person had not come through on their commitments, it would’ve been a major problem.

Your group management tools should support both dynamics

All of this to say that enduring groups need tools that facilitate both dynamics: that of the larger group, as well as the time critical workflow of the goal-oriented, temporary small team. The group will likely already have experience with a calendaring tool, but the best calendar tool will also facilitate the use of lists and sign-ups that coordinate with specific events on the calendar.

Another helpful feature for small teams is a sign-up tool that shows the status of independent tasks: who has signed up for what, and at what stage of completion is the task.  Finally, the whole group benefits from using a non-SMS or email-based messaging app. The small team will be greatly helped by a messaging tool that allows them to seamlessly message the entire membership or any subset from the membership database. No spreadsheet, no dated info, no coffee-stained paper list.

For these and other group hosting and support features, check out Groupeasy. Take advantage of our 9 integrated group management tools. Our user interface is intuitive and crisp enough to be user-friendly for those who are less tech savvy, but we have built in the integrated functionality and small details to really enhance your group’s workflow. For a tour, click here.

Happy Grouping,

The Team at Groupeasy

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