What are groups? How do they behave? Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl answer these questions by developing a general theory of small groups as complex systems. Basing their theory on concepts distilled from general systems theory, dynamical systems theory, and complexity and chaos theory, they explore groups as adaptive, dynamic systems that are driven by interactions among group members as well as between the group and its embedding contexts. In addition, they consider not only the group’s members and their distribution of attributes, but also the group’s tasks and technology in order to understand how those members, tasks, and tools are intertwined, coordinated, and adjusted. Throughout the book, the authors focus our attention on relationships among people, tools, and tasks that are activated by a combination of individual and collective purposes and goals that change and evolve as the group interacts over time.

Group Formation: Assembly and Emergence

Group formation: Assembly and emergence

The cross-functional task force we described in Chapter 1 was assembled by two managers—we'll call them Ali and Barbara—to complete a single project: develop a plan for a new notepad product. Ali and Barbara decided together on the membership for this task force. The cross-functional approach dictated that people from different departments should be included, and the number of departments to be represented dictated the size of the group. The cross-functional composition presumably will ensure that various tasks implicit in the project, such as researching the market for notepad computers, selecting designs that are feasible given the company's manufacturing capacity, forecasting costs of production, and developing a sales strategy, can be handled by appropriate group members. ...

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