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Jun 18, 2010

Types of Groups and Teams

Organizations contain many different kinds of groups, which can be categorized by common characteristics such as how the group forms, what the group does, and who its members are. The most basic distinction is between formal groups that are formed by the organization and informal groups that are not officially part of the organization structure.

Formal Groups
A formal group is created by the organization to carry out a specific set of tasks related to official organizational goals. Such groups are part of the formal organizational structure, and they appear on the organization chart as part of the hierarchy. One type of formal group is a functional group, a group consisting of a manager and all the employees who report directly to that manager. The goals of command groups are not usually confined to one project, and members' work is ongoing. In a traditional command group, one member (the manager) supervises the others and provides the link in the chain of command through which organizational communication and authority flow.

At times, organizations confront issues that require more sharply focused attention or more highly diverse expertise than a command group can provide. In such situations, managers may designate a task group, a group created to handle a narrower range of tasks in connection with solving a particular problem or accomplishing a specific goal. Also known as a task force, this group's members are typically drawn from two or more command groups and may continue their roles in the command groups even as they serve on a task force.

Whether they are called task groups, task forces, committees, or other names, such groups are all part of the formal organization; organizations often have their own names for the formal groups they establish.

Task groups may be temporary or they may be permanent. Once temporary task groups complete their work and achieve their short-term goals, they disband. Permanent task groups such as standing committees conduct ongoing work and rarely disband. New members are sometimes added and members who leave are replaced, but despite such changes, permanent task groups usually continue their work dealing with recurring issues.

Informal Groups
An informal group is a group voluntarily formed by its members rather than by the organization. Members form these groups to serve social needs or to pursue common interests that may or may not relate to organizational goals. Informal groups often arise spontaneously in the normal course of interactions among group members, and employees and managers may be members of several informal groups.

One type of informal group is the interest group, a group created by members with a common purpose, agenda, or concern. These concerns may or may not be related to organizational goals. Another type of informal group is the friendship group, a group that arises in response to a social attraction among members rather than from a unifying interest. Friendship groups often develop spontaneously when individuals work together, and a friendship group linking members of a formal group can improve interpersonal communications while making work more enjoyable.

• A problem-solving team consists of a group of employee and manager volunteers who meet regularly to discuss methods for solving problems with products, processes, quality, or the work environment. Problem-solving teams generally make recommendations but cannot make changes without management approval. Many organizations create problem-solving teams as the first step toward encouraging greater employee participation.
• A special-purpose team, also called a cross-functional team, is made up of members with diverse levels of experience and knowledge who work together on a specific activity. In many plants, such teams work on ways to improve product quality; in other plants, they consider how to improve workplace conditions.
• A self-managing team is a team in which members are responsible for virtually all aspects of an operation or production process. The team operates fairly autonomously, without a management-designated leader, and members generally handle a variety of team tasks, sharing collective responsibility for the group's work.