How to create group cohesion in an organisation?
The other day, I watched a documentary on RTS channel. I don’t recall the name of the program. It was a study by a professor who wanted to test whether a group performs better when each individual cooperates or when each one is in competition with one another.
There were 2 groups in the study. Each group was composed of perhaps 6 or 7 individuals (colleagues). They each held strings they had to pull jointly together, in order to use the strings as an instrument to lift up (brick size) blocks and to pile as many as possible, one on top of the other. It seemed to be quite a feat.
Different instructions were given to these two groups. The first group was encouraged to collaborate and cooperate as much as possible. The second group was told that they would have to work together but each person would be individually assessed based on their contribution to group effort.
In the first group, each individual was paying attention to each other’s suggestions. When someone proposed a solution, they were willing to try it and shared the pros and cons, discussed how to achieve their goal and eventually succeeded in piling quite a few blocks. In the second group, each individual tried to shine and stand out from the crowd, show that they knew better, virtually cut off others while they were talking, and basically tried working on their own which of course was not conducive of piling up a lot of blocks.
The conclusions of this study were that collaboration and cooperation in a group creates innovation and helps for better performance. Other similar studies show the same.
This may be applied to any project in your organisation. If you need to work on a difficult project and wish to be successful, you have to create a sense of cohesion or belonging to stimulate collaboration and cooperation within your group. Your group may be composed of people from various departments with different agendas. Everyone should be aware of the objectives the group is seeking to achieve and each person should feel part of the project and be given sufficient room to contribute. Each member of the group will then complement each other and you will obtain better results. This is possible when egos are set aside and competition is not part of the equation.
While technically you could say to people in your group: “Please cooperate, please collaborate”, a better solution would be to make them feel for themselves the benefits of cooperating and collaborating.
If you have trouble creating group cohesion or a sense of belonging to a group, the following steps may help:
- Communicate on the issues at hand and the common objective you will be seeking to reach. Generally, all members of a group may not see the importance of the objective, therefore it is important to convey the importance of the objective to each member individually (in a way, you will have to start lobbying/campaigning). Some members may share their doubts or voice out objections from the onset. Try to use factual arguments to cast away their doubts. Campaigning before gathering a group may be particularly important with those who are reluctant to cooperate. If you are convinced of the merits of what the group is trying to achieve, it will come across. If you yourself have doubts, you will have trouble rallying the members of the group.
- Set-up regular meetings. Bi-weekly or monthly will make a member drop out or lose interest when overwhelmed by his or her own work. Weekly is ideal because it keeps the ball rolling. These meetings are important because they create a discussion forum. At the end of the day, human beings are social animals and thrive on social interactions. Even with a diverse set of individuals, with regular meetings, a sense of belonging to a group will emerge and collaboration will increase.
- During the first meeting, present the common objective, how you expect to achieve it as well as the challenges involved. Challenges should never be personified (meaning a problem may always be brought down to the process or the way things are organised, never point to a person). During the meeting, obtain feedback, listen carefully and note down the concerns or issues raised by the members of the group.
- Work on the issues and concerns raised by the members of the group. This is crucial to obtain a sense of belonging. Everyone should feel welcome and “heard” in a group.
- In the subsequent meeting, ensure you have addressed all the concerns and explain the status. A group functions better when progress is seen and members start seeing results. It is good to have a presentation to share on progress because many people are sensitive to visual artifacts and it will stick a bit better in their minds.
- As the project manager, you should always ensure that you keep things moving as planned. If you let go, so will the others. Ensure also that there is no competition and everyone can voice their opinion.
Doing the above will help achieving group cohesion. You will gradually sense growing motivation of the members of the group and they will be happy to contribute. Remember creativity and performance is better when a group collaborates.
- Ensure you campaign and communicate well with people who will be members of your group and who have to work together. Communicate the goals, challenges, solutions.
- Listen to all concerns and try to address each one of them. If you cannot address a concern, explain why, factually. Don’t point to people but to organisational problems. Don’t leave room for competition.
- Ensure regular meetings are organised and results on progress are made visible.
- Keep things moving, keep the momentum going and you will see a significant rise in motivation.