In a 250-300 word response, analyze how communication in groups differs from individual
communication. Are there unique challenges to communicating with groups? Provide examples.
Use at least one resource to support your key points. Respond to at least two of your fellow
Baack, D. (2012). Management communication [Electronic version]. Retrieved from
9.1 Business and Management Communicatio
n in Groups
Learning Objective # 1: How can individuals effectively communicate i
n formal and informal groups?
Today's business world features a considerable number of tasks that cannot be performed
by a single employee. Complex assignmentsdemand the attention of a series of individuals.
Managers designate teams and groups to complete such projects.
Business management requires effective communication in groups. A group consists of two
or more people, interacting, with a commonpurpose or goal (Schein, 1980). Formal and info
rmal groups function in companies on a daily basis. It may be tempting to think of agroup a
nd a team as the same thing. Recent literature suggests otherwise. Both consist of a small se
t of people and seek to achieve goals,but differences exist. Teams become distinct from gro
ups when synergies emerge from greater interdependence and shared effort(Katzenbach &
Smith, 1999; Rico et al. 2008). This chapter focuses on groups and the communication proc
esses involved in managingthem, although teambuilding represents an important aspect of group management and leadership.
Define group and team.
Harley-Davidson: Building Strong Groups
Even though HarleyDavidson produces highlyindividualistic products, the company operates usingteams and groups, fro
m the production floor to theexecutive suites.
HarleyDavidson should be considered one of the more iconic U.S.companies. Many things stand ou
t, including the product itself(motorcycles), the customers who buy the products (individua
listriders), and the organization's marketing program. The HarleyDavidson brand remains strong with intense customer loyalty. TheHOG (Harley Owners Gr
oup) program serves those who purchaseproducts.
The company's management program may be lesser known. HarleyDavidson's management team focuses on a strong company culture,built on open communi
cations among all levels of employees and acommitment to teaching all workers about the o
rganization'soperations, and utilizing teams and groups to complete numerouscompany act
ivities. Top management developed a shared vision ofthe company's values that permeates
all group activities. Amongthese values are:
Tell the truth.
Keep your promises.
• Respect the individual.
• Encourage intellectual curiosity.
Management sought to earn and keep the respect and trust of employees through these pri
nciples (Infotechdesign.net,2008). Imperato (1997) describes the management program thi
s way: "Beneath the image of a hard-riding, tough-as-nailsHarleyDavidson bike is a company that thrives on the 'soft' side of management, emphasizing part
icipation, inclusion,learning, and cooperation."
At the core of the management program, selfmanaged teams operate at both the manufacturing and executive levels. At theproduction l
evel, semi-autonomous work groups include members who are crosstrained and set their own work schedules.To support the program, management created th
e HarleyDavidson Learning Center, a facility dedicated to lifelong learningwith the primary role of h
elping employees to keep their skills current. In some cases, this means remedial training i
n basicskills, but the Learning Center deals mainly with requests for specific jobtraining courses.
At the executive level, the organization chart became three overlapping circles representin
g various groups: a CreateDemand Circle, a Produce Products Circle, a Support Circle, and i
n the center where the three circles intersect, a Leadershipand Strategy Council. The Create
Demand Circle is responsible for sales and marketing issues; the Produce Products Circleh
andles engineering and manufacturing; and the Support Circle takes care of legal, financial,
humanresources, andcommunications concerns. The Leadership and Strategy Council coordinates
the efforts of the three circles without the useof a standard chain of command, instead relyi
ng on interactive group communication. The idea is to apply the concept ofselfdirected, factory work teams to the executive level.
An important link was established between the union and management through the emplo
yee involvement program, whichestablished the goal of overall company longterm success to be achieved through continuing cooperation among allmembers. Following
the reorganization at both levels, HarleyDavidson's sales and profitability began to soar. The companyhas been able to withstand ec
onomic hard times and expand to an international base of satisfied hog owners.
Questions for Students
1. Do you think the internal culture of HarleyDavidson matches external perceptions of the company?
2. What types of communication skills would be needed to work in a selfmanaged production team?
3. What types of communication skills would be needed for an executive to work in a selfmanaged team?
Communicating in Formal Groups
When an organization's leaders establish a formal group, the purpose is to achieve compan
y goals and objectives. Formal groups areestablished through a notation in an organization
chart or by a management directive. Three common types of formal groups are workgroups
, committees and boards, and project teams.
Communication in a work group or department consists of the standard chain of command,
as a supervisor directs the activities ofmembers who also interact with one another. The sa
me will be true for a committee or board directed by an elected or appointed leader,althoug
h many times such groups also keep formal minutes to record their activities and elements
of discussions. A project team, which isled by a team leader, will interact in many of the sa
me ways as work groups. Project teams often are asked to file progress reports asstages of t
he project or task are completed.
Define formal group and name the three most common types.
Communicating in Informal Groups
An informal group, or a friendship group, emerges for the purposes of socialization and frien
dship. Such groups form without theendorsement of organizational leaders and do not hav
e a designated structure (Shirky, 2004). People make friends on the job for variousreasons.
Three items tend to bring informal groups together: activities, shared values or sentiments,
and interactions. Communicationpatterns in informal groups involve networks such as gos
sip and rumors via various media, and inperson conversations. Many employeesdepend on informal groups for social support and a
sense of belonging, as well as an outlet to discuss company actions, decisions, andpolicies.
The distinction between formal and informal groups has become blurred. New forms of offi
ce design, coupled with the emergence ofsocial media, lead to sets of individuals simultane
ously engaging in formal and informal interactions and activities. Employees increasinglyre
ly on social media to stay in contact with the home office but also with friends and peers ins
ide and outside the organization. The useof Twitter and instant messages or texts to contac
t a manager to notify her that an employee is sick results in a followup to check on theperson and offer assistance, but also results in another immediate messa
ge to other employees to cover for the employee who is ill. Thesame media allow employee
s to make social contacts with each other on and off the job.
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