The Effectiveness of Groups: A Summary and Critique of Gersick’s Article
Today, the organizations are more aware than ever of the importance of groups in their business success or failure. With this realization, there has been an increased focus on understanding how groups develop and what makes them effective. In 1988, Gersick conducted one of the most in-depth and influential studies on the intrinsic determinants of group effectiveness to date. The article is still highly relevant and has been cited over 1,000 times in the past 30 years. In this essay, I will provide a summary of Gersick’s article and a critique of her research methods and findings.
2. A summary of Gersick’s article
In her study, Gersick used the grounded theory method to develop a theory of punctuated equilibrium to explain how groups go through stages of development in order to become effective. The theory posits that groups go through three distinct phases in their development: forming, storming, and performing. Forming is the phase where members are first getting to know each other and developing initial relationships. Storming is the phase where members begin to conflict with each other as they try to establish roles and relationships. Performing is the phase where members have settled into their roles and relationships and are able to work together effectively.
Gersick conducted her study by observing three different groups over the course of several months. She used unstructured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis to collect data on the groups. She found that the groups followed the pattern of punctuated equilibrium in their development. They went through periods of stability punctuated by periods of change. The periods of change were characterized by high levels of conflict and uncertainty, followed by periods of relative stability where members worked together effectively.
3. Critique of the Gersick’s article
There are several criticisms that can be leveled at Gersick’s research methods and findings. First, her sample size was very small (three groups) and not representative of all groups. Second, she relied heavily on unstructured interviews, which can be biased and introspective. Third, she did not collect any quantitative data, which limited her ability to generalize her findings to all groups. Finally, her theory is not well-supported by empirical evidence. While it is possible that some groups do follow a pattern of punctuated equilibrium in their development, it is not clear that all groups do or that this pattern is necessary for group effectiveness.
Despite its limitations, Gersick’s 1988 study remains one of the most comprehensive and influential studies on group development to date. Her use of grounded theory to develop a theory of punctuated equilibrium was innovative and provided valuable insights into how groups go through stages of development to become effective. However, her small sample size, reliance on unstructured interviews, limited quantitative data, and lack of empirical evidence weaken her findings somewhat.