May 2013 02

Form, Storm, Norm, Perform: An expert’s view on group processes

Posted in Featured, News

Theresa Jones, our Trauma and Psychosocial Advisor, examines the troubles faced by the group Warib Cing as covered in our recent blog post. Jones explains that all groups can face challenges, but that this is part of a natural path towards successful long-term reconciliation.

Disputes and conflicts may seem discouraging to a group’s integration and cohesion, however it can be a vital step in the creation of strong group bonds.

One conceptualisation of group development is that groups naturally pass through a number of different stages. This idea suggests that in the first stage, groups form as group-members get to know each other. In the second stage, groups storm as common goals and hierarchies are debated. Then follows the third stage with increased disputes over how to operate and manage the group, during this process specific group norms are developed, as spoken or unspoken agreements about how group members work together. This leads to the final stage of groups performing effectively.

Clashes and disputes can be a natural part of becoming a cohesive and well functioning group. Sometimes external support is needed to facilitate this process.

What we saw in the case of Warib Cing was that group-members were mistrusting their leadership and questioning their very purpose for being part of the group. One group member told GRG that,

“If the leadership doesn’t change, I will quit the group.”

The goal: a healthy group environment

A healthy group environment can be seen to have a variety of features. If a group has a culture of belonging then group members form attachments to each other and to the group as a whole. A culture of safety allows group-members feel at ease in their environment and to trust each other. A culture of openness is important to encourage clear and positive communication. Group-members feel involved and invested in a group that has a culture of participation and citizenship. Finally a culture of empowerment allows both the group as a whole, and individual group-members to have a sense of agency to achieve their goals.

GRG’s approach places a heavy focus on the development of strong groups, though it is not always so easy.

Warib Cing’s conflict mediation process provided encouraging indicators that the group is working towards providing a healthy environment for its members. Group members did not hold back during their conflict resolution discussion, and were encouraged to share their thoughts openly.
The decision to re-elect the leadership committee was made collectively, and almost all the group members attended the election. The group chose a new leader, Acaye Philip, who the group was very confident about. One member explained,


“He has been a leader in a number of groups here within our community and I am confident our group is going to work together as we all have entrusted him with our vote.”

Group members at Warib Cing elect their new leader.

The election gave power to a new leader and the members acknowledged their empowered role in ensuring that their leadership is strong. As Ojok Denis, one member explained while addressing the group,

“Members – as we all know, a fish starts rotting from the head. So let us now forget the past and support our new chairperson so that his head doesn’t rot, because if he does then we all rot. We all pledge the growth and development of our group.”

By Theresa Jones, GRG’s Trauma and Psychosocial Advisor

    Haigh, R. (1999) The quintessence of a therapeutic community. In Therapeutic Communities: Past, Present and Future (eds P. Campling & R. Haigh), pp. 246–257. London: Jessica Kingsley.
    Tuckman, Bruce (1965). “Developmental sequence in small groups”. Psychological Bulletin 63 (6): 384–99.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *