1. Characteristics of a group

1.9 Procedures

Procedures are really metarules or conventions for ensuring that what a group wants to happen, does in fact happen. They are the means of handling problematic events like making decisions, conflict, distribution of tasks, assessment, and evaluation; and they may be invoked by, or applied to, any member or the whole group. Procedures may also be seen as devices for ensuring the smooth running of the group and the achievement of agreed aims. They may be formal and strictly codified, as in many committees,or informal and loose as for teams and working groups. The main virtue of a procedure is that it is usually set up before the event and this detaches discussions of how the group should handle problems in general from the problem-solving process itself.

Typical rules and procedures for groups may be:

All decisions should be made by consensus.

Anyone may call time-out at any stage in order to review progress.

The group starts and finishes on time.

The first five minutes of every meeting are spent milling around the room and chatting.

The group follows an agenda Members take on functional roles like timekeeper, summariser, and so on

Each member has a maximum time-limit for contributions.

A very sophisticated group might also agree a metaprocedure which determines how any of the above rules or procedures might be changed. Rules and procedures may be invented in response to questions like these:

  • How will the group decide on aims, tasks, and agendas?
  • How is the group to make decisions?
  • What regular process problems are likely to arise?
  • How can it make best use of the resources of its members?
  • How is it going to ensure full involvement in discussion?
  • How will it monitor and evaluate its progress?
  • How will it coordinate the various activities outside the group or in subgroups?

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