Though each of these four stages are described here separately, in reality, the activities in these stages overlap making it difficult to know when one stage is over and another begins.
(a) Mutual acceptance stage of group development is characterized by making acquaintances with each other, sharing information about each other, discussing subjects to know each others’ ideas, opinions, views and attitudes (including topics not related to work such as films, sports, politic;, weather, etc.).
These discussions sometimes also include the functioning and goals of the institution as well as the larger education system. However, if the members do not know each other at all, they will find it difficult to evaluate each other’s opinions. If the members of the groups know each other to a small extent, this phase will be brief but it will not be excluded altogether.
After the initial acquaintances and knowledge about each other, the next step will be to discuss some sensitive issues about the institution such as institutional politics, leadership styles and behaviour, controversial decisions, etc.
This can lead to some arguments and the members will try to explore each other’s reactions, expertise, personality and knowledge. This phase will help them to understand each other better.
They will try to gauge the trustworthiness and similarities in attitudes, beliefs and values of each other. They may also discuss their expectations about the group’s activities and functioning in the light of their prior experiences. The group is now ready to move on to the next stage of development.
(b) Communication and decision-making stage incorporates discussions by members about their feelings in a more open way. At this stage, members agree on the group goals and the roles of the members in the group. They show more tolerance about conflicting and opposing views and attitudes so as to arrive at a reasonably agreed upon solution or decision. Now they begin to develop norms of behaviour.
(c) Motivation and work accomplishment is the third stage of group formation. At this stage, the focus of the group shifts away from personal concerns and opinions to activities that are beneficial to the group. Members perform the tasks assigned to them, provide co-operation to each other and work towards accomplishing the tasks creatively and by helping each other. The motivation of the members at this stage is quite high.
(d) The final stage of group formation is that of control and organization. Here the group shows maturity, members work together and assign tasks based on ability. They are more flexible, spontaneous, adaptive, capable of working interdependently and self-correcting. They break away from rigid structural restraints. They also evaluate their activities and potential as well as actual outcomes followed by taking corrective actions.
Several authors have written in detail about the stages of group formation such as Wanous, Reichers and Malik, Obert, Bass and Ryterband. Their views on group formation are given collectively in the next paragraph.
All groups do not follow all the four stages of development. Some groups disperse before reaching the last stage whereas others do not go through the first stage if there is pressure from its leader or a deadline for work or threats from the principal of the institution.
In such a case, the group does not attempt to know its members and build trust but straight away goes to the second stage. This also sometimes leads to frustrations, lack of complete development of the group or less output and reduced performance.
A group that evolves by going through all the four stages is found to be more effective and productive. Members of such a group are ‘more motivated, interdependent, co-operative, co-ordinated, competent and communicating actively with each other.
Groups may experience the need to go through one or more of the earlier stages if the tasks assigned get over, or members of the groups change thereby changing interrelationships, or due to change in working conditions or when a new task is assigned to the group. This is essential for maintaining cohesiveness and productivity of the group.