Punctuated|Equilibrium Model-Group - Organizational Behavior

Temporary groups with deadlines do not seem to follow the previous model. Studies indicate that they have their own unique sequencing of action (or inaction):

I.            Their first meeting sets the group's direction.

II.            This first phase of group activity is one of inertia.

III.            A transaction takes place at the end of this first phase, which occurs exactly when the group has used a half its allotted time.

IV.            A transaction initiates major changes.

V.            A second phase of inertia follows the transaction, and

VI.            The group's last meeting is characterized by marked accelerated activity.

This pattern is called be punctuated equilibrium model and is shown in figure below:

1)     The first meeting sets the group's direction. A framework of behavioral patterns and assumptions through which the group will approach its project emerges in this first meeting. These lasting patterns can appear as early as the first few seconds of the group's life.

2)     Once set, the group's direction becomes "written in stone" and is unlikely to be reexamined throughout the first half of the group's life. This is a period of inertia-that is, the group tends to stand still or become locked into a fixed course of action. Even of it gains new insights that challenge initial patterns and assumptions, the group is incapable of acting on these new insights in phase 1.

3)     One of the more interesting discoveries made in these studies was that each group experienced its transition at the same point in its calendar-precisely halfway between its first meeting and its official deadline- despite the fact that some groups spent as little as an hour on their project while others spent six months. It was as if the groups universally experienced a midlife crisis at this point. The midpoint appears to work like an alarm clock, heightening members' awareness that their time is limited and that they need to "get moving".

4)     This transition ends phase 1 and is characterized by a concentrated burst of changes in which old patterns are dropped and new perspectives are adopted. The transition sets a revised direction for phase 2.

5)     Phase 2 is a new equilibrium or period of inertia. In this phase, the group executes plans created during the transition period.

6)     The group's last meeting is characterized by a final burst of activity to finish its work.

In summary, the punctuated-equilibrium model characterizes groups as exhibiting long periods of inertia interspersed with brief revolutionary changes triggered primarily by their members' awareness of time and deadlines. Keep in mind, however, that this model does not apply to all groups. It's essentially limited to temporary task groups that are working under a time-constrained completion deadline.

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