Analysis: there are four fundamental ingredients behind group success, so how does Micheál Martin's new government measure up?

Four months after our general election and intense negotiations, we have a new government. A coalition that was once "unthinkable" has now happened, and the Green Party have jumped onboard for good measure. Now that we have a programme for government, there is really only one thing Irish citizens want to know" will this team be able to work together and stay the course?

Over the years, studies of groups in organisations have yielded considerable information on what factors make for a successful and high performing team and what might cause a team to fail. Using this information, we may be able to predict the answer to this question.

There are four fundamental ingredients to group success; how the group develops, group size, group roles, and group cohesiveness and conformity. So how does our new government measure up?

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, Bride Rosney, former special advisor to President Mary Robison, on government formation and the new programme for government

Group development

Bruce Tuckman's 1965 research indicates that groups pass through clearly defined stages of development: forming, storming, norming and performing. During the forming stage, individuals get to know each other, finding out about each others attitudes and backgrounds. This leads to storming ,the stage where people settle into the group and is where the most conflict can arise. Norming occurs when the group identify the rules and expectations of behaviour that apply to the group. Once the group has passed those hurdles, they may finally move to the stage of performing, having developed effective productive methods to work together to achieve their goals.

In the case of this government, it could be argued that most of this group had come together long before the Programme for Government had ever been agreed. Members of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been working closely together for the past five years with the operation of the confidence and supply agreement. The addition of the Greens to the group means that our new government will need to revisit the storming and norming phases of group development.

The decision by the government to appoint a rotating Taoiseach could be the chink in the armour

The success of the group will be dependant on whether those who have been in working together up to this point take the time to include those new members of the group. Carrying on as before could lead to conflict and failure of the group.

Predictions for success? Hard to tell

Group size

The size of a group has been found a direct effect on performance and productivity. Two adages are relevant to the size of a team: "the more the merrier," and "too many cooks spoil the broth." The research finds that bigger teams are better in certain situations (for example, when managing a process or a project), but smaller teams have been found to be more effective when trying to get things done. If your team is too big, there is a risk of "social loafing," where people feel less accountable for the outputs of the team, and become less productive as a result.

From RTÉ Radio 1's This Week, Justin McCarthy looks at a turbulent first week in Government for Fianna Fail

The government has played it safe here, and hasn’t changed the composition of the government too much. Considering there is much doubt in other areas, this was probably a good idea.

Predictions for success: should be ok

Group roles

People play multiple roles in a team, including task related roles to ensure the achievement of objectives and team building roles, to encourage the coherence of the team. Role conflict occurs where roles within the team overlap or where roles are contradictory, and of course a key role within any team is the role of the leader.

With our new government, the roles have been assigned, portfolios distributed and junior ministers have been appointed. Other than a little initial confusion, the government appear to have defined the different roles well to minimise overlap and conflict.

From RTÉ Radio 1's News At One, Western People editor James Laffey on widespread anger in Co Mayo as local TD Dara Callery fails to get a ministerial job

But the decision by the government to appoint a rotating Taoiseach could be the chink in the armour in this category. This is an important role and leader acceptance is important to the cohesiveness and effectiveness of a group. This political decision has enormous potential to cause trouble for the government.

Predictions for success: not looking good

Group cohesiveness and conformity

Group cohesiveness can be thought of as the glue that holds a group together, or the solidarity between group members. Conformity refers to the pressure group members feel to follow group norms. The main factors that influence the cohesiveness and conformity of a group are its size, similarity of its members, how difficult it is to enter the group, the success of the group, and threats faced by the group from external competition.

Smaller groups are often found to be more cohesive than larger groups and groups where members share similar backgrounds and views are more likely to show higher cohesiveness. Where there is too little cohesiveness and conformity, a team can descend into chaos. Conversely, too much of it can lead to "group think" This leads to poorer decisions and can have pretty serious consequences: for example, it has been identified as one of the key reasons NASA’s Challenger disaster occurred.

From RTÉ Radio 1's This Week. Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald on the party's role as the main opposition to the new government

There are good and bad signs for the government in this area. External threats are definitely present. Sinn Fein promised "the most effective opposition ever" and the process of forming the group was difficult, but these factors may serve to bond the members.

However, the unrest coming from certain TDs who were not appointed to cabinet could spell disaster for the government if this turns to full rebellion. In addition, the differences between member views, coming from three separate parties, could be the stumbling block for this government when attempting to develop the necessary group cohesiveness and conformity for the government to survive!

Predictions for success: not looking good


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ