Fronteras. ¿Cómo saber si somos parte de un grupo?

Boundaries. How Do You Know You Are Part Of A Group?

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 01:51 AM PDT

How do yo know you are part of a group? And how do you know who are the other group members?

This seems like an obvious question. “Well. When you are assigned to the group.” “By looking at the organizational chart.”

Really? That’s it?

Forget formal declarations about authority, responsibility and who will pay your salary for a moment. Even if you are “formerly” assigned to a group, how does it feel to be in it? What is the difference between operating as one and feeling left out?

And what about groups that come into existence without anyone “declaring” who is a member or not? You know. Self-organizing groups.

Lori from Collective Self wrote some excellent posts about how you can recognize that you are part of a self-organizing group. For example:

As a group, we’re self-organizing when we:

  •  See ourselves in others and others in ourselves. Demonstrated, for example, by:
    • Group members are certain that there are no hidden agendas in the group
    • Role switching (people temporarily taking on and thinking from the perspective of each other’s roles) first within the group and then with some others outside the group
    • Role sharing (people moving back and forth between roles) first within the group and then with some others outside the group

This might seem like some theoretical exercise. But it isn’t. It is actually quite important. Your group members determine the culture. Your group members determine who may or may not help you out. Two can do more than one. But if you are “one”, you have to know who is the “other one” to make two. Hmmmm. I even I needed to read that last sentence twice. And I wrote it :)

So. We try it again.

How do you know you are part of a group?

“Because we sit in the same room.”
“Because we show up at the same meetings.”
“Because we hang out at the coffee corner at the same time.”
“Because if I change something, it effects their work.”
“Because when we talk, we immediately can finish each others sentences.”

Much better. I am even sure you can come up with a million other alternatives yourself.

If you can be a member of a group, it is also possible to be a non-member. Some people are “in”. Some are “out”. This is not about some high school popularity contest. It’s just … every group, including project teams, has boundaries. In the meaning of Johnson-Lenz“The functions of boundaries include defining group membership; delineating group identity; and marking group rhythms, beginnings, and endings.”

These “boundaries” help you to define if you are part of a group, or not. For example group rhythms. If we seem to have the same rhythms, same patterns in meeting each other, that can indicate we share a group. In the examples above: same meetings, same room and the coffee corner.


Boundaries. Important. Yes?


Dear leaders. Here are some new questions to add to your coaching toolbox:

  • Who do you consider the members of your team?
  • What is the difference between being among your team members or amongst others?
  • How do you recognize your team members?
  • How did you become a member of this group?
  • Why did you become a member of this group?
  • How do you think membership will end?
  • How are beginnings and endings of group membership marked?

This post is actually a result of the course I am now on after writing “Rhythms, Boundaries, Containers. Elements Of Social Systems.” earlier in the summer.

Bas de Baar helps people find ways to enjoy the diversity of human interaction in their projects and organizations so that they can get out of their own way and achieve their goals. – Boundaries. How Do You Know You Are Part Of A Group? is a post from: Project Shrink.


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