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Group Types


Explanations > Groups > Group Types

Description | Discussion | See also


When people get together into groups, they do so for a range of different purposes, which affects the way they organize and interact.

Factors that lead to different groups include:

  • How decisions are made on particular actions.
  • How resources are allocated to actions.
  • The extent of self-determination of individuals (vs. having to obey others).

Formal group

Formal groups are typified by rules and order, with greater power possibly being held by relatively few people within the group.

Managed group

Groups may be formed under a named manager, even though they may not necessarily work together a great deal. The main thing they have in common is at least the manager and perhaps a similar type of work.

A typical example of this type of group might be an HR department, where everyone has skills in HR management, but their work is spread around different parts of the business. The main reason for them coming together is to share intelligence and learning.

Managed team

Managed groups sometimes also work together as a team on a single, focused objective or task. In such groups people may come from diverse background, with each bringing a specialized skill to the team.

A typical example of this is a movie-making crew. They have a common goal of completing the movie on-time and on-budget, whilst they each perform separate actions.

In a larger team there may be sub-teams, for example in the movie-making team there will be sub-teams for casting, camera-work, editing and so on.

Management team

Managers are different to individuals in that they have direct control or indirect influence over particular resources, most typically money and people.

The main task of management teams is to prioritize and agree what to do and then what resource to allocate to the identified work. Decision-making is often around this activity. Top management team set strategy and the broad direction for the organization. Lower management teams decide how to implement this strategy.

Process group

The process group acts together to enact a process, going through a relatively fixed set of instruction. The classic environment is a manufacturing production line, where every movement is prescribed.

There may either be little interaction within process groups or else it is largely prescribed, for example where one person hands something over to another.

Semi-formal groups

Many groups act with less formality, in particular where power is distributed across the group, forcing a more collaborative approach that includes negotiation rather than command and control.

Goal group

The goal group acts together to achieve a shared objective or desired outcome. Unlike the process groups, there is no clear instruction on how they should achieve this, although they may use a number of processes and methods along the way.

As there is no detailed instruction, the members of the goal group need to bring more intelligence, knowledge and experience to the task.

Learning group

The learning group comes together to increase their net knowledge. They may act collaboratively with discussion and exploration, or they may be a taught class, with a teacher and a syllabus.

Problem-solving group

Problem-solving groups come together to address issues that have arisen. They have a common purpose in understanding and resolving their issue, although their different perspectives can lead to particular disagreements.

Problem-solving may range along a spectrum from highly logical and deterministic, to uncertain and dynamic situations where creativity and instinct may be better ways of resolving the situation.

Decision groups are often effectively problem-solving groups as they first assess a situation in order to decide what to do, identifying tasks and allocating resource.


Families, communities and tribal groups often act as semi-formal ways as they both have nominal leaders yet members can have a high degree of autonomy.

Informal groups

Informal groups are even less structured than formal or semi-formal groups. People may drift in or out of them or join in or be absent depending on their current whim or other priorities.


Friendship groups come together because the individual like one another. Friends go out together to events and may share interests, but the distinguishing different with interest groups is that the major pleasure is in being in the company of one another.

It is a human condition to form friendships and person bonds, and is the first step towards more formal tribal groups. Indeed, friendship groups often use rituals for joining, playing, arguing and splitting up.


Interest groups come together because they have a common interest either in achieving a particular goal or in pursuing similar activity. Hobby societies are common, where people who enjoy everything from collecting seashell to building rockets get together to share information, compete and socialize. Other groups include education, self-development and volunteer activities.

A primary benefit of interest groups is in sharing information and helping one another in the common interest, increasing individual skills and achieving shared goals. Interest groups also provide opportunities for status, as avid collectors and experts can lord their superiority and be admired by those who appreciate their position.

The focus within interest groups is initially on the topic of common interest, though these groups can easily also become friendship groups. 

See also

Theories about friendship


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