Groups That Work: Structure and Process

Groups That Work: Structure and Process

Groups That Work: Structure and Process

Groups That Work: Structure and Process


Social workers, planners, health professionals, and human-service administrators spend much of their time in meetings, working in and with groups. What meaning does participation in these groups have for members? Some of the events that are most important for members of the various professions, and those whom they serve, take place within these groups. Health and human services depend upon their working groups for their development and allocation of resources, their standards of quality, and the evaluation of their success or failure. In short, these groups are relied upon to come up with creative solutions to complex problems.

Despite the amount of time spent in meetings, committees, and so on, very little has been written about the skills necessary for effective participation and leadership within working groups. With that in mind, Ephross and Vassil combine innovative group theory and practice in this "how-to" guide for professionals who take a variety of roles within the group. They draw on examples from social agencies, a hospital, a low-income community, and the boardroom, providing practical principles for day-to-day group life based on a democratic model. This revised edition also explores the changes that have taken place in the structure and operation of working groups in recent years and the heightened expectations for groups within large organizations.


This second edition is revised and expanded from the first edition of Groups That Work: Structure and Process, published in 1988. Over the past decade, we have been teaching, writing, and practicing group work in a variety of social work venues. Our thinking and reflection prompted us to expand our work on leadership, increase the number of cases with analyses, and rework material on boards of directors and on teams. We added detailed profiles of five distinctive group cultures and expanded the organic metaphor regarding organizations to consider them as interactional and transactional associations of small groups.

In the beginning of the twenty-first century and for the foreseeable future, our vision is that the small group in large and small organizations and neighborhoods can be a focal point that revitalizes democratic principles in various combinations of instrumental and interpersonal influences. In this regard, we note the contributions of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups in reviving the importance—indeed, the primacy—of the small group in social work.

Much has changed since the first edition. What has changed is not so much the nature of groups but rather our understanding of them, of the organizations that are composed of ecologies of small groups, and the world in which these groups and organizations live.

We acknowledge the supportive atmosphere set by Dean Jesse J. Harris of the University of Maryland School of Social Work for his effective leadership and unchanging civility at a time when both are in short supply in many organizations. We thank John S. Glaser, an excellent social worker and community activist, for his insight into small groups and processes in organization. Joan C. Weiss contributed cogent observations about the increasing power within organizations of information technology and of people skilled in its . . .

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