Formal Vs. Informal Groups

October 29, 2009

Management Science recognized the existence of informal groups in any organization a long time back. Since the inception of human behaviour studies into the management science the managers and management think tanks has realized that informal grroupings in the organizations are as important as the formal ones. The management involves the management of not only the formal well structured groups but also informal groups.

Difference? The formal and informal groups differ from each other in many ways. The most prominent is while the formal groups are created by the planners/designers of the organization keeping in view some specific aims/objectives of the organization, the informal groups come to exist by themselves with passage of time. Both formal and informal groups are man-made (they are created by humans) but the formal is created with some difinite aims/objectives (production, profit, market share etc.)in mind the later are created by the members of the formal groups themselves usually without any spedific aims/objectives (at least in the initial stages of development). People come together and perform some specific tasks/duties in an formal organization. During the course of action they interact with each other and gradually create informal groups.

Formal groups have a well defined structure and they are controlled by a well organized body of control (management). The actions, activities and roles of the constituent members are well defined and boundaries are also well marked. They are ealsily controllable. The collective effort of the individuals can be easily streamlined towards the achievement of objectives of the organization.

Informal groups are quite unorganized. They have no structure and no controlling body. Factors like personality, influence, power and individual idiosyncracies determine the structure of such organizations. Also they are too dynamic.

This is what management science has to say about the formal and informal organizations. Now there is no doubt about the existence of such informal groups in any organization. They exist and can effect the functioning of any organization negatively or positively. If streamlined they can be incorporated into the formal structure of the organization and this way can act as an great positive energy and benefit the organization in the long run. The manager who can recognize these groups in his/her organization and can utilize them to the advantage of the organization is the real manager. But the major problem with them is recognition. There can one or more than one such group and it is hard to find them and even harder to control them.

In a country like India such groups are more predominant. The reason being we Indians tend to be more social than most other races of the world. We Indians seem to believe more in collective action rather than act individually. Also here (India) such groups hold a strong sway on its members and others near about. Willingly or unwillingly one has to participate in one or more of such groups at one point of time or the other. Especially if such groups are encouraged by the organization itself for objective gains they become irrestible.

But practically in most of the cases the individuals are controlled by these groups rather then they control them. Many boses (even in MNCs) succumb to the control of such groups. There are two reasons. The unsuspecting boses can’t recognize these groups and take them as something temporary. They can’t understand how fast and close these groups grow. Eventually such persons are absorbed into such groups and are left with no or very little authority to control them. 2nd the boses too are human beings and believe that they can’t exist individually. They too believe in collective action and are afraid of individual actions. They give in for momentary due to some pesonal weaknesses and are cought for ever.

In public sector the situation is different. Most of our organizational structures came into existence about 60 years back. Since then they have seen very little change. So whoever joins new is supposed to follow the already laid down norms of the formal and informal groups. New recruits are unable to resist them for long. They have to be part of the system and can’t redefine the system.

One thing that has no or very little mention about informal groups is the role of women. It is a fact that women are better creators of such groups. In India they enjoy a special positions. Sometime they lead such groups. They interact easily among themselves and it is easy for them to convince the male collegues/boses. So they are great builders of informer groups. Though the management science literature may be somewhat silent on the subject you may have observed it somewhere or the other. Women socialize more and knowingly or unknowingly tend to use the informal groupings to go up the ladder of success.

Also there are some persons (who should be called shrewd) who are very aware of the power of such groups and very willingly utilize them for their personal gains (personal and not organizational). They are usually not very intelligent and lack the appropriate knowledge and experience to do their job and depend heavily on such groupings to retain their job and ensure that they get regular promotions/perks no matter if at the cost of others.

In a nutshell the informal groups are an indispensable part of any organization. They can’t be eliminated by any organization no matter how strong it may be. Such grouping can benefit both the organization and the individuals provided they are recognized and utilized judiciously.

Accidents: Major/Minor

October 22, 2009


Accidents. We listen about them, read about them in the paper and sometimes watch them on the TV. What we do  at such moments. We just say a few formal consoling meaningless words; words that are meaningless because we don’t really feel them, also meaningless because the persons we are saying them to too know them in advance and have expected nothing more than that. Or sometimes we don’t say anything at all thinking its a routine now for such things to happen. To sum up our reaction doesn’t depend on the situation of the accident or the suffering of the persons involved but on our own present environment and idiosyncracies.


The same was true with me.  Luckily hadn’t had any major accident (or I escaped unhurt if there was any) except when I fell from my bicycle and fractured my elbow joint. I had to be hospitalized and had to undergo an operation at PGI chandigarh. Two steel nails were used for around 2 months to fix the joint. It was a long time back when I was a kid of around 11-12 years. Actually it was not  an major accident. I had fallen many times earlier and later than that and really hard. It is just the gravity of the damage that makes a accident major or minor (or differentiate between a accident and incident).


Take for instance the tommorrow’s incident or accident. Like most people I would read about, listen to or watch accidents but wondered how they might be feeling. Having lived for so many years without one myself I thought myself to be above any such situation (though I always tried to help anybody in such a situation). It was yesterday  in the morning when it came to my life. I was coming for the office and was waiting for bus or cab (here commercial cabs belonging to some call centres, hotels or other business houses are often used by the drivers to ferry passengers and make some easy bucks) at Lajpat, Delhi. Waited for long but can’t find any. Was getting late. Then spotted a bus that was bound for Noida, where my office is, suddenly I ran towards it. It was already moving. Tried to board it, my foot slipped and I almost fell on my right arm side. In the middle of the road. Got few bruises on my arm. So here it was after so many years. I realized that this can happen to me too at any time and anywhere. I am not totally invincible. Realized my mistake. Put a bold face, got in the bus (by now it has halted) and reached my office. On Time!


So that was it. Now this was a minor accident as the damage was minor. But if we compare two situations, in the Ist one I had fallen from a bicycle and fractured my left arm and in the 2nd one I had fallen from a bus and got a minor scratchs on the right arm. Logically in the 2nd accident I was in a much dangerous situation. It was peak hour and the traffic was enormous. The falling from a bus could have easily wounded me seriously and considering the traffic and other vehicles that were following, any of them could have hurt me really seriously. But I escaped. In the Ist situation there was nothing on the muddy raod in my village to hurt me only if I hadn’t hit my elbow against the hardened mud rock.


So the situation makes a accident major or minor.


Now a few wise words. Do as I did if caught in a similar situation. I reached office, cleaned my wounds with soap and when rached home applied good spirit on them, went to a doctor and got a TT injection. Otherwise you may end up turning the major/minor accident/incident into a tragedy.