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Practicing Organization Development: Leading Transformation and Change, 4th Edition by Roland L. Sullivan, Jacqueline M. Stavros, William J. Rothwell

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Chapter Twenty-Five

The Classic T-Group

Matt Minahan and Robert Crosby

“Oh, man, are we gonna sit here all day? In this silly circle? I wonder what the agenda is? Why won't they just tell us what we're going to do? If someone doesn't speak up soon, I'm gonna go nuts… And why don't the leaders just lead?” The inner monologue of a typical T-group participant on the first day.

It seems like torture to subject people to a large circle of colleagues and peers or even strangers for several days, without an agenda, without a clear plan, and with leaders who do not seem to lead. And yet, that is exactly the fertile ground in which mountains of learning erupt that make the silence and early ambiguity worth it. This chapter describes the T-group as a form of personal and professional development including its history, growth, decline, and current applications.

T-Group Defined and Explained

The T-group is a “type of experience-based learning environment” (Seashore 1999, 271) whose ultimate purpose is to develop and enhance the members' human relations competencies (Tannenbaum, Weschler, and Massarik 2013). The T-group helps members increase their own interpersonal skills, understand the impact of their own behavior on others, and others' behavior on them.

Experiential learning groups, such as T-groups “focus primarily on developing members' understanding of group-level processes and of their own behavior in groups” (Gillette and McCollum 1995, 3). The T-group provides participants with ...

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