Cyclical View of Group Development – Punctuated Equilibrium Model

Cite this article as:"Cyclical View of Group Development – Punctuated Equilibrium Model," in The Business Professor, updated April 13, 2020, last accessed November 26, 2020,

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Group Development as a Cyclical Model

The five-stage model of group development is linear in nature. Some theorists believe that group formation is more dynamic cyclical in nature. While groups may pass through each of these stages, it is common that groups revert back to previous stages through its existence.

Reversion generally takes place between the performing and storming stages. The group will be performing when some form of disruption (restructuring, new technologies, new members, change of goals/objectives, etc.) occurs. This causes the group to go back to the stage of understanding other members and establishing roles and a hierarchy.

What is the Punctuated-Equilibrium Model?

An important cyclical model of group development was proposed by behavioral scientist Connie Gersick’s. She applied the concept of punctuated equilibrium to organizational change and group formation. Notably, this model is broader than simply demonstrating how groups form. It demonstrates how organizations change. Notably, it points out that organizations change rapidly during short transitional windows.

The concept of punctuated equilibrium comes from the student of paleontology. In 1972 by paleontologists, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould proposed that evolution occurred in rapid, radical spurts, as opposed to occurring gradually.

Gersick proposed that groups remain static and approach equilibrium over long periods of time. Any change during these periods is incremental, as the systems that form during this time generally cause resistance to change. Any significant changes during this time are a result of crisis or major disruption of the organizational structure.

The result is that the organization has to restructure to meet current operational needs. Groups may form, evolve, and dissolve with regularly. Also, a group may repeatedly cycle back through the Storming, Norming, and Performing stages.

While disruption, conflict, and chaos are inevitable in the life of an organization, these disruptions create opportunities for innovation and creativity.

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