This post is the first in a three-part series on group dynamics. Understanding group dynamics is undeniably critical for leading a successful organization and it begins with process and content.

I’ve gone into large organizations and seen groups working together like a well-oiled machine and others who could hardly stand to be in the same room together. Witnessing groups’ interpersonal dynamics, as well as how leaders interact with groups they’re leading, is truly eye opening.

Being sensitive to group dynamics means being aware of the group as a unit on its own and being aware of the individuals within the group. After all, a group is simply a collection of individuals. Yet once a group has an identity of its own, it can take on its own personality and way of behaving too. As a leader, it’s critical to know what kind of boundaries to put into place and when to do so.

Over the next three blog entries, we’ll look at why it’s important to keep PROCESS and CONTENT separate, how groups make decisions (and how to properly facilitate them), and how to start to turn VICTIMS into LEADERS. Today we’re starting with PROCESS versus CONTENT.


PROCESS is the series of steps and protocols that are followed to achieve a particular goal.

CONTENT is substance; it’s the result of the PROCESS.

These two concepts are clearly distinct from one another in theory. However, in practice, they can become confused.

How PROCESS and CONTENT should relate

In a healthy organization, the two concepts are intimately entwined but have boundaries. Ideally, a group works within the existing PROCESS to exchange and create CONTENT, or works on the PROCESS and refrains from contributing CONTENT.

When a group works on the PROCESS while attempting to contribute CONTENT, the PROCESS can be used unfairly to promote a group’s particular agenda. It’s an abuse of power that can damage the larger group’s dynamic and trust in one another.

One challenge is that the PROCESS may be explicit and deliberate, or it may be implicit and accidental. If it’s the latter, it may not be fair, or it may not allow the group to develop and achieve what it wants. A poorly defined process can easily be used in unintended ways.

What the leader can do to help the group

Appoint someone to be in charge of creating a fair PROCESS and overseeing the group’s adherence to it. This person must refrain from contributing to the CONTENT and be dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the PROCESS itself. That way, CONTENT and PROCESS will stay within their appropriate boundaries.

Coming up next on the blog

In part 2 of this three-part series on group dynamics, we’ll look at how groups work together to form decisions.