Task and Maintenance
Douglas MacGregor carried out research into the characteristics of effective and ineffective teams by looking at the way in which they worked. He found that in order to create effective work groups, a number of different criteria need to be met. Broadly, these can be split into two types: the first of these he called 'content', and the second, 'process':
- 'Content' is essentially concerned with 'what' the team are doing - nature of task, needs for particular skills or information. When considering content issues for your team, it can also help to consider how these might impact on the team’s motivation.
- 'Process' needs are concerned with 'how' the group works together. Process skills can be further divided into 'task' and 'maintenance' activities.
'Task' process activities are concerned with the way in which the group focuses on "doing", and may include activities such as:
- initiating - putting ideas forward or starting new activities;
- asking - collecting information or views;
- giving - volunteering information and ideas, making suggestions;
- clarifying - helping interpret, asking for explanations;
- summarising - bringing ideas together; and,
- testing for agreement - checking on the readiness of the team to take action.
'Maintenance' process activities are concerned with the way in which a team “holds together” in its work and may include activities such as:
- harmonising or smoothing - bringing others together, exploring and reconciling disagreements;
- gatekeeping - bringing everyone into the activity, allowing everyone to participate;
- encouraging - agreement, building, supporting;
- listening - showing understanding; and,
- standard setting - surfacing feelings and beliefs, bringing things out into the open.
Each of the above is a way of acting in a group. Groups and teams with a balance of task and process orientation will tend to be successful both in completing their tasks and in maintaining their environment; that is to say, they will be both productive and happy in their work. MacGregor identified what he termed 'effective' and 'ineffective' characteristics of work teams by looking at some of these factors in actual performing teams.
|Characteristics of effective teams
||Characteristics of ineffective teams|
||Task or objective of the group is clearly understood and accepted by members.
||It is difficult to understand from what is said exactly what the group task is, or what the group’s objectives are.|
||There is a lot of discussion in which everyone participates but it remains pertinent to the group task.
||A few people tend to dominate the discussion. Often their contributions are way off the point.|
||Members listen to each other. Every idea is given a hearing.
||People do not really listen to one another. Ideas are ignored and over ridden.|
||There is disagreement. The group is comfortable with this, and shows no signs of having to avoid conflict or keep everything sweetness and light.
||Disagreements are not dealt with effectively by the group. They may be suppressed by the leader, avoided or buried.|
||Most decisions are reached by a type of consensus, which makes it clear that members are in general agreement and/or willing to go along.
||Actions are taken prematurely before the real issues are either examined or resolved.|
||The group leader does not dominate it, nor do group members defer unduly to him or her.
||Leadership is clearly in the hands of the group leader. This may be strong or weak but the leader always “sits at the head of the table”.|
||The group is conscious of its own operation. It will frequently stop to evaluate progress or what is interfering with the task process.
||The group tends to avoid discussion on its own 'maintenance'.|
|Organisation of task
||When action is taken, clear assignments are made and accepted.
||Action decisions tend to be unclear. No one knows who is supposed to do what.|
MacGregor’s characteristics of effective and ineffective teams depend upon the actions of the individual team members and the way in which they contribute to the communication and processing of information. In this model the group members can actively work to develop their relationships within the team.