Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Issues in Community: Task and Morale Functions

Back in 2008 I wrote a post (Equality and Leadership, 10/2/08) that mentioned a pamphlet which influenced my thinking.  'Leadership for Change' was focused on creating a 'feminist model' of leadership and, among other things, talked about two kinds of group functions that they saw leadership focused on.  The first, which they called task functions is defined as working toward 'group achievement'; the second, which they call morale functions (and I've also heard referred to as process functions) works toward 'group maintenance'.

The authors (Bruce Kokopeli and George Lakey) go on to list ten task functions (information and opinion-giving, information and opinion-seeking, proposing goals and initiating action, direction-giving, summarizing, coordinating, diagnosing/figuring out group difficulties and blocks, energizing, reality-testing, and evaluating) and ten morale functions (encouraging participation, harmonizing and compromising, relieving tension, helping communication, evaluating the emotional climate, observing process, setting standards, active listening, building trust, and solving interpersonal problems).  Their point is that groups need both of these type of functions.  I've heard it said that groups that focus only on tasks either fall apart before they complete their first task--or right afterwards, and groups that focus solely on morale often end up drifting and eventually falling apart because members get frustrated about not accomplishing anything.

I'm convinced that communities need both.  Unfortunately, many communities end up focusing on only one of these, since they may be stacked with either people who joined to get things done or people who joined because of the supportive atmosphere.  The result is that I read complaints about these groups, either that they spend all their time 'processing' and never get anything done, or that they burn out their members with overly ambitious schemes.

I think that one reason Twin Oaks has lasted so long is that they do a good job of both: they have thriving businesses, abundant gardens, and wonderful meals, and they have parties and support members social lives and find many ways of taking care of each other.  So my advice to people forming communities is to look at both of these functions.  Ask yourself (and each other) two questions: What do you want to accomplish as a community?  (Also known as, what's your goal or mission?) And how do you plan to take care of your members?  How can you support each other?

In a good community, members enjoy themselves and feel cared for and get things done.

Quote of the Day: "Understanding these functions can make the difference between a group that flounders and a group that moves... Shared leadership... values the morale functions highly and sees that the power of the group in the long run is as dependent on the nurturance of its members as on its efficiency in particular tasks." - Bruce Kokopeli and George Lakey

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