CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: Time, Interaction, and Performance (TIP) a theory of Groups
Authors: J. McGrath
Citation: Small Group Research 22(2), May 1991, pp.147-174
Reprinted in: Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, pp.116-129, Edited by R.M. Baecker


In attempting to overcome what he describes as some serious limitations to much of the earlier work about groups and who they do what they do, McGrath presents a theory which gives special attention to the temporal processes in group interaction and performance (TIP).

Much of the empirical foundation of group theory has been derived from a limited range of ad hoc groups under controlled experimental conditions. This work typically involved very small groups with constant membership arbitrarily assigned and exiting for a limited time span. Theses "artificial" groups have been studied performing single and relatively simple tasks under "context-stripped" conditions. McGrath believes that this is a serious weakness because these groups differ markedly from the kinds of groups that are encountered in everyday life.

The TIP theory presented by McGrath builds on a somewhat different paradigm of small group research which treats group dynamically and attempts to take full account of the physical, temporal, and social contexts within which these groups are embedded. The assumptions used in his model are presented as a series of propositions about the nature of groups, the temporal patterning in groups, and the interaction process in groups.

McGrath describes the implication of the TIP theory as focusing on certain issues of work groups which have previously receive little attention. First, the impact of changes in group membership, the type and difficulty level of the tasks, and changes in the operating conditions under which the group is working. Second, that a given act of act sequence takes its meaning partly from the context in which it occurs. Finally the TIP theory has implications for the impact of computers within the groups communication system.

Report prepared by: Gary Baker Email: sadiki@tamu.edu
Discussion date: 1/27/97            Report date: 1/28/97