Time, Interaction and Performance (TIP)
A theory of Groups
By J. E. McGrath

Sep 10, 1999


Summary

The paper starts by criticizing previous approaches to group studies by pointing out some deficiencies. Particularly he criticizes the study of groups within controlled, laboratory situations, since this situation differs greatly from "real-world" situations. In addition, he points out that conclusions drawn from such studies cannot be applied to real-world groups, since in reality, groups of persons are not isolated from society, group goals and tasks are loosely connected to other external goals and tasks, constant membership is not always present, and people belong to more than one group. He proposes a group theory that can cope with these issues and that rely in other considerations such as time, interaction and performance of the group. Then he proceeds to analyze the "nature of groups" according to his theory. He provides a taxonomy of group activity according to three functions (external, group and intra-group) and four modes (inception, problem solving, conflict resolution, and execution). While all activities start with the inception and end with the execution, there is not a fix path to proceed through the modes. The flow of work through the modes provides a very good source for the study of the group. This can provide insights into the time patterns existing in the group and the context for the actions. This is important because he argues in favor of the situated nature of actions. Therefore the meaning of the actions is partly dependent on when and why actions happen.

Discussion

I guess this theory can be used for the study of groups, but I feel (and this may be just a gut feeling) that it is too constraining in its taxonomy. Although I think TIP has valuable points. TIP attempts to deal with real-groups in real-world situations and considers the situated nature of actions.