Which Work Functions are the Biggest Struggle?

Tom GibbonsOrganization Development, TMS ApplicationsLeave a Comment

The Types of Work Model has been around for over 30 years. Developed by Charles Margerison and Dick McCann as part of their research into high performing teams it the foundational model for the Team Management Profile. It lists 8 work functions and the skills of Linking that are critical to high performance. The original research found that balance and linking were important to high levels of performance. Appropriate (not necessarily equal) balance in the performance of the various work functions and good linking between team members and other parts of the organization.

I have worked with this model for over 15 years and sometimes get asked which work functions tend to be the biggest struggle for teams to perform. From my subjective experience I would say I see teams struggle most with:

  • Maintaining
  • Advising
  • Developing

As I’ve considered why this might be the case I have seen the following occur time and time again. The struggle in Maintaining and Advising tends to take two forms:

  1. Not recognizing that these work functions need to be focused on!
  2. Focusing on these functions through mainstream assumptions about organizations.


The first point occurs primarily because there is so much pressure to focus on the short term and to get things done (the east wheel work functions) that Maintaining and Advising simply get neglected. At least until something goes off the rails, such as poor customer satisfaction, high turnover, low engagement and others that provoke the key questions of these two work functions; What’s really important? for Maintaining and What do we need to know? from Advising.

The second point is more complex. There is a recognition that these work functions need to be focused on but that focus is narrowly directed through the mainstream understanding of organizations. So when the question What’s really important is asked the answers tend to focus on things like profit, cost containment or some kind of answers that somehow or other support the existing perspectives of what the organization already is. The question What do we need to know gets answered from a problem solving perspective to correct an aberration from the norm. Actually digging much deeper into the questions of these work functions does not occur or it occurs as an intellectual exercise (usually at some kind of a retreat) and really doesn’t push for significant change.

The struggle I see with the Developing function is quite different. Developing is an east wheel function that organizations have to focus on and it is obvious. The key question in this function is What do we move forward with? It is a question of closure, one that will commit resources to a course of action and happens almost daily in organizations. The struggle here tends to be one of not acknowledging, talking about or dealing with the power dynamics that exist as this question is being answered. I don’t think most teams or organizations are very good at grappling with power and it is often in the Developing function where power is most evident.

When teams don’t grapple with power in the Developing function diversity of perspective is compromised, innovation struggles and engagement weakens.  The function is performed, the key question gets answered but to nowhere near the value that the Developing function could generate. This dynamic can become quite invisible for many teams and the tough conversations that could occur in the Developing function become invisible as well.

Our next post will look a bit more into the preference link to these struggles and some ideas to perform these functions more effectively. Until then, consider your own team; does the above play out? Are there other work functions your team struggles with? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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