The necessary group functions
Forming an opinion and taking a stand and. If a work group is to function optimally, each member should form an opinion about projects, solutions, methods and aims, and also express this opinion explicitly: take a stand.
Opinion forming and taking a stand are typically expressed in such statements as:
– That’s a good idea.
– Let’s do it that way.
– I agree.
- I think it would be better if we…
If opinions and stands are incomplete or lacking, the result will be ambiguous decisions, hidden agendas, covert reluctance and subversion, perhaps even fractionalization.
Caring and support are perceived as polarities of forming opinions and taking a stand. Statements beginning “I want…” are seen as the opposite of the equally essential pole: nurture, appreciation, support and recognition. These functions give others room to thrive, so that they can make up their own minds and stand up for their opinions. If a group is to function optimally, a good deal of appreciation, nurture and acceptance must be shown in order to insure that each member is welcome and wanted, and that his participation is recognized and supported.
Caring is often manifested through actions (providing flowers, coffee, a smile, a pat on the shoulder etc.) but is also expressed in supportive statements such as:
- You look happy.
- How are you feeling today?
– Nice to have you back again!
– That was good idea you had yesterday.
- I entirely agree about…
– I’d like to hear what you think.
A partial or total lack of caring, appreciation and support leads to a climate in which group members feel isolated, forced into a state of constant struggle and defense, and perhaps into undue and inappropriate competition.
Ideas and initiative are essential for a team or a work group if they are to avoid standard solutions, stagnation, boredom and, at worst, loss of purpose and ultimate dissolution.
Ideas and initiative are typically conveyed via such expressions as:
– I’ve been thinking that we might…
– It occurs to me that…
– I have spoken to NN about possibly doing…
– Let’s get started now.
– I don’t think we have the time we would need for a private meeting.
Obviously initiative and taking a stand are related. The F8 model contains many such overlapping functions. An unshared idea stays inside one person’s head, just as taking a stand may well infuse energy into the work process without contributing any new solutions.
Assessment and evaluation are posed as polarities to ideas and initiative. Whereas ideas offer new courses of action, recourse to assessment and evaluation insures that the results of previously tested ideas are not lost sight of.
Assessment and evaluation are apparent in such expressions as:
– What did we really get out of that seminar last week?
– What have we learned from…
– Did it pay to…
– The costs of XX have been pretty heavy, and not much came of it; I think we should drop the project.
– We need to sum up.
A work group with little or no assessment and evaluation will lose momentum in dwelling on unfinished projects, and get a basic feeling that no one knows where anything is leading to.
Vision and overview must be maintained if a work group is to have any future. Vision and overview will be expressed via such statements as:
– In the long run, I’d bet on…
– I dreamed that the department was rebased in …
– I’m banking on that as the most radical solution.
– I’m sure the time is ripe to write an article on XX.
– It’s a good idea, but it’s not at all in line with what we agreed last spring.
– It’s an important project, but we have to round off XX first.
A group lacking in vision and overview will find it difficult to assign any project priority, and will also face stagnation in the long run.
Enacting and carrying out are in polarity to vision and overview. Immediate tasks have to be taken care of. The performance of this function will be manifested via actions, and verbally expressed in such statements as:
– Shall we get started? I’ll take the chair. Who wants to take the minutes?
– OK, I’ll do that.
– Who wants to finish the report on XX?
A work group in which enacting and carrying out are partially or totally neglected will soon find itself swamped by intentions, promises, debated purposes and frustration due to lack of results.
Goal attunement and decision making must be maintained as functions if a work group or project group is to avoid pitfalls of confused direction and unresolved opposition.
Goal attunement and decision making will be evinced in such expressions as:
– Let’s get back to the subject.
– We were discussing …
– It was invigorating to discuss some other possibilities, but we have to stick to the matter in hand.
– There seem to be two possibilities here. Which shall we choose?
– We have to assess these opposing factors and then decide on a solution.
– Now we have a picture in depth of the matter in hand. It’s time to decide how to proceed.
A work group that doesn’t maintain the functions of goal atonement and decision making will waste a lot of energy on ambiguous intentions, side issues and repetitive discussions of alternative ways and means, and will risk being deadlocked in unresolved conflicts or dilemmas.
Polarizing and conflict opening are not generally appreciated as group or leader functions. We perceive them as polarities to goal atonement and decision making. Sometimes it is vital to fix upon and maintain the purpose of the group, but at times it may become necessary to turn aside from the mainstream and call the groups’ attention to unclarified conflicts or resistance that are hindering cooperation. In other words, it is sometimes necessary to leave the pursuit of the group purpose and concentrate on existing group dynamics, with statements such as:
– Something feels wrong here. What’s going on?
– I think you should get your disagreement into the open, instead of sabotaging each other at every
– If you don’t agree, say so instead of sulking. Maybe we can find a better solution.
– Every time this department submits a suggestion, the executive board changes it. Why is that?
The above statements all result from a conscious intent to illuminate problems, but despite positive intentions, they are not always welcome. Whereas goal attunement and decisiveness resolve (or at worst ignore) conflict situations, polarizing and conflict opening do the opposite. The purpose of these functions is to point out conflicts or differences that hinder the progress of work or cooperation. These functions are important as the initial step in a resolution of differences, which in turn is essential to the freeing of energy for service in the common cause.
Polarizing and conflict opening often meet with resistance. Not many people have learned that conflict is a source of energy, and the impetus for yet better solutions (or for other relevant, clarifying consequences in form of alternative choices, perhaps rejection or division / constructive divorce.)
In many work groups there are people who are sensitive to covert conflicts and quick to call attention to them. In our experience such a person is often looked at askance, and not recognized for what he often (though of course not always) is: someone who ruffles up our habitual complacency, or someone who quickly senses that something is afoot. A group that does not maintain polarizing and problem recognizing functions will lose a lot of energy in fatigue, covert conflicts or direct opposition and sabotage. A group that neglects these functions will also be neglecting opportunities for development, and will risk “premature” disbandment or instability of membership.
The F8 model as a tool for evaluation in team development
F8 can serve as an evaluation model in several ways. A group can evaluate itself or be evaluated as a unit. The method may also vary – scores in terms of percentages or points, or evaluations of good/bad or strong/weak. Group members can judge themselves, and this may be followed up by a composite evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the group, which in turn may be complemented with a plan of action. It may also be very interesting for the individual participants to get a picture of the functions they serve in various group and work contexts, or to see their individual profile over a period of time: i.e. what did I do a couple of years ago, is this changing etc.
A frequent observation has been that people who have a “high score” in one function (e.g. ideas, initiative) often have a “low score” in that function’s polarity (e.g. evaluation, assessment).
Such scores or profiles can be interpreted in various ways depending on the context: This person is right now in an inventive or creative phase – or – this person has an intrinsic strength and a corresponding potential – an area to be developed or worked upon, according to his profile. In the latter case a lot will depend on whether the person in question “knows” this, and consciously works with it, either by practicing to strengthen his weak area or by being candid about it with his colleagues.
The F8 model can be used to evaluate individuals or groups, as a snapshot evaluation to illuminate where one is in the work process, or as a description of more permanent characteristics. In any case the model will point out obvious resources: things an individual or group are good at, and hidden resources: things an individual or group can improve upon and develop.
In circumstances in which two or more people are working closely together on many tasks (teaching, planning etc.) the members of the team often assume different roles, i.e. fulfill certain functions. The F8 model can clarify these roles; the team can then decide on this basis whether the distribution of roles is satisfactory for the participants and expedient for the tasks in hand.
Eight aspects of leadership
The F8 model can also be interpreted as a leadership model. From this point of view, it will be the leader’s responsibility to make sure that all functions are maintained. Which functions the leader himself fulfills, and which he explicitly or implicitly delegates to others will depend upon the leader’s own profile of strengths and weaknesses, and upon the framework of the common task.
An illuminating process can be achieved if the group and its leader will use the F8 model as the basis for a dialogue, each member evaluating, on the one hand, which functions the leader does in fact carry out, and on the other hand which functions and what division of tasks would be optimal. This evaluation is the followed up by a discussion of the coincidence and divergence of the conceptions, evaluations and expectations of the group, with a view to possible amendment.
In this and similar ways the F8 model can be used as a tool for leadership development as well as for the development of cooperation between group members and the leader.
Being and sensing as a basis for action
All the functions in the F8 model concern fairly active behavior, or in other words represent something that can or must be done. It is recognized in many contexts nowadays that both men and women have access to/possess both masculine and feminine energy. The first proponent of this viewpoint in our culture was the depth psychologist C.G.Jung. Using a similar terminology, the F8 model is primarily concerned with the masculine (focusing) end of the spectrum rather than the feminine polarity (being, sensing). This is not surprising, as the model is constructed for necessary functions or necessary parts of a functioning whole.
Each function in the model is described with a pair of words or phrases: opinion forming/taking a stand, ideas/initiative etc. These pairs are presented with the most feminine first and the most masculine last. For example, we perceive forming an opinion as a less focused aspect of the function than taking a stand.
If we dig a little deeper, all the functions can be given a further nuance, since every focused action must be preceded by an awareness, a sensing or an impulse. Each of the proposed eight functions could be described as a continuum from feminine to masculine .The 16 words used in the F8 model are in italics:
– sensing, registering comfort/discomfort, opinion forming, taking a stand
– sensation, impulse, idea, communication, initiative
– attention, involvement, image, vision, experience of direction, overview
– sensing, experience of direction, choice, decision making, goal attunement,
– attention (to others), interest, caring, appreciation, support, backing others up
– sensing of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, evaluation, assessment
- impulse, enacting, carrying out
- sensing conflicts or reduction of energy, expressions of conflict or emotion, polarizing, conflict opening, request for attention to the conflict.
Physical recognition of the functions
A connection such as that sketched above, from sensing via impulse to action, can be clarified through exercises where you physically experience in your body the patterns of energy and movement connected with each of the 16 or 8 functions in the model. This emotional and physical empathy will also reveal that the energies and energy/movement patterns intrinsic in the various functions are distinct, and are mutually related diagonally on the diagram.
The F8 model as a basis for personal exploration
For those concerned with developing their own personal potential, we can point out yet another worthwhile application of the F8 model.
As already described, the model can be used to clarify one’s own strength and weaknesses. Example: “I’m fairly good at XX and YY, not so strong on NN and PP, and really have a lot to learn concerning ZZ”. This personal profile can be drawn with finer nuances, using the cited spectra of the feminine and masculine aspects of the functions. Example: “I’m extremely good at registering whether I sense comfort or discomfort, and really quite good at taking a stand tacitly, internally; but not so good at formulating my position, and not at all good at stating it in front of a large group. Taking a stand on my own personal opinions is something I don’t like at all, though I’m quite able to make up my mind about the way things are going.”
A next step might be: I wonder where I learned this way of making up my mind? Who in my family behaved that way? What teachers, athletic coaches, advisors or supervisors I’ve worked with have been my models, either as people I’d like to resemble, or people I certainly didn’t want to be like? Very often the insight gained by such enquiries will lead to greater freedom to try out new kinds of behavior and expression.
We have been inspired and influenced in many ways during the development of the F8 model. Among these sources of inspiration we would like to mention the Danish group trainer Arne Sjolund, whose work with group dynamics came to our attention in the late 1960’s; colleagues at the Danish Technological Institute in the early 1970’s; Yalom’s model for group leadership; humanistic psychology in its broadest sense; and in recent years the Ankerhus Group’s work as communicated by Bent Engelbrecht.
The author and other members of the BODYnamic Institute are available to work with management groups, coaching and leadership development.
For practical work using the F8 model we have designed a number of handouts. One equals the diagram accompanying this article. Others are more elaborate and relate to the different ways the model can be used (“Team development”, “Important tasks in new groups”, “Team defeciency as stress factors” and “Aspects of leadership”). All of these handouts can be ordered from the BODYnamic Institute, Schleppegrellsgade 7, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark, phone: +45 35 37 84 00, fax: +45 35 37 84 48.
Copyright, BODYnamic Institute, August 1994. Translated from the Danish original “Gruppefunktioner – Om BODYnamic Institutes F8-model” by Kathryn Mahaffy.