The Primary Task - A photo of a jumble of children's wooden numbered blocks

The Primary Task

Systems psychodynamics is an approach to making sense of what goes on in organisations. Systems psychodynamics can address challenging organisational dilemmas and improve effectiveness. This is the second in a series of blogs which aim to summarise in an accessible way different aspects of the systems psychodynamic approach.

A group is a collection of people who have come together for a purpose. But in the demanding reality of organisational life, it can be hard to focus on or even have a sense of what is most important.  In a busy organisation there can seem to be a never-ending stream of priorities and deadlines. We can feel that we are attempting to keep a vast number of plates spinning at the same time. In this hectic organisational world, the concept of the primary task can be helpful. The idea is that at any one time there is one task that is most important, and this is the primary task. The primary task is the task that right now is necessary for the organisation to survive.  For private sector organisations, the primary task most of the time is to make a profit. For not-for-profit organisations it can be harder to work out just what is the primary task. In fact, there maybe several competing organisational dilemmas. But the concept of the primary task can still be helpful in providing much needed focus. It can be a simple way of seeing what behaviour and actions are on task and which are not.  For example, if a group is coming to the end of a funding cycle, the primary task is likely to be to raise further funds. This is the task that the organisation must accomplish if it is to survive. If hopefully fresh funding comes in the primary task, then will shift to something else perhaps recruiting staff or project planning.

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