From Altruism to Action: Primary Task and the Not-for-Profit Organization
AbstractThis paper examines the concept of primary task, as it has been used in action research and consultancy at The Tavistock Institute and elsewhere. It applies the concept to the not-for-profit organization and argues that primary task should not be thought of opportunistically; it relates to the "mission" of the organization. The three sector model of public, private and voluntary organizations is linked to basic assumptions, as described by Bion and applied to societal institutions. The voluntary sector is considered to have a valency for basic assumption pairing organizational behavior. A case study of a voluntary organization demonstrates the way different stakeholders claim psychological ownership of the enterprise. The paper concludes that the concept of primary task remains important, offering a stable reference point for working with organizations, where the boundary between sectors is increasingly problematic, threatening to overwhelm their original purpose.