Task Cycle® Survey History

In the early 1970s, Clark Wilson developed the Survey of Management Practices (SMP) as a teaching tool for his management class at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Graduate School of Business. Students completed the SMP on themselves or their bosses. As more students and their peers and supervisors were exposed to the SMP, it made its way into the industry.

DuPont was the first corporation to adopt the SMP in 1973. What the company found most effective was that the SMP focused on specific, observable behaviors as opposed to broad evaluative statements. By the mid-1970s more companies, including Dow Chemical, Pitney Bowes and several utilities were using the instrument and contributing data to the norm database. Meanwhile, consultants around the country became interested in using the SMP in their practices as well. With wider use and accumulated data, Wilson produced updated editions and further developed his Task Cycle® Theory.

Clients soon began to request additional instruments. They found the operational logic of the Task Cycle® to be a powerful teaching device for all organizational roles. By adapting the Task Cycle® for other roles, surveys were developed for five main areas: Quality, Leadership, Management, Sales, and Teams.

Task Cycle® Methodology

Task Cycle® Theory provides a model for the work process for organizations, managers, leaders, and teams. Developed by organizational psychologist Clark Wilson, Task Cycle® Theory draws upon theories of learning, cognition, and motivation. As a theory of work, it underpins all of our surveys.


How It Works

The function of every person in an organization is to achieve the goals defined by his or her role. In all key roles a person must execute a series of tasks. The completion of each specific task follows a logical sequence of steps.

For example, for every task:

  • I. you must establish a purpose;
  • II. to achieve your purpose, you must lay the foundation;
  • III. to implement your foundation, you need a sustained effort from a variety of resources;
  • IV. to monitor your progress, you must obtain feedback;
  • V. if your foundation is weak, you must monitor and adjust the process; and
  • VI. once your purpose is achieved, you must reinforce performance of other contributors.

Although specific tasks may differ, the logical sequence of these steps remains the same for every role in the organization. Task Cycle® Theory translates these steps into six phases. By analyzing each phase, we help the worker develop a set of skills needed to perform well in that phase and ultimately accomplish the task.

The Task Cycle® is a logical model that makes sense, and its simplicity is important for the training that follows. Beyond the logic, however, the model provides another benefit. Through repetition of tasks, the Task Cycle® allows co-workers ample opportunity to observe each other's command of the skills involved. Not only do they become reliable evaluators of those skills, they also learn to anticipate how one will behave on the next task. This anticipation of behavior strongly affects co-workers' motivation to work with one another.