The Theory of Performance

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Performance Theory
Performance theory is the broad idea that not only do we perform on stage, we perform the everyday life. With each situation we face, we must choose how to act accordingly. Performance theory questions why we perform the way we do in certain situations, and which factors affect those performances. Richard Schechner, a professor of performance studies has had a huge and profound impact on the academic theory of performance. “It is important to develop and articulate theories concerning how performances are generated, transmitted, received, and evaluated. In pursuit of these goals, Performance Studies is insistently intercultural, inter-generic, and inter-disciplinary.” (Schechner, 1995) This concept asserts the importance of different systems of transformations, which vary greatly from culture to culture, and over historical periods and movements. In Performance Studies, Schechner asserts that “Performing onstage, performing in special social situations (public ceremonies, for example), and performing in everyday life are a continuum”. (Schechner, 2002, p.143) We can’t argue that each and every one of us is a way a ‘performer’ as our engagement in real life and interactive groups is often interchangeable from role play. First, we must break down the Performance Theory into more detailed avenues of thought. Performance Theory can be broken down first into two categories; the action aspect, and the outcome aspect. The action aspect is what a group or individual does in the performance situation. “Performance is what the organization hires one to do, and do well.” (Campbell et al., 1993 p.40) The outcome aspect is the result of the group’s or individual’s behavior. Some believe that the outcome aspect isn’t a part of performance, so for time’s sake, this essay will focus more on the action aspect of performance. Within the action aspect of performance, performance theory can be looked at in a multitude of ways. It can be broken down further into; task performance vs. contextual performance, transition performance vs. maintenance performance, and also three perspectives on performance (individual difference, situational, and performance relation perspectives). But these terms are of no use if the meaning is not understood. Task performance is the “…individuals proficiency with which they perform activities that contribute to the organizations ‘technical core’” (Sonnentag & Frese, 2002, pg. 4) An example of task performance is a group of production line workers. They are given a task and expected to perform that task. Task performance focuses on the tangible results and efficiency with which the group performs. Contextual performance “…refers to activities which do not contribute to the ‘technical core’ but which support the organizational, social, and psychological environment in which organizational goals are pursued.” (Sonnentag & Frese, 2002, pg.4) An example of contextual performance would be the team leader on a production line making sure that the morale of the group is up. It focuses mainly on personality and motivation. Though there is some overlap with the two terms, as a high level contextual performance often results in high level task performance, they differ in a few ways. With task performance, activities relevant to the job vary between jobs, whereas with contextual performance, those activities stay relatively consistent. Also, task performance is more an ascribed role, whereas contextual performance is the roles that are optional to the group, there isn’t a checklist of specificities for the roles. Now that the different types of performances have been discussed, it is important that we take into consideration how time plays a large role in performance. Both transition performance and maintenance performance show how the group performs during a certain period of time within a job. Transition performance is how the individuals of a group act during the beginning stages of a new job....
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