Posts Tagged ‘Douglas McGregor’

Underlying Assumptions

November 27, 2012 3 comments

The underlying assumptions harbored by executive decision-makers drive an org’s processes/policies. And those processes/policies influence an org’s social and financial performance. As a rule, assumptions based on Theory X thinking lead to mediocre performance and those based on Theory Y lead to stellar performance. Most org processes/policies (e.g. the annual “objective” performance appraisal ritual) are Theory X based constrictions cloaked in Theory Y rhetoric – regardless of what is espoused.

1, 2, X, Y

August 6, 2012 3 comments

Chris Argyris has his Model 1 and Model 2 theories of action:

  • Model I: The objectives of this theory of action are to: (1) be in unilateral control; (2) win and do not lose; (3) suppress negative feelings; and (4) behave rationally.
  • Model II:  The objectives of this theory of action are to: (1) seek valid (testable) information; (2) create informed choice; and (3) monitor vigilantly to detect and correct error.

Douglas McGregor has his X and Y theories of motivation:

  • Theory X: Employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work.
  • Theory Y: Employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control; they enjoy their mental and physical work duties.

Let’s do an Argyris-McGregor mashup and see what types of enterprises emerge:

Effective And Ineffective

In the 50 year old book, “The Human Side Of Enterprise“, Douglas McGregor lists the attributes of effective groups as follows:

  1. The atmosphere is informal, comfortable, relaxed.
  2. There is lots of pertinent discussion and it stays on track.
  3. The group’s task is well understood and accepted.
  4. Members listen to each other and have no fear of looking foolish.
  5. There is disagreement and no conflict avoidance.
  6. Decisions are made mostly by consensus.
  7. Criticism is frank, frequent, relatively comfortable.
  8. Members freely express feelings on problems and group operation.
  9. Clear assignments are made and accepted.
  10. The group lead doesn’t dominate and there is no struggle for power.
  11. The group is self-conscious and periodically reflects on performance.

So, do you think this list is outdated and inapplicable in this day and age? How many effective groups have you had the privilege of participating in?

For grins, let’s look at an inverted version of the list:

  1. The atmosphere is formal, uncomfortable, tense.
  2. There is lots of impertinent discussion and it wanders all over the map.
  3. The group’s task is vague, undefined and thus, unaccepted.
  4. Members ignore each other and put on a mask of infallibility.
  5. There is no disagreement and conflicts are avoided.
  6. Decisions are made by authority
  7. Criticism is personal and uncomfortable.
  8. Members cover up and suppress feelings.
  9. No assignments are made and tasks fall though the cracks – accepted by no one or the ubiquitous “we”.
  10. The group head dominates and there is much politicking to curry favor.
  11. The group is unconscious.

Which of these lists feels more familiar to you?

UCB Reinforcement

May 15, 2011 1 comment

Oh crap! I’ve done it again. I’ve scanned the horizon and found more evidence to further cement my Unshakable Cognitive Burden. I’ve started reading the classic “Human Side Of Enterprise“. It’s a classic because it was written in 1960 by Douglas McGregor and much of it remains relevant today – over 50 years later.

At the beginning of the book, Mr. McGregor asks his targeted audience, corporate managers, to truly “tune in” the next time they’re at a policy making meeting. By “tune in“, he means “listen to what hidden, implicit assumptions about human behavior are embedded within the discussions“.

Mr. McGregor asserts that the probability is high that policy discussions will be based on the assumption that those who will be affected by the policy are stupid, lazy, and not-to-be-trusted people. Has your personal experience indicated that he was, and still is, right?

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