What to do today with McGregor

collaborationYou know Douglas McGregor? It’s the kind of guy you can’t ignore just because every management education must have at least a few words about him. According to McGregor there are two management models: the X model and the Y model.Theory X:

The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.

  • Because of their dislike for work, most people must be controlled and threatened before they will work hard enough.
  • The average human prefers to be directed, dislikes responsibility, is unambiguous, and desires security above everything.
  • These assumptions lie behind most organizational principles today, and give rise both to “tough” management with punishments and tight controls, and “soft” management which aims at harmony at work.
  • Both these are “wrong” because man needs more than financial rewards at work, he also needs some deeper higher order motivation – the opportunity to fulfill himself.
  • Theory X managers do not give their staff this opportunity so that the employees behave in the expected fashion.

Theory Y:

  • The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest.
  • Control and punishment are not the only ways to make people work, man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims of the organization.
  • If a job is satisfying, then the result will be commitment to the organization.
  • The average man learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility.
  • Imagination, creativity, and ingenuity can be used to solve work problems by a large number of employees.
  • Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average man are only partially utilized.

In fact it’s not a way of managing people but an analysis of how you manage considering the opinion you have about people.

McGregor wrote decades ago, in the taylorism era and things have changed since. The economy is now moving to the era of knowledge working and the Y theory seems less suprising than when it was formulated since giving people autonomy and responsability is known as the best way of generating added value with knowledge workers.

Although some are not very comfortable with that because lot of people still like to control everything and show “who’s the boss” (quite an improductive attitude), the question is now to see how to improve autonomy, innovation and self responsability in the XXIth century companies.

The fact is we can’t just say “things will be like that”. We have to face fear toward change and people who fight for their “status” without caring about the collective interest in terms of efficiency. Another point is that, considering management is also a question of social behaviors and that in a deconcentred company those behaviors are supported by communication tools, those tools mus be conceived to “support” management and become a place for exchanges, sharing experience and improving innovation.

Applying Y theory with X theory based information systems is downing the efficiency of your management practices.

And this will be the subject of a next post…

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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