Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Plotting the Management Graph on the xy Axes

Is the "Theory X" top down management style approach still in favour? Falling out of favour? Or, perhaps, coming back into favour now that we are witnessing the collapse of the global economy after decades of promoting the theory that we should all, "reach out, hold hands, sings songs, play ring-around-the-rosy" and everything will be hunky-dory?

I can see the validity of Theory X when I see the promotional material for Theory Y. It is analogous to the lessons taught when I had Susan Tolchin for a course called "Intro to Government" almost 40 years ago.

The lesson we were to have learned was that "Congress is supposed to be partisan. Congressmen are supposed to protect the interests of their constituents; however, the President is supposed to be the kind and benevolent OZ who love and cares for all the people." Then we learned that with the current administration, the President (guess who?) was representing the special interests and that Congress had become a collective (no pun intended) OZ caring in a kindly way, for the people."

We are bullied, yes bullied, into believing that Theory Y managers warmly encourage their employees to be individuals, explore all their avenues, reach their full potential, and in harmony with the rest of the employees come up with creative and inspiring ways of doing business, solutions to problems which are not really problems but opportunities, and have us all sail toward that Utopian Society written about by George Orwell. ("Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility." George Orwell)

In the same respect, Theory X managers are vilified as individuals who believe that employees are lazy, stupid or corrupt and need the direct and constant supervision of a martinet. (That opinion of Theory X managers is usually expressed by two employees drinking coffee while 8 other employees are picking up the slack but who are too afraid to say anything because the foreman believes in the path of least resistance and his boss doesn't want to have to explain to the people upstairs why it was necessary to fire the foreman he hired in the first place. (There is a sentence in there somewhere: some assembly require.))

Theory X is very simple. A manager, a real one, assigns tasks--jobs--to qualified people in their respective areas of responsibility, who gather the information necessary for decision-making, organize it, and present it to the TX manager so he can make an informed, responsible, effective decision on how to proceed.

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