BücherLeadership

Behaviour in organisations X, Y, U xxx

By 14. April 2010 No Comments

„Researchers are like orchids – sensitive, exotic and need space“. This was the assumption of Prof. Ivan Egry. He is based in the research center of Deutsche Luft- und Raumfahrt Zentrum in Cologne and gave a presentation of project management for the space ship ISS at the meeting of GPM in Aachen. He pointed out that they work best when the roles are clear, not too many people involved, if you lead them by convincing and not by controlling them, to keep the team spirit alive. My question was, how to bridge this leadership style to the management, which is in control of the resources and money? He said: It is me. And that means 30 years of experience on both sides of the projects; understanding the two flower types and bring them both to flourish.

Very interesting in this context is this old book and theory of Douglas McGregor with his famous distinction between Theory X and Theory Y. In his influential 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise (McGraw-Hill), McGregor made the simple observation that managerial practice often expresses some very deep assumptions about the nature of human beings: Two competing theories about human nature dominate the managerial thought–world.

Theory X says that the average person in a company is lazy and self-centered, lacks ambition, dislikes change, and longs to be told what to do. To manage such a system it needs total control. Employee „motivation“, it says, is all about the fear and the pain. Theory Y says that people in organisations are active rather than passive shapers of themselves and of their environment. People long to grow and assume responsibility. The best way to manage them is to manage as little as possible. Give them water and let them bloom, say the Y-types. (Similar to the picture of the orchids of Profl Egry)

Many managers are more or less influences by this theory and took it to heart; even if they do not know the book, and used it make their people flourish. Matthew Stewart has a deeper look at it in his article and brings it to an interesting point: „This is a distinction not between theories of human nature, but between theories about the nature of human relations — or, more precisely, about the sources of human conflict. It is not so much the inside attitude of the person, but the real conflict of interests in the roles and relations. Any project manager knows this – the fight for resources is not a question of believe – it is a fact.

Read the article by Matthew Stewart, in Strategy+Business April 2010