Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise (1960)
American professor (pictured right) at MIT's Sloan School of Management in Boston, USA, famous for his
Theory X and Theory Y in this book.
He died in 1964.
Douglas McGregor in the
Management Gurus section.
Theory X and Theory
These are two ways of looking at people at work - see below.
Theory X is based on assumptions associated with F.W.
Taylor’s (pictured right) scientific management:
- people inherently dislike work and will avoid it if they can.
- they must be controlled and forced to work with financial
reward (a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to motivation).
- they are unambitious and avoid responsibility.
Theory Y is is based on these assumptions:
a) people will motivate themselves to work
(if they are fulfilled, autonomous and involved in decision making).
b) they have the ability to be creatively brilliant
(but this potential is usually never fully realized).
c) they can accept responsibility and become leaders
“The price of freedom is responsibility”, says McGregor.
Theory Y strategies
1. Management by objectives
- involving employees in setting their objectives.
- giving them the autonomy to achieve them.
- appraising their performance.
2. Employee participation
(in decision making)
3. Creating trust and confidence in managers
(through their integrity and ethical behaviour).
Theory Y won’t work if managers are seen to be manipulative.
(although McGregor didn’t use the term)
Central to Theory Y are:
- results from responsibility.
- self-fulfilment (from interesting work.)
- identification with organizational objectives.
- encouraging people to take responsibility for their own skills and personal development – you can’t force
people to learn, they must want to do it.
- learning from experience.
6. Creative teamwork
This results from:
- constructive criticism and disagreement.
- an informal, relaxed atmosphere.
- quick implementation of decisions.
Theory X strategies
1. Supervision and autocratic control
People must be “coerced, controlled, directed, threatened”.
2. Carrot and stick motivation
Financially reward and punish people for good and bad performance.
What about leadership and management?
Leadership is a complex two-way relationship between the leader and his (or) her situation, particularly:
- followers’ needs and attitudes.
- organizational structure and policy.
- the external environment (e.g. market changes).
McGregor generally supports Theory Y
But he says that it isn’t appropriate in every
Theory X will be better if quick, autocratic action is required.
Key quotes on leadership and management
Theory Y assumes that people will exercise self-direction and self-control in the achievement of organizational
objectives to the degree that they are committed to those objectives.
Theory X leads naturally to an emphasis on the tactics of control. Theory Y, on the other hand, leads to a
preoccupation with the nature of leadership.
The central principle of managerial control is the principle of self-control.
Key quote on innovation
Theory Y is an invitation to innovation.
Key quote on motivation
So long as the assumptions of Theory X continue to influence managerial strategy, we will fail to discover, let
alone utilize, the potential of the average human being.
Key quote on management training
Managerial competence is created on the job, not in the classroom.