List of most eminent and profound management thinkers of all times:- 1. Lyndall F. Urwick 2. E.F.L. Brech 3. Peter F. Drucker 4. Herbert A. Simon 5. Douglas McGregor 6. Rensis Likert 7. Chris Argyris.
7 Eminent Management Thinkers of All Times: Peter F. Drucker, EFL Brech, Douglas McGregor
Management Thinker # 1. Lyndall F. Urwick:
In a long and varied career, L.F. Urwick gained vast experience both in military and civil organisation. He has been a director of the International Management Institute at Geneva and was for sometime the head of a management consultancy company.
His recorded talks and published works on management are too numerous to list in full. On organisation, his most important publications are- Papers on the Science of Administration (edited jointly by Urwick and Luther Gullick who each submitted two of the papers), The Elements of Administration, The Making of Scientific Management (in three volumes, written by Urwick and E.F.L. Brech) and A Short Survey of Industrial Management.
It would not be too harsh to say that there is little that is new in the writings of Urwick. He relies heavily on earlier writers, especially Fayol, Taylor and Follett, both for the concepts they evolved and the mistakes they made. He borrows from and criticises them in his attempt to develop broad principles of administration, a body of knowledge and a set of rules.
The influence of Taylor and Fayol is clear in Urwick’s basic approach to organisation. Urwick was certain of one thing- rationality should take precedence over personality. “I am convinced”, he says, “that a logical scheme of organisation, a structure based on principles, which take priority over personalities, is in the long run far better both for the morale of an undertaking as a whole and for the happiness of individuals than the attempt to build one’s organisation around persons”.
Accordingly, he defines organisation as determining what activities are necessary to any purpose… and arranging them in groups which may be assigned to individuals. This should be done in spirit of detachment, and only when the rational, efficient, optimum structure has been designed, should we consider personalities; only then should we try to fit people into, or find people for, the structure.
What are the principles, then, on which the structure is to be based? First, specialisation is a key concept for Urwick, just as it was for Taylor; “let the cobbler stick to his last” had meaning for both of them, but not precisely the same meaning. Urwick, in at least one passage, explains reservation he has about specialisation.
He says that because Henry Ford had been successful with the conveyor belt assembly, people were apt to exaggerate the advantage of the very minute subdivisions of the process. He complains that the job can be reduced to a level where it requires no skill or intelligence, and then the danger is of “error begotten of boredom”.
Urwick was, therefore, conscious of the problems created by over-specialisation. Even so he still supports the principle, tending to modify it from minute subdivision to specialisation of a function. This leads to the concept that there should be three kinds of formal relations in an organisation- line relations (closely related to the chain of command), functional relations (where departments supply a specialised service such as personnel), and staff relations.
To Urwick, the solution of the problem of relationships between line and staff was to define two distinct types of staff personnel. On the one hand, there are staff specialists — finance, legal, personnel experts. Their main activities consists of planning, reading, thinking and advising.
They have on authority in the accepted sense; they get results by personal persuasion. On the other hand, we have the general staff. Their major task is to lighten the burden of the chief executive by assisting in the details of command, control and coordination. They can coordinate the work of specialists but they are not themselves experts in any speciality.
Urwick realises that the difficulty of staff taking line-authority still exists even with his two types of staff. In military organisation, he says, it is clear that the general staff’s actions are “in virtue of their appointment… and involve no assertion of unjustified authority”. There is no indication, however, of the way in which the concept of staff with line-authority can be made acceptable in a non-military organisation.
Perhaps the answer is to be found in the principle of definition. In line with his basic approach of rationality, Urwick proposes that authority must be clearly defined, preferably in writing. Everyone should know his responsibilities and the relationship of himself to others and others to himself.
Fayol stated that authority should be matched by responsibility. Urwick takes up the point when he says that executives must delegate “the necessary authority to discharge the responsibility”. Furthermore, men, in responsible positions must also be “personally accountable for all actions taken by their subordinates”. And, despite Fayol’s doubt about the measurability of authority and responsibility, Urwick summarises by saying that “authority and responsibility should be coterminous and co-equal”.
Urwick also adopted Fayol’s principles of the unity of command and the span of control. In support of the former, he enthusiastically quotes a United States Government report on organisation and administration- “The conspicuously well-managed administrative units in the Government are almost without exception headed by single administrators. Committees have a place, but it is not their function to administrate.”
The argument for a restricted span of control hangs on the number of interrelationships, the team consisting of the supervisor and his subordinates. This idea is advanced by V.A. Graicunas, a French mathematician, who wrote the paper “Relationship in Organisation”, which is included in papers on the Science of Administration.
Urwick supported the view of Graicunas that relationships which require the attention of the supervisor can be seen to increase in a geometrical progression with the increase in the number of subordinates. For example, if there are six subordinates, the number of interrelationships among his subordinates which require the supervisor’s attention can be as many as 222.
Urwick maintains, therefore, that at the middle and higher levels in the organisation, a supervisor should not have more than five or at the most six subordinates whose work he interlocks. The lower level, however, provides an exception: here the number “may be eight or twelve”, since at this level it is the responsibility for the performance of specific tasks which is delegated, not the responsibility for supervising the work of others.
On the question of delegation, Urwick felt strongly that the man who lacked the courage to delegate was heading for failure. In larger organisations, he maintained, it will even be necessary to delegate the right to delegate. And, once a task has been passed down the chain of command, the executive ultimately responsible should “manage by exception”, only involving himself when there are significant deviations from the plan.
Despite his emphasis on a rational, prescribed procedure for organisational relations, Urwick, like Fayol, realised the advantages of the less formal relationships in an organisation. “Lateral” relationships between people in different departments are permitted to develop within the formal framework.
As Urwick himself said, “It is both right and proper that every organisation should have its formal scalar chain, just as every well-built house has its drainage system. But it is unnecessary to use the formal channels exclusively or primarily as the sole means of communication as it is unnecessary to pass one’s time in the drains.”
Urwick is without doubt one of the most prolific writers on administration. The fact that there is little real innovation in his ideas on organisation should not detract from his well- desented reputation as an administrative pioneer. He surveyed a very wide field and greatly clarified and made explicit many of the thoughts of his predecessors and contemporaries. These are his contributions to our subject.
Management Thinker # 2. E.F.L. Brech:
E.F.L. Brech has been a consultant colleague of Urwick and a co-author with him of several books. Like his senior partner, he has mainly elaborated or clarified the views of earlier writers.
In the preface to his most important book, Organisation- The framework of Management, he sets out his reasons for writing. He feels that the book will fulfil the need for a “single explanation of the nature of organisational structure”.
Previous publications, on the whole, have concentrated on specific cases, or, where they have generalised, have been “complex and thus difficult as a source from which the practising manager can draw immediate lessons”. Often one leaves conferences and study groups with the impression of having been present at a “shadow-boxing” session.
It is Brech’s intention, therefore, to try to formalise a completely practical approach based on tried, general principles. He sees the necessity for this not only to fill the gap in the present literature, but as a result of the growing feeling that organisation is a “major factor in determining efficient operation.”
And, furthermore, increasing interest in “executive development” will force companies to make a clear “delineation of specific areas of responsibility to which the growing executive can be accredited, and within which his skills can be developed and nurtured”.
In many respects, Brech himself appears to be more aware than Urwick of the human relations aspect of organisation; when he speaks of relationships between superior and subordinate, the word “command” gives way to the word “motivate” and more attention is given to the personal satisfactions of employees.
In the two decades between 1940 and 1960, there was much activity on the human relations front, and much criticism of the “formal principles” of earlier writers as a result. Brech’s deepest sympathies obviously lie with “formal” school, and equally obviously, he felt the need to answer the criticisms and where necessary, alter principle in the light of current thought.
For example, on the span of control principle, he is less definitive than his predecessors. “The span of responsibility or supervision of a superior should be limited to a reasonable number of executive or supervisory subordinates if their activities are interrelated.”
The prescribed number is not four, five or six, but depends on the ability of the manager and the demands of his supervisory and other tasks. And it is clearly implied that the span of control only needs to be limited where the supervisor is responsible for the work of other supervisors, not at the lowest level in the organisation.
Brech agreed with Urwick that there should be only one man at the top. “An organisation should provide a single chief executive responsible to the policy-framing body for the effective conduct of all operations of the enterprise.” He should strike a balance between the units and coordinate their activities. He must also set the tone of the enterprise.
Brech also gives clear definitions of the various functions and relationships of elements in the organisation. There are first, “the relations of the senior to its subordinates, and vice versa”. Such, relations are “those of instruction and compliance, in the customary sense in which a higher authority may give valid orders to those within its jurisdiction”, and are often referred to as “line” or “direct” relations.
Secondly, we have the “relations of the specialist positions or personnel to the ‘line’ managers and subordinates who are served or assisted by the specialist activities”. The specialists have a responsibility for a service, but have no authority over those who use this service.
A specialist manager may, however, have a line authority over members of his own specialist department. He also has a line relationship with his own superior. His relations with other personnel, however, are of an “indirect” nature; he is a specialist “adviser”, but, since his advice is sanctioned by higher management, all those whom it concerns must accept it. The relations of these managers to other personnel are often called “functional”.
Thirdly, there are “staff relations”. Here Brech adopts Urwick’s idea of the “general staff”, a concept which he feels should be encouraged. A “staff office” is appointed as a personal assistant to a higher manager. But “the personal assistant” or “general staff officer” has no authority or responsibility in his own right at all. He is “little more than an extension of the personality he serves”. His relations with other personnel cannot be described since, as himself, he has none.
Finally, there are “lateral relations”. These are the relations implying cooperation between the executives on the same organisational level in the different units of the organisation. Each executive “can fulfil his own role effectively only if he maintains contact and collaboration with colleagues whose responsibilities are essentially related to his own”. Such relation may be laid down formally, but their effectiveness depends on the attitudes of the executives; they are, therefore, more dependent on “management” than organisation.
In a sense “lateral relations” are “informal relations”, which are the reflection of the “attitude of responsible mutual cooperation” which every member of an organisation should be expected to display as an essential feature in management skill. Informal relations, however, can be negative; they can be typified by conflict and opposition.
Brech sees a difference, however, between “informal relation”, as defined above and the “informal organisation” that was revealed in the Hawthorne Studies. Informal relations refer only “to members of an organisational structure and to their mutual association in regard to activities arising out of the formal pattern of respective responsibilities”. The informal organisation Brech sees as a purely personal social affinity, “having” no regard to the structure in which it is set, nor any concern with the responsibilities”.
Finally, we will consider Brech’s views on authority and responsibility. In his discussion of these repeated concepts, he criticises Urwick for the need to formulate the principle that “responsibility and authority be coterminous and co-equal”. “It is questionable”, he says, “whether there is need to identify a ‘principle’ in this direction”.
Brech’s own feeling is that delegation cannot be meaningful unless an executive has “authority to carry out the responsibilities allocated”; “if the responsibilities are, in fact, allocated, he automatically gets the authority necessary to carry them out”. If an executive were able to ask his subordinates to be accountable for certain duties without giving them authority, he would not be delegating responsibility, but merely given them “instructions to perform detailed duties on the basis of his own decisions”.
The difficulty arises, says Brech, through lack of written definitions of responsibilities. To give a man responsibility as a Works Manager’s is so vague an idea that discrepancies between the man’s and his superior’s conception of what the responsibility involves are bound to occur.
“Once, however, a responsibility is defined… the grant of appropriate authority commensurate there with implicit in the definition of responsibility, i.e., the granting of authority is automatic.”
The key to effective organisation, therefore, is a clear definition of responsibility. Brech sums up his philosophy on this question in the following words- “It is the contention of the present author that the responsibilities of management forming an organisational structure should always be written down in properly constituted standards or ‘schedules’. This, it is maintained, is the only practical means of delegation, the only effective way of making known the patterns of responsibilities and relationships, both to the holders of the positions concerned’ and to all others who together form the management team.”
Brech, like his colleague Urwick, conveyed the whole field of management. Brech himself affected from and adopted it number of Urwick’s principles, just as Urwick had done from the works of his predecessors. The result is that we have in Brech’s Titillgs one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive formulations of the “classical approach” to organisation.
Management Thinker # 3. Peter F. Drucker:
Drucker’s background in Austria and Germany included law and journalism. With the growth of Nazism in Germany, he moved to London, then to New York, and operated as a business consultant. One of his best-known works is the book Concept of the Corporation, published in 1946, dealing with the organisation and management of General Motors. He has written many other books on management subjects, including Practice of Management which has been, and still is, something of a best seller.
General Motors is typical of the type of company that Drucker finds most interesting. He is not concerned by the fact that such giants are comparatively few in number, since for him they seem to “embody the spirit” of modern industry. Consequently, his ideas on organisation tend to be largely based upon the practices of large corporations.
As with Brech, it is essentially in the practical field that Drucker wishes to stimulate advances. In the opening paragraphs of Part III of Practice of Management, he draws a parallel between the organisation theorist who talks about how the structure should be built and a civil engineer who “discusses the relative advantages and limitations of cantilever and suspension bridges”.
But the manager wants to know what kind of structure he needs, and the civil authorities what to know “whether they should build a highway and from where”. Both approaches are relevant, but “only confusion can result if the question what kind of a road should be built is answered with a discussion of the structural stresses and strains of various types of bridge”. It is Drucker’s intention, therefore, to try to answer both questions- what kind of structure is needed and how it should be built.
Organisation for Drucker is a means to the “end of business performance and business results”. The first questions, therefore, should be “what is our business and what should it be”? Then, the organisation must be designed to attain the objectives of the business, and Drucker recommends three ways of discovering what kind of structure will help attain the objectives — activities analysis, decisions analysis and relations analysis.
Drucker criticises the earlier writers for neglecting the real “activities analysis”. They labelled functions such as “manufacturing”, “engineering” or “selling”, but omitted to define what these consisted of and how large a part they played in attaining the objectives of the business.
Drucker gives an example of how in specific business, certain activities assume an importance which is essential to the success of the business, but which could easily be neglected by a less enlightened management. He concludes by saying that “they were organised as separate functions because all activities analysis revealed that as part of another function, they were not being given the attention their importance warranted”.
An activities analysis, therefore, “brings out what work has to be performed, what kinds of work belong together, and what emphasis each activity is to be given in the organisational structure”.
The second set of questions to be answered in designing an organisational structure concerns the decisions to be made. Drucker sees no great difficulty in anticipating the kinds of decisions that will arise. In one company, he found that over 90 per cent of the decisions that managers have to take, over a period of five years, were typical decisions and “fell within a small number of categories”.
The nature of business decisions is determined by four characteristics- “the degree of futurity in the decision” — for how long will it commit the company?; “the impact a decision has on other functions”; “the number of qualitative factors that enter into it” — how much does it depend unethical values, politics, etc.?; and whether they are periodically recurrent or rare.
Analysing decisions in this way, we can determine the level at which they should be taken. For example, a decision to build a new plant commits the company heavily, affects many departments, may involve the company in dealings with local authorities and certainly does not occur every day. Such a decision should be made at a high level.
“The final step in the analysis of structure is an analysis of relations”. Drucker criticises traditional thinking for defining a manager’s relations only in a downward direction. We should first consider his contribution “to the larger unit of which he is a part”.
We must also analyse the “sideways relations”, since “the contribution which a manager makes to the managers of other activities is always an important part of his job and may be the most important one”. The object of analysing relations is not only to help define the structure but also to give guidance in manning the structure.
As he moves from questions about the kind of structure to the problem of building the structure, Drucker outlines what he calls three “structural requirements of the enterprise”. First, “it must be organised for business performance” — the criterion is the attainment of the right objectives. Second, it should “contain the least possible number of management levels” — for simplicity, for direction, for effectiveness and for the development of personnel.
Third, “it must make possible the training and testing of tomorrow’s top managers” — giving responsibility to the manager while he is still young and in positions where failure would not endanger the business. In line with these requirements, he discusses two structural principles- “federal decentralisation” and “functional decentralisation”.
Of course, the former is preferable and should be applied wherever possible. It involves the organisation of activities into autonomous product businesses, each with its own market and product and with its own profit and loss responsibility. Where federal decentralisation is not possible, a business must use “functional decentralisation”, which sets up integrated units with maximum responsibility for a major and distinct stage in the business process.
Drucker gives a very detailed account of the pros and cons of each principle. We will not, however, discuss them further at this stage, since they will form a very large part of our later discussion of decentralisation.
There is no doubt, however, that decentralisation, especially federal decentralisation, as Drucker envisages it, provides the greatest opportunities for satisfying his three “structural requirement”, performance can be set and measured, management levels can be few, and there is scope for training managers of tomorrow.
In this brief survey, it has been possible only to give the core of Drucker’s thinking on organisation. He equals both Urwick and Brech in the scope and volume of his work in this field.
However, his writings are often considered more modern and popular than theirs. This may be due to the greater appeal and “glamour” of the examples which he has quoted from his own experience, but it is more likely to be the fact that companies are applying with considerable success the principles which he propounded.
Management Thinker # 4. Herbert A. Simon:
Simon is an American political and social scientist. He started his career in local government where, at the age of twenty-two, he published his first article “Measuring Municipal Activities”, written in conjunction with Clarence Ridley. He became interested in general theories of organisation and his study in this field led to the publication of several books and articles, including Administrative Behaviour (1947- Second Edition 1960), Public Administration (1950- with D. Smithburg and V. Thompson), Organisations (1958- with James G. March) and The New Science of Management Decision (1960).
Simon was clearly influenced in his early work by his predecessors. He made no attempt to conceal his disgust at the way in which the glib phrases and “homely proverbs” of writers such as Urwick and Luther Gulick were accepted. He attacked many of the “principles” of the Classical school.
He pointed out that a limited span of control was in conflict with the equally (if not more) laudable maxim of “keeping at a minimum the number of organisational levels through which a matter must pass before it is acted upon”. The principle of unity of command if acted out would only reduce efficiency, since, if the “advice” of specialists had to be passed down the chain of command, this would waste time and managerial effort.
In more recent years, however, Simon has concentrated his attention on a more specialised field. His attempts to measure the efficiency of various methods of local government led him to the study of operational research. Most recently, he has been engaged in research into the human processes of decision making, using computers to simulate human thinking.
Management to Simon means decision-making. He postulates three stages in the decision making process. Stage I, he calls the “intelligence activity” — discovering when and where it is necessary to make a decision. Stage II is the “design activity” finding and developing alternative courses of action.
And Stage III consists of the “choice activity” — actually making the selection from the alternatives available. Each stage may itself require complete decision making cycles; for example, it will be necessary to decide when to call off the search for alternatives.
Again, when the choice activity is complete, a new set of decisions has to be made about implementation, and so on. It is easy to envisage how decision making can be involved in everything a manager does, and that all the three stages must be worked through, consciously or subconsciously.
While talking of the decision-making process, Simon criticises those who imply that man is completely rational. Traditional theories of economic and statistical decision making assume that people who make decisions know all possible outcomes, that their powers of calculation are sufficient and that they have a constant set of criteria by which they can evaluate alternatives.
Simon suggests that since none of these three assumptions has any validity, a man cannot be said to be solving his problems with optimal solutions which are satisfactory or “good enough”. Man cannot “maximise”, so he “satisfies”.
Man is not, therefore, a completely rational animal, he has only “bounded rationality”. But how does this affect organisation? Simon’s answer is that the environment in which management operates must be designed such that “the individual will approach as close as practicable to rationality (judged in terms of the organisation’s goals) in his decisions”.
The organisation and methods should be such that managers will tend as far as possible to make the best decisions rather than decisions which are “good enough”.
In this discussion of how decision-making can be improved, Simon distinguishes between two extreme types of decision, programmed and unprogrammed. Any decision can be placed on a continuum between the fully programmed and the completely unprogrammed.
A decision which approximates to the programmed end of the continuum would be one for which there is a prescribed procedure, such as the decision when and how much to reorder when buying materials for an established product with a steady market over a number of years. Or it may be a question of simpler outline, requiring no conscious thought as such.
The greater the precedent and the more widely held the knowledge about the precedent, the more programmed the decisions will be. Conversely, if there is no precedent and no experience to go on, the more unprogrammed will be the decision. As an example, we may quote the decision to launch a new product in a company which has grown up with only one product.
Here, there may be subsidiary decisions which are programmed and so contribute to the rationality of the overall decision, but the essence of the decision to launch or not to launch is still very much a question of a hunch or intuition.
The intelligence of human beings can compensate partially for the unprogrammed nature of some decisions. Solutions can be found which are a satisfactory approximation to rationality, i.e., to optimal solutions. But it is insufficient to rely on the intelligence of human beings when decisions can be programmed.
According to Simon, therefore, an enterprise should programme as many decisions as possible by encouraging habits, knowledge and skills, or by installing clerical procedures and routines, or by building the right organisational structure and values.
Simon sees and tries to anticipate the criticism of the Human Relations School who object to the maximum standardisation and installation of routines. He says- “A completely unstructured situation which one can apply only the most general problem-solving skills, without specific rules or direction, as if prolonged, painful for most people. Routine is a welcome refuge from the trackless forests of unfamiliar problem spaces”.
With the growing use of the computer, however, Simon sees the possibility of programming what was previously a completely unprogrammed decision, by simulating human thought processes. “The automated factory of the future will operate on the basis of programmed decisions produced in the automated office beside it.”
Although much of Simon’s work concentrates on management, not organisation, the implications of his hypotheses and predictions have a direct bearing on the framework within which management operates.
Despite his early criticisms of the Classical school, he would agree with them that the criterion of organisational success is efficiency. And efficiency will increase as the “bounded rationality” of man is replaced by the total rationality of routine, using the electronic computer.
Management Thinker # 5. Douglas McGregor:
McGregor was an American social psychologist who conducted a variety of research projects into the motivation and general behaviour of people in organisations. He was until his recent death Professor of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The most widely-publicised aspect of McGregor’s work is his distinction between two basic theories of human behaviour at work. In his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, he describes these two views which he calls Theory X and Theory Y.
Traditional theories about the way in which administration should work were based on Theory X. Theory X assumes that the average worker is lazy and dislikes work. He is unambitious, avoids responsibility and prefers to be led. He is selfish, having no concern for organisational objectives. He must, therefore, be controlled, coerced and directed, if the organisation is to achieve its objectives.
This idea of the behaviour of people in an organisation has persisted and gained strength, because it seems to explain many of the observable features of human behaviour. Yet, McGregor contends that there are just as many facts which this view cannot explain. Why is it that examples can be found of higher productivity in units where control and coercion are minimal?
McGregor’s answer is Theory Y which he claims is a more realistic explanation of human motivation and behaviour. Theory Y states that people are not by nature as Theory X supposes them to be, but they become so as a result of their treatment in the organisation. In fact, work is as natural as play and rest.
The average worker can learn to seek responsibility. There is a great resource of self-direction, contribution to problem-solving and cooperation which is completely untapped. Management should make it possible for people in organisation to develop these characteristics in themselves. The organisation should be such that people can realise their own potential by contributing to organisational objectives.
McGregor, therefore, sees an effective organisation as one which has replaced direction and control with integration and cooperation, and in which everyone affected by a decision can contribute to the making of the decision.
The units of the organisation are interacting groups of people who support each other’s functions. The “Staff” is not “an instrument of top management to control the line, but supplies a service to all levels for the furtherance of organisational objectives.
The ideal is attained when every member of the organisation can identify himself with the objectives of the organisation and feel that his contribution is worthwhile and valued by his superiors.
McGregor’s views are typical of recent thinking among a group of modern psychologists and sociologists. They are founded on a vast amount of research by McGregor himself and others, including Rensis Likert and Chris Argyris. These two have been singled out for discussion because, like McGregor, their writings contain several central concepts which are relevant to the study of organisation.
Management Thinker # 6. Rensis Likert:
Likert, another social psychologist, set up the Survey Research Centre, Michigan University. This later became the Institute for Social Research with Likert as its Director.
In his book, New Patterns of Management, Likert examines the managerial style of supervisors and the effects of different attitudes or supervisors on the productivity of those who work under them.
Many companies, he finds, encourage the use of the principles of scientific management. The job is broken down into its component parts and the best method of performing each one of these is developed. People are then recruited and trained to do the job, the supervisors are installed to see that the job is done in the specified way at an acceptable rate.
Research has shown that supervisors who operate against this background and share a belief in this philosophy of management tend to have charge over units with low productivity; that is, “those supervisors whose units have a relatively poor production record tend to concentrate on keeping their subordinates busily engaged in going through a specified work cycle in a prescribed way and at a satisfactory rate as determined by time standards”. The emphasis of the supervisor’s job is on getting the work done. Likert calls this orientation of supervision “job-centred”.
In contrast, supervisors of high-producing units tend to be “employee-centred.” They “focus their primary attention on the human aspects of their subordinates, problems and “on endeavouring to build effective work groups with high performance goals”.
Under “employee- centred” supervision, operatives are helped to do the job well for their own satisfaction as much as for the attainment of the departmental goals. There is maximum participation in the setting of goals and making decisions, and more emphasis is placed on the achievement of goals than on the methods to be used.
Likert’s ideal system of management is what he calls an “intersection-influence system”. The most effective way of integrating the goals of work groups and organisational goals is by problem-sharing between the superiors and the subordinates.
Each supervisor and manager, therefore, should belong to a work group which includes his subordinates and a work group which includes his superior. In this way, management should construct work groups, linking them into the organisation by means of men who hold overlapping group membership. Effective groups and maximum participation by group members hold the key to effective organisational functioning.
For Likert, management is essentially a relative process. There are no general rules which can be applied to all situations. A manager must adapt his style to the group which he leads. One difficulty has been that a manager often cannot know whether he is on the right track because of inability to measure aspects of human behaviour.
This is no longer completely the case; there are now a number of ways of trying to obtain measurement of such things as the level of motivation, the extent of group loyalty, the efficiency of communication. Such information will enable management to see where action needs to be taken.
Then, Likert says, (borrowing from Folle) that everyone can obey the “law of the situation”. And, furthermore, the use of the law of the situation has greater power today than in Follett’s day, since “many variables… can be measured now… and can provide objective data where previously only impressions and judgements were available”.
Management Thinker # 7. Chris Argyris:
Argyris is a social Scientist and Professor of Industrial Administration at the Yale University. Like the previous two writers, he has concentrated on attempts to explain the behaviour of people in organisations. His books include Personality and Organisation, Understanding Organisational Behaviour and more recently integrating the Individual and the Organisation.
(Argyris has developed as his main theme the thesis that a formal organisation requires “behaviour that tends to frustrate, place in conflict and create failure for psychologically healthy individuals”).
There are a number of “unintended consequences of the interaction” between the needs of individuals and the needs of the organisation. Both sets of needs become adapted and frustrated, and an “informal group organisation” springs up, with norms, appropriate to the frustrated and the apathetic individuals who comprise it.
Thus, the behaviour of the total organisation is a function of the interaction of the needs of individuals, the needs of informal groups and the needs of the organisation.
Why does this happen and why these “unintended consequences”? An individual, says Argyris, develops along several lines. He goes from the passivity of infancy to the activity of adulthood; from the dependence of a child to the independence of a man. On each line of development, he tries to attain maturity the end of the line. And the end of the line is complete “self-actualisation.” Each man sets his own goals and strives to attain them, adapting himself to his environment in the process.
An organisation too has goals, and the means for achieving these goals are often clearly prescribed. It will usually employ the principles of specialisation, command, control and direction to further its ends and adapt to its environment. The organisation too is, in a sense, involved in a process of self-actualisation.
Unfortunately, no attempt is made to integrate the individual and the organisational process of self-actualisation. The consequences are very often the exact opposite of what was intended. Specialisation prevents self-actualisation by concentrating or a narrow front. The chain of command means that active individuals striving for independence become passive and dependent on their leaders.
The results of these unintended consequences often appear in a more concrete form. People may leave the organisation or they may simply group together with others who feel equally apathetic. Most often, the latter happens, and that explains the obstructional elements in many organisations. And, unfortunately, the most common reaction from management is to increase the pressure; this only serves to aggravate the problem.
Argyris proposes some approaches to solving the problem. At a low level, “job enlargement” should be encouraged, giving the individual more opportunity to use his abilities. He should be allowed to participate in decisions affecting him. Budgets should not be imposed from above; better results can be achieved by prior consultation and acceptance. Every possible action should be taken to allow the individual to gain a greater control over his environment.
Even a passing acquaintance with an organisational atmosphere can show the frustrations and aggressions to which organisational life gives rise. The school of writers that includes McGregor, Likert and Argyris, took this common observation as their starting point and attempted to explain it.
Until recently, theirs was not a theory of organisation but a collection of ideas about the causes and effects of malorganisation. However, particularly in the past decade, research projects are revealing more constructive concepts which can be incorporated and given practical application in organisational planning.
In fact, no one concerned with organisational planning can any longer justify the ignorance of the behaviour of people in organisations. Such is the impact of writers like McGregor, Likert and, Argyris.