Tag: mcgregor

Theory X and Theory Y

Theory X and Theory Y

I had the great pleasure to deliver the closing keynote of Voxxed Days Singapore. During the talk, Going Open, I introduced Douglas McGregor theories on human motivation and management that he developed at the MIT Sloan School of Management  in 1957.

The assumption in Theory X is that workers are lazy; they dislike and don’t want to work and do all they can to avoid it. As a consequence, if you agree with that assumption, your way of managing people, who have no intrinsic motivation and no ambition, the system needs to be “command and control.”

The assumption in Theory Y is that work could be as natural as play and rest; people seek responsibility and are able to direct themselves to deliver on their commitments. As a consequence, if you agree with that assumption, your management style is radically different, and the system could tend toward self-organization.

Theory X and Theory Y are self-fulfilling prophecies. Acting accordingly to the theory causes it to come true.

Reconsidering the way we are managing people in an organization is an essential ongoing exercise.

As an example, our actual reward system might perfectly fit the Theory X assumption, while we would prefer our whole team to live under Theory Y.

What about you?

What type is your organization?

What type are you?

Could I behave like X, because my organization is X?

Do you think my organization could change if I change my behavior?

It could be really interesting because X organizations suffer from a centralization flaw. And like spiders, if you cut the head, the organization dies.

By contrast, Y organizations are resilient like starfishes, if you cut an arm, the starfish will regrow it, and even more interesting the arm will regrow a whole new starfish, as all the knowledge needed is available to do exactly that.

Y organization are really like Open Organization.

Open Organization is the term coined by Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat for his eponym book published in  2015. The book written primarily for organizational leaders, demonstrates how open source principles are changing the nature of working and managing in the 21st century.

There are five characteristics of Open Organization:

  • Transparency. Transparency by default as a foundation.
  • Inclusivity. Inclusivity of all perspectives.
  • Adaptability. Feedback mechanism to continuously learn.
  • Collaboration. Collaboration to produce better outcomes.
  • Community. Shared values and purpose.

How can we adopt those characteristics in our organizations?

I then proposed some of the approaches that you can find in the book, Changing Your Team From The Inside, to foster the change in your team and organization.

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