….because I wanted to!

nz mapSo something really important happened to me yesterday evening – I became a Kiwi!

“What’s so good about that?” you might ask…

The Back-story:

I was born and raised in the UK which (for the avoidance of doubt) I still love.

However, I have happily been a permanent resident of New Zealand for 8 awesome years. There was no pressure on me to go further and apply for citizenship. Indeed, to do so would require a bit of effort on my part and some money to pay the Ministry of Internal Affair’s administration costs.

The Citizenship Ceremony:

There were about 180 candidates for citizenship, representing over 30 different countries.

The ceremony kicked off with an excellent performance from a Kapa Haka1 group.

The Mayor of our city, ably assisted by a linguistically impressive2 MC, presided over the ceremony and did a brilliant job of welcoming us, making us feel at ease, running a tight ship for oaths/ affirmations, certificates, photos (and trees!3) and finally congratulating us.

The National Anthem was sung.

But, just before the National Anthem, we watched a short video….

The insight:

…and within that video was a welcome from the Hon. Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs.

He nicely put into words that, as New Zealand residents, we are already entitled:

  • to stay indefinitely, to work and to study;
  • to healthcare, education and social security, as citizens are; and
  • to vote

and that this is not the case for all countries around the world4.

…and as such, we’re not becoming citizens in exchange for such rights – it isn’t for personal gain (in a ‘do this to get that’ kinda way), it is because we want to!

Indeed, some people will be choosing to surrender citizenship5 from their country of birth.

Now, I hadn’t formalised it as such…but, yes, Mr Dunne had ‘hit the nail on the head’. There was no need to become a citizen, but we feel part of this community and want to belong to it.

Now, for those of you reading the above thinking “that’s very nice and all that…but you usually write about organisations – what’s gone wrong this time?”…here goes:

The analogy:

Yep, you can see where this is going: Many an organisation uses the ‘do this to get that’ logic on its people throughout its management system:

  • meet these targets to get this reward;
  • put yourself forward to win this competition;
  • act in this way to win this quarterly/ annual award
  • search out, and apply for external awards to gain hierarchical kudos
  • ….etc.

In fact, they do so as if this is all rather obvious, and the only way to go about running an organisation.

But all of these things are extrinsic. They aren’t because you want to, they are because you want the prize available for complying with their wishes. This reminds me of a very early post I wrote titled ‘Don’t feed the animals’ which sets out and explains the point.

The reverse logic is to provide the people with what they need to thrive (with no strings attached)…and they will blossom…and they will want to belong. This is all about the environment:

…which will create:

People will come to love such an organisation, will want to belong, and will want to give of their all. How many organisations can honestly claim that?!

For you skeptics out there, such a transformation is:

  • possible, desirable, worthwhile and (as a side effect) profitable; and yet
  • impossible without a fundamental change in thinking.

Where would you choose to work (or live)?

Post script:

I texted a very good friend just after the ceremony: “All Blacks supporter now!”

ABs vs LionsHis response was:“All Blacks over the Lions?”

Damn, I hadn’t thought about next year’s Test series. This might take a little bit of time and emotional baggage to work through!

Footnotes:

1. Kapa haka is the term for Māori performing arts and literally means to form a line (kapa) and dance (haka).

2. 30+ different countries results in amazingly different names to be read out!

3. Every family grouping is presented with a native ‘baby tree’, to plant at home. We’ve got a spot in our garden already sorted.

4. Where this is a particular bone of contention for Kiwis living in Australia.

5. Some countries forbid multiple citizenships, and therefore require you to renounce your citizenship if you want to change to another.

6. You may not think they are random…but if they don’t take proper account of variation, then they are.

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Being an All Black

hakaSo a few people have sent me the link to the recent Steve Hansen interview* (20 mins. long) – thanks for that, it’s very good and worth writing this post about.

* For those of you who live on a different planet – Hansen is the current coach of the All Blacks (that’s a rugby team!) and is currently at the 2015 World Cup in England.

Listening to the interview shows how truly special the All Blacks environment is. I pick out below what I think are key things said that are applicable to any/ every organisation that wants to continually strive towards its true purpose:

(Quotes are in blue text with my thoughts following in black)


Interviewer’s Question: “…What defines Steve Hansen’s All Blacks?”

Steve Hansen’s Response: “It’s not Steve Hansen’s team…it’s about a collective group who are trying to do something [purposeful]….we have to set ourselves some lofty goals, and some people may say that’s arrogant, but I think if you want to achieve something in life, you’ve got to set big goals…”

This links to the setting of a clear challenge* such that everyone involved understands and wants to drive towards it, not for the leader but for themselves.

As such, this challenge has to be:

  • Meaningful: about making the world a better place in some way;
  • Tangible: easily relevant to everyone who is to be involved, not distant and abstract; and
  • Real: not a fake side-act for something else (see POSIWID).

*The challenge is not about a solution – you should know where you want to go but not impose how you believe you are going to get there (See How to have a successful journey).


Interviewer’s Question: “Is that one of the defining factors – the fact that it is a collective?”

SH Response: “…for this team to really play well, we need to be as one and the team has to be greater than the individual…”

This fits perfectly with the idea of systems thinking. The All blacks are a system made up of component parts – 15 individuals on the pitch, 7 on the bench, more in reserve, coaches and back room staff.

They want, and need, to optimise the system, not its component parts.

Every player will want to be picked in the 1st 15…but will work together even if they are not. If Dan Carter isn’t picked for a game, you’d still expect him to use all his 100+ caps of experience to help his replacement…and he most certainly will – and if you doubt it, look for the water boy!


Interviewer’s Question: “You’ve talked about humility and..devolving leadership…as the coach…you have to give up some control. Is that right?”

SH Response: “Well, it might seem like you have to give up control, but, really, it’s not about control. It’s about everybody going in the same direction, trying to achieve the same thing, so you’re not having to control anyone to do that. They want to be alongside you. And in some cases, you want them to be in front of you because they’re the people that are out there playing, and they’ve got to make the big decisions in the moment in the contest. And all we [the coaches] are is here to facilitate an environment…that is conducive to them being able to play.

This echoes everything posted on this blog about the important thing being the environment. We need to move away from a ‘command and control’ logic (and all its management instruments of torture) and replace it with a realisation that Purpose + Environment = the starting point!

Then, and only then, will the whole team truly work together for the good of all.

Purpose is necessary. Environment is necessary. Neither, on its own, is sufficient.

The other point is that it is about the people ‘at the Gemba’ making decisions. The coach’s job is just to provide the direction and support to enable this.


Interviewer’s Question: “How do you, Steve Hansen, see…get the feel for what a player needs?”

SH Response: “Well, once we’ve talked about the team coming first, the team’s made up of a whole lot of individuals, so you try and do your best to get to understand the individuals and what makes him or her tick…You’re really looking at them, ‘how am I going to get the best out of that person?’ along with the other guys that are helping you do that. It’s about watching them every day…you just know after a while when you’re rubbing shoulders with them all the time what individuals need and what they don’t, and I guess that’s the art of coaching.”

This echoes what was written in People are people so why should it be. We are all different, we have different strengths and weaknesses – the task is to develop each and every one of us, not judge and compare us!


Interviewer’s Question: “…you spend a lot of the time motivating the team…”

SH Response: “Interestingly enough I don’t think my job is to motivate the team. My job is to create an environment where motivated athletes can perform…”

I think Hansen might have read a bit of McGregor and Herzberg

He understands that I can’t motive you…but I can strive to provide an environment that has the best chance of you getting the best out of yourself for the good of you and your team.

I very much doubt that Hansen uses the management tools of cascaded personal objectives, individual targets, judgement and extrinsic rewards. Can you imagine him taking, say, SBW (that’s one of the players) to one side and saying “Right Sonny, your target this game is 6 offloads, 4 crunching tackles and 2 tries and if you do it, I’ll give you a sports car”. This would destroy the collaboration that he wants from his collective. It would make it about the individual rather than the team. It would make it about hitting the target and then doing no more.

Who’s had a son or daughter playing sport and seen what happens when a parent tries to motivate their child with, say, money for scoring a try (or goal or…). It is a coach’s worst nightmare! How on earth can they persuade this individual to get that ‘dangling carrot’ out of their mind to pass that ball?!


Interviewer’s Question: “Everyone wants to get better. I mean, how do you actually do it?”

SH Response: “I think it’s about living it every day. You create an environment where you’re living every day trying to get better and you’re not accepting that what you’re doing today’s good enough. And I think if you keep pushing that and everyone’s bought in to it first and foremost and then you keep pushing it and driving it, it’s achievable. But the minute you decide that ‘Okay, we’ve arrived’ someone’s just going to draw [go] straight past you…”

He understands that it is a never-ending journey and the moment you think ‘aren’t we just great!’ then you are in trouble.

It’s also about looking at yourselves and what you are doing rather than trying to be like somebody else (see Benchmarking – worse than cheating)


…and finally:

Whether they achieve their lofty goal (retaining the world cup) or not, I think you’d agree that they appear to be going about it in a fantastic way.

When I look back at Steve Hansen’s interview I think ‘he really gets it’. I also believe him – I don’t think he is just saying it…and, as such, I would follow him (I just need to get good at rugby now!!!).

If you didn’t know differently, you could easily think that Hansen was a student of Deming and Ohno …and who knows, he might be!

People and relationships

!cid_image003_png@01D0AE76Relax, don’t worry about the title: I will be limiting this post to ‘work relationships’…and I don’t mean ‘relationships at work’.

Peter Scholtes wrote that, to understand people, we need to understand relationships. In particular, leading people requires the establishment and nurturing of personal relationships on a daily basis and the encouragement of others to do the same.

He sets out some characteristics of what he calls a good, old-fashioned one-to-one, face-to-face, first name to first name personal relationship”:

  • You listen to each other. You are able to talk to each other;
  • Each respects the other and knows how to show this respect; and
  • Each knows the other well enough to know their vulnerabilities and cares enough to avoid them.

Now, relationships are hugely important between manager and employee. Unfortunately, these relationships in most organisations are patronising and paternalistic.

The psychiatrist Dr Eric Berne (1910 – 1970) set out three ‘ego states’ – postures that we assume in relation to each other. These are:

  • Parent: from nurturing and supportive through to judgmental and controlling;
  • Adult: from realistic, logical, rationale through to affectless; and
  • Child: from playful and creative through to rebellious and spiteful.

Command and Control management systems necessitate ‘management’ to assume a parent ego state, which often ends up causing the employee to adopt a child-like ego state in reaction. The words ‘boss’ and ‘subordinate’ (both of which I dislike) fit this parent – child relationship narrative.

In reality, we are all adults at work. It just happens that we are employed to play different roles – from helping customers through to running a business division.

It is each leader’s choice as to the ego state they adopt…and therefore the likely ego state that their employees will take in response.

As an example: I find it odd when a manager verbalises to ‘their’ employee that what they are about to say to them is a ‘coaching moment’ (i.e. “…so listen up and take note!”) – how much closer could you get to a parent – child presumption by the manager? It’s akin to what my youngest son refers to as “getting a lecture” from me.

To be clear, I am most certainly NOT saying that I can’t be coached (I clearly can)….but:

  • A coachee needs to a) have a personal goal and b) a desire to be coached towards it. You can’t ‘coach’ without these two requisites;
  • A leader can equally (and often) be coached by employees, but only if they have their mind opened to be so; and
  • Pointing out to someone that ‘this is a coaching moment’ is patronising and presumptuous and demonstrates an (often sub-conscious) intent to enforce a superior (‘alpha’)/ inferior relationship signal…and it generally breaks point 1, so it isn’t actually coaching.

Right, coaching rant over, back to it….

Leaders need to recognise that we are all people (organistic systems), with our own separate purposes (just like them). The need is to establish adult-adult relationships, in which no one sets themselves out as being ‘above’ or ‘better’ than anyone else. If an organisation’s leaders succeed in this then they will have created a hugely powerful environment.

So, moving on to trust:

Healthy relationships require trust. Here’s an interesting figure from Scholtes showing the two converging beliefs that need to coexist for one person to trust another:

!cid_image002_png@01D0AE76

I find this figure illuminating. It makes me see that (and understand why) I have had some managers that I have respected and some that I have had (professional) affection for…but trust is much rarer.

Scholtes writes that “When I believe you are competent and that you care about me, I will trust you. Competency alone or caring by itself will not engender trust. Both are necessary.”

A couple of comments on trust:

  • I doubt it can be over emphasised that trust is in the eye of the beholder! ‘You’ can say that you care about me and that you know what you are doing but only ‘I’ decide whether I believe this…and I will be looking closely (and constantly) at your actions, not taking your word for it;
  • Some command and control managers have the view that employees need to earn their trust…this is the wrong way round! If someone wants to lead, they have to earn the trust of those that they would like to follow them.

KITA management (aka the picture at the top):

Now, onto the idea of KITA management: the term ‘KITA’ was coined by the psychologist and Professor of management, Frederick Herzberg (1923 – 2000)*. It stands for Kick-in-the-(pants)…he was too polite to write what the A actually stood for.

Herzberg wrote about positive KITA (carrots) and negative KITA (sticks)…and here’s why it isn’t motivation:

“If I kick my dog (from the front or the back), he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again…” (Herzberg)

The related problem with KITA thinking is that it locks manager and employee in a highly unhealthy parent-child relationship. Further, when rewards are competitive (which they usually are in some way) KITA thinking creates winners and losers and adversarial relationships among those who should be colleagues.

* Note: Herzberg wrote the classic 1968 article “One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?” This is one of the most requested HBR articles of all time and has sold well over 1 million copies.

…and finally:

I’d like to share with you some wise words written by Alfie Kohn under the self-explanatory title ‘Rewards rupture relationships’

“We need to understand what the process of rewarding does to the interaction between the giver and receiver:

If your parent or teacher or manager is sitting in judgement of what you do, and if that judgement will determine whether good things or bad things happen to you, this cannot help but warp your relationship with that person.

You will not be working collaboratively in order to learn or grow; you will be trying to get him or her to approve of what you are doing so that you can get the goodies.

A powerful inducement has been created [through the regular judgement and resulting outcomes] to conceal problems, to present yourself as infinitely competent, and to spend your energies trying to impress (or flatter) the person with power….

… people are less likely to ask for help when the person to whom they would normally turn wields carrots and sticks. Needless to say, if people do not ask for help when they need it, performance suffers on virtually any kind of task.”

…and, in so writing, Alfie eloquently uncovers the damage caused by rewards and the stunting effect they have on the ability of an organisation, and its people, to improve.

The positive bit: It would be great if all of us worked really hard to attain an adult-adult relationship footing…realised when this had been broken by our words and deeds …and, through humility and dialogue, worked even harder to bring it back again.

An apology: I have a rule that a post should only cover one thing…and this one doesn’t appear to! It’s a bit of a journey from relationships, through leadership, coaching, trust, motivation and ending at rewards, which brings it full circle back to what rewards do to relationships.

In fact the topics in this journey do all belong together, under the competency of ‘Understanding people and why they behave as they do’. My intent was to show how they are all so tied up together so I hope you don’t mind me bending my rules 🙂

Worse than useless

ChocTeapotI’ve recently got back from visiting family in the UK. Whilst there, I noticed things that had changed since I left 7 years ago. This post is about one particular change in service businesses that stood out to me.

During my visit I travelled the length and breadth of England, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and buying items in shops – my credit card took a real hammering!

It struck me that many of these service businesses have put in place some very unhealthy practices around asking customers for feedback.

Let me explain with an example:

The hotel

We stayed a few nights in a (budget chain) hotel on the edge of London – nothing flash: A basic family room for four, breakfast included and parking for our hire car.

Overall the place was pretty good – well worth the price we had paid. However, during this stay there were the odd things that we noticed that could have been better. For instance:

  • The onsite parking was rather confusing: we had pre-paid on the internet but it wasn’t easy to show this. It took a few phone calls and some explaining to partially satisfy us that we weren’t going to get towed away for non-payment;
  • My boys complained to us that the sheets on the extra beds put into the room for them were cheap and scratchy…which they really didn’t like. I told them to ‘take a concrete pill’; and
  • The scrambled eggs at breakfast had clearly sat around at the buffet for far too long and had become a bit ‘plastic’, dare I say chewy.

At the end of our stay we went to reception to hand in our room key. A very nice chap behind reception thanked us for our stay and then told us that we would be receiving an email with a link to a survey asking us to rate our stay using scores from 1 – 10. He went on to quietly inform us (as if it was secretive information) that:

  • if we scored 9s or 10s then these counted as a positive for them;
  • if we scored 8s, these were neutral – no good to them; but
  • all scores of less than 8 would count against them. He gave us the clear impression that this would be in monetary terms (i.e. affecting their rating and therefore bonuses for this month)

Some very clever manager at head office (who had probably been to ‘management school’) had tied the collection of customer feedback with contingent rewards for the workers. Clearly a believer in the brilliance of extrinsic motivators.

Now, before I go any further, if you are a fan of contingent rewards you may cry out that the employee shouldn’t have told the customer about the scoring and its effects! But think about that for a minute – do you really expect your employees not to engage in the games that you are playing on them?

As Goldratt wrote: “Tell me how you will measure me, and I will [show] you how I will behave.”

Further, let’s just assume that the employee hadn’t told me about the scoring system: Management have shown no understanding of the variation in customer demand (one person’s 5 is another person’s 9) – meeting these targets is a lottery that the employee is, understandably, trying to influence in his favour by confiding in us.

So what do you think this scoring knowledge does to the customer, and for the company?

I can tell you three things it does to me:

  • First, given that I am a human being, it makes me feel a little bit sorry for the really nice chap behind reception who established a rapport with us and served us excellently. We understand that he probably has very little ability to improve our stay any further…and so we want to give him a good score, an 8 or 9 so that it doesn’t count against him*.

 But this isn’t what we really feel. I was thinking of a 6 or 7…along the lines of ‘it was all right but not mind-blowing’.

So the company collects distorted information telling it that it is doing better than it is…and will draw incorrect conclusions accordingly. 

  • Second, I also feel a bit used by the employee telling us about the scoring and the likely outcome. So I now think worse of the company for putting in place such a system which has ended up manipulating me. I almost feel dirty for being involved in this subterfuge!

 So I am now turned off this company for making me feel this way by their management practices. 

  • Third, I walk away without providing any verbal qualitative feedback on my stay.

So the people who need to know have gained no understanding of my three highly useful pieces of qualitative feedback (the parking, scratchy sheets and plastic eggs)

I can almost picture the confusion at the senior management team meeting where the CEO is asking his Executive team:

“But how can we be performing so poorly when our average customer feedback score at each of our hotels is 8.27?!”

In summary, the company:

  • has collected a score for my stay that is likely incorrect and misleading;
  • has annoyed me because I feel manipulated…which may lead me to look elsewhere next time (and tell my friends the same);

yet (most importantly)

  • the employees are totally blind as to what could have been better and hence cannot improve.

The customer feedback score is worse than useless!

The knowledge required to meaningfully improve is in each and every piece of qualitative customer feedback…it is not in a monthly average score.

* This behaviour has been reported in many other similar service situations. My hotel experience is but one example. Put in general terms: the employee quietly tells the customer that their feedback score will be ‘used on them’ by their company and pleads for the customer to be kind. As humans we can’t help but want to help them out yet also feel annoyed about this manipulation of us.

Just in case you hadn’t got the picture at the top: it is of a chocolate teapot…which is worse than useless…a bit like linking contingent rewards to customer feedback.

The chasm

dollar-trap…between what science knows & what business does!

In my 3 day ‘Lean/Systems Thinking’ course, I ‘mess with the heads’ of the participants about incentives and motivation. I use material from a fabulous book called ‘Punished by Rewards’ written by Alfie Kohn (1993/1999).

Now, a number of course attendees comment back to me that “isn’t what you are saying the same as that Dan Pink guy?” * and, yes, basically it is. Pink is what I might call the modern day Kohn, the ‘in vogue’ management guru on this stuff…not that Alfie has gone anywhere!

[* Dan Pink wrote a 2009 book on the same subject area as Alfie Kohn’s earlier book. Pink’s book is called ‘Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us’. I’ve noticed a Dan Pink RSAnimate informally making its way round]

This post is about a Dan Pink TED talk passed to me by a participant on one of my courses (thanks for sharing), in which Pink eloquently and passionately puts across his points. It is 18 mins. long and well worth watching.

The key message in the TED talk is that:

There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.

‘Carrot and stick’ (as in contingent rewards) is an ideology, not a proven method to get the desired results. In fact, worse than being ineffective, it can do much harm.

Now, once you’ve watched the TED talk, you will know what the key message is about and that Dan Pink puts forward some scientific research as evidence. You might think “yeah, anyone can put forward an experiment or two, but I bet there are other experiments that ‘prove’ the opposite!”

To answer this: If you read Kohn’s book (which is a detailed and brilliantly written review of the body of research around incentives) you will find that:

  • experiments have been done on this stuff since the 1950’s, each and every decade, right up to today;
  • the results of these experiments have been replicated again and again and again; and
  • there isn’t any credible scientific evidence that contradicts the findings.

So what about service organisations?

Cast your mind back to the candle problem that Pink refers to, and whether the tacks are provided inside or outside of the box.

In service, the necessary actions are rarely a simple and obvious ‘cookie cutter’ response. Rather, the tacks might be scattered under the table, the box still a flat pack and the candle missing a wick!

Every customer service person should be thinking about the unique customer they are dealing with, their unique reality and then providing excellent service that satisfies (and hopefully exceeds) their specific needs.

You might come back at me and say “but if we standardise everything then our people don’t need to think. They just need to ‘turn the handle’ and THEN incentives work…don’t they?”

Two comments on this:

  • do you think the customer wants to be standardised?
  • do you think our people simply want to ‘turn a handle’?

I think not!

Be careful of gimmicky management fads:

Pink talks about a number of innovative techniques to get people thinking autonomously. He refers to Atlasian’s FEDEX day, Google’s 20% time and ROWE. Each makes some sense.

However, if a company simply picks up one of these ideas and ‘implements it’ BUT doesn’t change the underlying thinking, it won’t work.

It’s not about the gimmick (and you don’t need to copy theirs), it’s about the underlying thinking!

Kohn sets out a 3-step approach:

  1. abolish extrinsic motivators (incentives, competitive awards….);

(“pay people well and fairly…then put [incentives] out of their minds.”)

  1. then re-evaluate ‘evaluations’: move from formal time-batched judgement events to continual 2-way conversations divorced from the issue of compensation;
  2. then create the conditions for authentic motivation:
    • Collaboration: across the horizontal value stream
    • Work content: make it interesting
    • Choice: allow people to experiment and learn

And a reminder of that great John Seddon quote:

“with every pair of hands you get a free brain – but whether the brain is engaged depends on the design of the work.”

Oh no, not that old theory!

9365403Most of us who have been on some form of management course will likely have heard of ‘Theory X and Theory Y Management’. You may groan and say “oh no, not that old theory…I’ve never used it for anything” or “you’re a bit behind the times…we’ve all moved on since then!”

The more I look back at the early work on management, the more I believe that they contain profound foundations for what has come since. Let me explain.

A short history lesson (taken from Scholtes ‘The Leaders Handbook’ and Handy’s ‘Understanding Organisations’):

  • Douglas McGregor’s father and grandfather were ministers;
  • His grandfather founded a homeless shelter in Detroit during the 1930s depression;
  • A young Douglas worked in the shelter alongside his father and grandfather.

Douglas and his father held very different views on the people they assisted, something that they would argue about.

  • His father held negative views towards the unemployed and homeless, considering them shifty and lazy etc;
  • Conversely, Douglas considered the poor to be no different from others, just that they were simply down on their luck and victims of a terrible economic situation.

As Douglas grew older, his thinking evolved into his famous 1960s articulation of Theory X and Theory Y assumptions about workers.

Theory X:

  1. The average human being has a natural dislike of work, and will work as little as possible;
  2. He/she lacks ambition, wishes to avoid responsibility and prefers to be led;
  3. He/she is by nature resistant to change but is gullible and not very bright;

Because of these characteristics, most people must be coerced, controlled, directed or threatened so as to modify their behaviours to fit the needs of the organisation.

The above might be said to require a ‘command and control’ style of management.

Theory Y:

  1. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest;
  2. People will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which they are committed;
  3. The motivation, potential for development, capacity to assume responsibility, and readiness to direct behaviour towards organisational goals, are all present in people;
  4. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity towards organisational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.

It is the responsibility of management to arrange the conditions and methods of operation so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing their own efforts in alignment with the purpose of the organisation.

The above matches the teachings of W Edwards Deming and what has been labelled a ‘Systems Thinking’ management system.

The point: McGregor was NOT writing about two different types of people. His theory was about two sets of assumptions made about people.

We can see that this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If management apply Theory X assumptions to their people (commanding and controlling them), then they can expect to see Theory X behaviours in return. This is cause and effect.

People are not, by nature, passive or resistant to working towards the organisation’s purpose. They have become so as a result of the management system that they experience.

Conversely, if management provides an environment that allows systems thinking, collaboration, interesting work content and choice through self direction, then we can expect Theory Y assumptions to become a reality.

A clarification: Theory Y still requires a clear sense of organisational direction (purpose) and systemic structure (though not necessarily hierarchical).

As an aside:

  • I always see a flaw in Theory X assumptions. It requires manager and worker to be two different sub-species of human beings. Otherwise the theory is disproved by contradiction – if, for example, people don’t like responsibility but managers do, then they can’t be the same human variety!;
  • Conversely, I see that Theory Y fits with one human genus. It works no matter where you are positioned within an organisation’s system.

Actions speak louder than words: Now, you will likely say “…but leaders always talk about their ‘Theory Y’ assumptions”….and, yes, I realise that this is so…this is what they (rightly) think the people want to hear.

But are their actions the opposite? What about the management instruments of cascaded personal objectives, arbitrary numeric targets , contingent rewards , and the rating and ranking of people’s ‘performance’.

A subtle, yet massive implication: If leaders use carrots and/or sticks then they are subscribing to Theory X assumptions about their people….otherwise carrots and sticks would make no sense.

A thought-provoking quote from Scholtes:

“Behind incentive programs lies management’s patronising and cynical set of assumptions about workers….Managers imply that their workers are withholding a certain amount of effort, waiting for it to be bribed out of them.”

Proud…and excited!

businessman-432663_640The Oxford Dictionary defines the meaning of the word ‘proud’ as:

“Feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated”

i.e. If you are ‘proud’, it is essentially about yourself, even if it is about the actions of others that is making you feel proud.

What compelled me to look up this definition?

…because I find myself with feelings of (almost sub-conscious) irritation when I hear or read about leaders feeling ‘proud’ about what ‘their people’ have achieved (essentially for them) and I wanted to understand why I should feel this way…it was bugging me.

It seems obvious now that I have studied the dictionary definition.  For someone who isn’t, say, your parent to say “I am proud of you” is condescending. It suggests superiority.

It happens to be a phrase used often by command-and-control leadership towards their people.

I’m not really getting at the leaders who write or say it – they are trying to do their best to use ‘happy talk’ because they think this is good for us.  I am trying to point out to them the lack of humility and respect shown by using the word in their congratulatory phrases.

And ‘excited’? This is the other half of the dastardly duo. They always want to come across as ‘excited’ about what lies ahead in the vain hope that this will simply ‘rub off’ onto us….because, after all, that’s all that is necessary to motivate, isn’t it?

If you read an email, or watch a video (as I did) before the Christmas/ New Year breakup from your ‘leaders’ saying something like:

 “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved this year, in spite of the many challenges we’ve been through…and I am very excited about the opportunities ahead of us next year and what we can achieve….so have a relaxing break.”

…this could equally be translated as saying:

  • I am pleased that those of you who are still around (who didn’t leave or weren’t pushed) have put up with what we’ve done to you this year, and I got my bonus on the back of this….
  • …expect lots more stuff to be done to you next year (we’ve got loads of stuff in our heads to impose on you), and we will be holding you accountable for a set of stretching targets on brilliantly crafted personal objectives that will be SMART DUMB
  • Have a good break…because you are going to need it!