As a student of government management, I have read a fair amount on the subject and, a couple of days ago, I was asked to take a test to determine how my management philosophy compares against McGregor's Theories X and Y. As I'd assumed would be the case, the test indicated that my style of personnel management is pretty far in the direction of Theory Y. What does this mean? In short, Theory Y says that employees:
- wish to be self-directed
- wish to participate in organization and personal goal-setting
- wish to accept increased job variety and responsibility
- are motivated in their work by far more than money
While I've been mulling over my real or perceived management failings, I've been doing a little research about management philosophy. And what should I find but an article titled, Managing Oneself by the one-and-only Peter Drucker. Drucker, who seems to have been writing about all things management since the Spanish-American War, published this article only a few years back in the Harvard Business Review. As it relates to my earlier comments on management theories X and Y, this article outlines a path by which the manager (me, in this case) can identify personal strengths and weaknesses and react appropriately.
Drucker begins by stating that, even while most of us think we know our own strengths, we are usually wrong. If he's correct, this is an important piece of information; one would agree that having a more accurate picture about oneself would allow for greater success in both managing oneself (hence the title?) and managing within our organizational sphere of influence.
In answer to the question that asks after my personal strengths, Drucker suggests "feedback analysis": the act of writing down my expected outcomes each time I make an important decision or take a key action and revisiting these predictions after a period of time. Done in a comprehensive manner, a pattern of strengths will begin to take shape. It's an interesting concept, I agree; however, a known weakness of my own (lack of patience) leads me to cringe at Drucker's suggestion that such strengths and weaknesses will be revealed after a short period of time such as two or three years.
Nonetheless, I admit to a basic failure to reflect on past actions in the workplace. While I understand the need for evaluation as part of the planning cycle, I also admit that only those decisions that clearly have not worked as planned are those that tend to receive any attention from me in the following months. Let this be a lesson in paying greater attention to the results of all my decisions and actions both as I more fully exercise managerial responsibility and as I seek to better understand my own capacities as a manager.
Tying together what I learned about my managerial philosophy through the McGregor test and what I can learn about myself through Drucker's feedback analysis ought to prove useful. It seems as though paying explicit attention to the assumptions I make about those with whom I work (because I know how I want to view my co-workers and how they want to be viewed) is a practice to which I need to pay more attention. This boils down, I think, to what SPL's former director used to say about giving others the benefit of the doubt: they deserve it. Always assuming good intentions is a great way to build trusting relationships even if it is a hard thing to put into practice 100% of the time. And, to tie McGregor to Drucker, I need to be diligent about reflecting on how my decisions at work actually play out for my colleagues. Doing so will provide me with clues as to how I'm doing in making decisions from a Theory Y point of view.