Re: Involvement and Partic LO4866

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Involvement and Partic LO4866
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 1996 00:11:59 -0800

Con Kenney writes:
> Replying to LO4812 -- Was: 3 Wishes for LO List
> Again, you have put it so well in your questions.  Douglas McGregor made a
> distinction in The Human Side of Enterprise between theory x and theory y
> managers.  Theory x managers believe that people don't want to work and
> must be made to work through punishments and rewards.  Theory y managers
> believe that people want to do good work and that their role is to do as
> you suggest.
> Several years ago I converted from theory x to theory y because I realized
> that my success as a manager depended on the happiness and productivity of
> the people who reported to me.  I had worked in organizations where my
> happiness was not considered, partnership and high income were presumed to
> be my goals, and, like the managers you mention, I thought I was supposed
> to design work and make other people do it.  When I had inverted the
> relationship, seeing myself as working for the team, my relationships and
> obligations became clear and natural, and my pleasure in our team and its
> work increased greatly.  Changing to theory y felt dangerous and counter
> to the culture of my company, but there's no going back for me.  Have
> others had similar experiences?

Several years ago, the MIT Prof. of Mgmt., Theoreou(sp?) cited the
study at Westinghouse, (several decades ago,) where a scheme was
devised to measure what incentives worked best in the assembly line
environment. They divided a stable, mature, (telecommunications
product line, if I remember correctly,) assembly line in half, one
half being the control group, the other was offered various
incentives; they were offered salary incentives, and productivity
increased, then offered free coffee and more breaks, (if I remember
correctly,) and productivity increased. This goes on for a while, and
with every incentive, productivity increased. Then someone observed
that the productivity of the control group was also increasing. So, as
a test, they removed all of the incentives given to the second
group-and, you guessed it, productivity increased in both groups, yet
again. BTW, if I remember the context of the presentation, it was that
managers should consider the different management techniques
(incentives, MBO, etc.,) as a "tool box," where the right combinations
of tools are used on the right problem.


BTW, after they removed all of the incentives and productivity
increased, they asked the employees why all of this stuff increased
productivity. The answer given was that if the company was allocating
so much in resources watching and monitoring the assembly line, then
their work must be very important, so they had to give their
best. IMHO, it was, inadvertently, probably the first research done on
"walk around management."


John Conover,,

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