wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Douglas McGregor (1906-64)Douglas McGregor


American professor (pictured right), famous for his Theory X and Theory Y (see below).


Key book


The Human Side of Enterprise (1960)

 (see for more detail The Human Side of Enterprise in the Business Books section)


There are two ways of looking at people at work:


Theory X 

This is based on assumptions associated with F. W. Taylor’s scientific management:

  • People inherently dislike work and will avoid it if they can.
  • They must be controlled and forced to work with financial reward (a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to motivation).
  • They are unambitious and avoid responsibility.


Theory Y 

This is based on these assumptions:

  • People will motivate themselves to work, if they are fulfilled, autonomous and involved in decision making.
  • They can accept responsibility and become leaders.
  • They have the ability to be creatively brilliant, but this potential is usually never fully realized.


McGregor generally supports Theory Y, whose support of self-motivation is central to the modern management idea of empowerment.

But it isn’t appropriate in every management situation - Theory X will be better, if quick, autocratic action is required.


Key quotes on leadership and management

Leadership is a relationship.

Theory Y is an invitation to innovation.

So long as the assumptions of Theory X continue to influence managerial strategy, we will fail to discover, let alone utilize, the potential of the average human being.


Key quote on motivation

Man is a wanting animal – as soon as one of his needs is satisfied, another appears in its place.


Key quote on empowerment

The price of freedom is responsibility.


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