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January 23, 2003
Theory X versus Theory Y a dose of reality

Friedrich Bowhard put up an outstandingly interesting piece yesterday, about a second-career maths teacher trying to make sense of the mismatch between what they teach teachers to do, and what teachers do do.

It's a classic illustration of the folly of trying to apply Theory Y thinking (see the post immediately below this one, here) to an institution that is still run on Theory X lines. The pupils have to attend, and have to be in class whether they want to be there or not, and must be badgered into learning whether they want to learn what they're being taught or not. At least in a factory that aspires to become Theory Y people are being paid to be there, and agree to be there even if they don't always like it much. But this school is for many of its inmates only a very thinly disguised prison. Theory Y can't work in a place run that way.

Friedrich's teacher is especially good on the nuances of desk arrangement, and of the "discovery" method as applied to the learning of maths. (I intend to say a lot more about that, you may depend upon it.)

As is always the case with such mismatches between the philosophy being aspired to and organisational reality, the only time when things work properly is outside the official timetable periods. The teacher has to do things in a Theory X way during classes if all hell is not to break loose, but he also runs an unofficial lunch-hour period (attendance strictly voluntary) where a Theory Y atmosphere really starts to take hold.

This reminded me of a story told by Waterman (again see below) about a starting-out young factory manager who came to realise that the only time the factory he had been put in charge of worked properly was at the weekend. Why? Because at the weekend, he didn't "manage" it (in a Theory X way). It managed itself (in a Theory Y way). And of course it managed much better.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:08 PM
Category: Compulsion

Your information on theory x and y are very interesting to read.How ever what is your vie about the fact that successful participatory intervention depends on organisational design and management practices that assume theory y characteristics in both staff of the organisation and clients.

Comment by: abdul samed tajudeem on December 21, 2003 04:46 PM
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