Tag Archives: Peter Principle

Robert Blake & Jane Mouton: Managerial Grid

If you are looking for one simple model that can more than pull its weight in understanding management, then look no further. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed their Managerial Grid in the 1950s and early 1960s. Its simplicity captures vital truths about management styles and their implications.

Every manager should understand the basics of the Managerial Grid. Even if you are not familiar with it, there’s a good chance you will recognise its organising principle. And if you don’t, then read on. This is fundamental stuff.

Robert Blake & Jane Mouton

Robert Blake & Jane Mouton

Robert R Blake

Robert Blake was born in Massachusetts, in 1918. He received a BA in psychology and philosophy from Berea College in 1940, followed by an MA in psychology from the University of Virginia in 1941. His studies were broken by the war, where he served in the US Army. On his return, he completed his PhD in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin in 1947.

He stayed at the University of Texas as a tenured professor until 1964, also lecturing at Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities. In the early 1950s, he began his association with his student, Jane Mouton, which led to their work together at Exxon, the development of the Managerial Grid, and co-founding of Scientific Methods, Inc in 1964. The company is now called Grid International.

Robert Blake died in Austin, Texas, in 2004.

Jane S Mouton

Jane Mouton was born in Texas, in 1930. She got a BSC in Mathematical Education in 1950, and an MSc from Florida State University in 1951. She then returned to the University of Texas, completing her PhD in 1957. She remained there until 1964 in research and teaching roles.

It was at the University of Texas that she met Robert Blake. They were hired by Exxon to study management processes after Blake collaborated with Exxon employee, Herbert Shepard. The work led to their development of the Managerial Grid and, in 1961, to the founding of Scientific Methods, Inc (now Grid international).

Jane Mouton died in 1987.

The Managerial Grid

In many ways, Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid is a development of the Theory X, Theory Y work of Douglas McGregor. The two researchers were humanists, who wanted to represent the benefits of Theory Y management.

They did so by defining two primary concerns for a manager:

  1. Concern for People
  2. Concern for Production
    (sometimes referred to as Concern for Task)

Although their work is often simplified to a familiar 2 x 2 matrix formulation, it was a little more subtle. They created two axes and divided each into nine levels, to give a 9 x 9 grid. It was the extreme corners, and the centre, of this grid that they labelled and characterised. They recognised that most managerial behaviours fall within the grid, rather than at the extremes.

Robert Blake & Jane Mouton - Managerial Grid

Robert Blake & Jane Mouton – Managerial Grid

The Five Styles on the Grid

The five styles they originally identified are at the corners and in the centre. They are still best known by the first labels Blake and Mouton published for them (shown in italics in our illustration). Blake did later refine those labels, as well as define two additional styles. This was after Jane Mouton died, in 1987.

Indifferent
Impoverished Management | Low Results/Low People

This is an ineffective management style, in which an indifferent manager largely avoids engaging with their people or the needs of the job at hand. Such managers reason (wrongly) that if you don’t do much, little can go wrong, and you won’t get blamed. The Peter Principle suggests managers rise to their level of incompetence, and here is the style we may see as a result.

This style is only suitable as a calculated decision to be hands off and delegate to a highly capable and strongly motivated team. Even then, a retreat into the very corner is not appropriate.

Dictatorial
Produce-or-Perish Management | High Results/Low People

Authoritarian managers want to control and dominate their team – possibly for personal reasons, or an unhealthy psychological need. They don’t care about their people, they just want the results of their endeavours. Away from the extreme, this Theory X-like approach can be suitable, in a crisis.

The theory X origin of this behaviour mean managers here prefer to enforce rules, policies and procedures, and can view coercion, reprimands, threats and punishment as effective ways to motivate their team. Short term results can be impressive, but this is not a sustainable management style. Team morale falls rapidly and compromises medium and long-term performance.

Status Quo
Middle-of-the-Road Management | Medium Results/Medium People

This is a compromise and, like all compromises, it is characterised as much by what the manager gives up as by what they put in. A little attention to task and a bit of concern for people sounds like balance, but it also reflects a level of impoverishment – not much concern for either.

This is neither an inspiring, nor developmental approach to management and can only be effective where the team itself can meet the leadership deficits it leaves behind. A good manager could only legitimately use this approach where this one team is a low priority among other competing demands, and the manager is confident they can manage themselves to a large degree. If not, mediocrity will be the best result the manager will achieve from this strategy.

 

Accommodating
Country Club Management | High People/Low Results

Sometimes, you need to rest your team, take your foot off the accelerator, and accommodate their needs. These may be for a break, for team-building, or for development, perhaps.

However, as a long term strategy, it is indulgent, and leads to complacency and laziness among team members. There is little to drive them, yet we know pride in achievement, autonomy, and development are principle workplace motivators. Without a sufficient focus on production, the team will get little of any of these.

The work environment may be relaxed, fun, and harmonious, but it won’t be productive,. The end point will also be a lack of respect, among team members, for the manager’s leadership.

Sound
Team Management | High Production/High People

According to Blake and Mouton, the Team Management style is the most effective approach. This is routed in McGregor’s Theory Y. It is the most solid leadership style, with a balance of strong concern for both the means and the end.

A manager using this style will encourage commitment, contribution, responsibility, and personal and team development. This builds a long-term sustainable and resilient team.

Peaks and troughs in workload and team needs will mean a flexible manager with stray away from the corner from time to time, either towards accommodating or dictatorial styles. But this flexibility and their general concern for both dimensions will prevent them from an unhealthy move right into the corners.

When people are committed to both their organisation and a good leader, their personal needs and production needs overlap. This creates an environment of trust, respect, and pride in the work. The result is excellent motivation and results, where employees feel a constructive part of the company.

Two Additional Styles

After Mouton’s death, Blake continued to refine the model, adding two additional styles.

Opportunistic Management

Some managers are highly opportunistic, and are prepared to exploit any situation, and manipulate their people to do so. This style does not have a fixed location on the grid. Managers adopt whichever behaviour offers the greatest personal benefit. It is the ultimate in flexibility, and is highly effective.

What matters is motivation. Some managers are highly flexible for reasons of great integrity others for purely self-serving reasons.

Paternalistic Management

The loaded label represents a flip-flopping between accommodating ‘Country Club management’ and dictatorial ‘Produce-or-Perish management’. At each extreme, this managerial style is prescriptive about what the team needs and how they will supply it.

The subtlety of sound team management adapting to the team’s needs is not present. Such managers rarely welcome a team trying to exercise its own autonomy. They will feel it as an unwelcome challenge.

 

 

Carol Dweck: Growth Mindset

What determines how good you are at what you do? Is it nature or nurture? This is an age old debate that falls into the either/or trap, but one researcher has done more than most to show that nature – your genetic make-up – is nothing more than the starting point to your success. To what extent you fulfil your potential is, says Carol Dweck, largely about your mindset.

Carol Dweck

Very Short Biography

Carol Dweck was born in 1946 and grew up in Brooklyn New York. She was an exceptionally bright student at school, but this did not hold her back. She had a love of learning that enabled her to continue to develop. Her first degree was at Barnard College in 1967, followed by a PhD from Yale in social and developmental psychology, awarded in 1972.

This was followed by a string of academic appointments at prestigious universities; the University of Illinois, Columbia and Harvard, before her current appointment, in 2004, as Professor of Psychology at Stanford.

In 2012, Dweck brought her most important work to the attention of the reading public with Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. The ideas in this book apply in all walks of life (the cover of the UK edition lists business, parenting, school and relationships) and I think it would be a brave manager or organisational leader who wilfully ignored them. If that’s you, Dweck would describe you as having a fixed mindset, and that would not be good for your future success!

Two Mindsets

Despite the wealth of research and the long history behind the ideas, the concept at the core of Dweck’s research is simple. We do all have some form of capacity or genetic heritage that we are born with, but this is nothing more than a starting point from which we can leap toward our fullest potential or near which we can remain. The difference that makes the difference is not our innate intelligence, physical prowess, musical talent or artistic aptitude; it is the mindset we apply to these.

Fixed Mindset

At one extreme is a ‘fixed mindset’ that believes these traits are set from the start and will hardly vary: ‘some are born great’ – others are not. We are either talented or we are not. The sports star who was told from an early age that they are great, can acquire a sense of entitlement that means they believe that all their success comes from their talent. They don’t need to work hard at it; there’s no point. And if you wonder how that affects you, a manager or leader, then here it is: ‘leaders are born, not made’ is a common belief. So too is the ‘talent agenda’ in many organisations, that seeks out the talented, lauds them and then promotes them against the ‘merely hard-working’.

The problem with this ‘talent myth’ is that it breeds a need to constantly prove your worth. And from this arises the fear that, if people think you are talented, the biggest threat to that is failure. So perhaps the best thing is to avoid taking any form of risk, or stretching yourself in any new direction. From that arises stagnation and a failure to recognise that you have any need to develop. You are great as you are and you don’t need to do anything different.

For me, the Peter Principle rushes to my mind: ‘managers rise to the level of their incompetence.’  That is, they reach the point where they can no longer succeed, because they reach the limit of their talent and, without developing themselves, they start to fail. What is the solution?

Growth Mindset

At the other extreme from a fixed mindset is what Dweck calls a ‘growth mindset’. Here, your innate capabilities are nothing more than a start point and you believe that you can develop any of your fundamental abilities by hard work, dedication, practice, and learning from your experiences: success and failure. People with a growth mindset embrace challenges, are persistent even when they encounter repeated setbacks, and take failures and criticisms as valuable feedback from which they can learn. They develop a love of learning and a resilience that keeps them developing, evolving and growing as individuals throughout their lives.

Many of the great names in any field of human endeavour started life as ordinary kids with special levels of talent. Some were even written off as potential failures. But it was their growth mindsets that enabled them to build steadily on an average or below average base, day by day, month by month and year by year, to exceed their classmates and to dominate their fields.

The Growth Mindset Pocketbook

It is no surprise therefore, that it is Management Pocketbooks’ sibling imprint, Teachers’ Pocketbooks, that has produced a best-selling book on the subject of Growth Mindset: The Growth Mindset Pocketbook.

But once again, don’t for one minute think this doesn’t apply to you; a manager, professional or business-person. For me, the best chapter in Dweck’s Mindset is Business: Mindset and Leadership. Maybe it’s because my interest in education is personal rather than professional and because sport holds no interest for me. Or maybe it’s because a growth mindset is one of the most important characteristics of the best managers and leaders.

The power of believing that you can improve

Carol Dweck’s TED talk is short (10 mins) and compelling.