An update on management theory

I just sent this blast:

Hi folks, Org Complexity seems to be on ‘simmer’ at the moment so here’s something that might invigorate, if you’re interested in theories of management and their application. This is an article celebrating the 50th anniversary of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory y (models of managing styles) andof recent additions Theories U and T. You might have to register at this site to read the whole thing but I’ve not been spammed at all.

Found at

Theory U and Theory T

Thoughts on the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential contributions to management theory.

Management theory books and disaster films have something in common. Both confront the prospect of the near-total destruction of life as we know it. In the movies, the hero invariably realizes what must be done and saves the world just before the credits roll. In management books, the chosen manager masters the correct theory just in time to avert business catastrophe. On screen, happy endings are unremarkable — it’s just entertainment, after all. But in the real world, real companies make real decisions based on the theories authors propose in their management books. Why should one assume that things always end well?



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I have recently acquired a book which I am finding helpful as a novice to management theory. It is "Key Management Models" by Steven ten Have, Wouter ten Have, Frans Stevens and Marcel van der Elst with Fiona Pol-Coyne, FT Prentice Hall (2003) ISBN-10: 0-273-66201-5

Um . . . I am afraid that McGregor doesn't actually get a mention which is a bit sad as Theory X and Y was the first Model I actually came across while working!


Here is a management or rather un-management theory that is founded on human nature and common sense which at times seems not to be very common. Cheers-


Ken and Charles, I agree omitting X and Y would seem to be a major oversight from a book on managing models, especially when there's a lot of talk about the desirability of the Y approach to managing but in practice it is X that still dominates.

Charles  I  took a look through your thesis on knowledge board. Stimulating. Your 'sweet spot' is an interesting way of representing the 'clash' of the formal established and enabling structure and the emerging informal structure that, if it becomes dominant, will enable the future actions/behaviour of the organization.

Would you welcome discussion of your ideas here? Perhaps a special interest group could be set up on the topic of managing and leading beginning with 'the sweet spot'.

Others ideas on managing as a complex activity can be accessed on knowledge board from here


The U-process model and its application.  Just uploaded  some  material I found on my computer  that provides an overview of 'theory  -U'.  I don't know  the source . It's something I picked up a while ago.

Uploaded to a new folder on managing theories.


Peter, thanks for the kind words. I would be glad to discuss the "organizational sweet spot" concept in more detail.


OK Charles, when I've read a little more I'll post again.

Meanwhile....... any one else care to comment on the 'sweet spot'?

Hi Charles,

Thank you for sharing your work, it is very interesting.  When you talk about resource allocation responsibility in a shared access system being autonomous is there any danger of conflict between the needs of various groups?  Resources are finite so do you expect the various groups within an organisation to allocate based on the fitness of the overall system/company i.e. they will have knowledge of the overall picture not just their group? Or do you expect that the autonomous resource allocation is just of the resources assigned to their group?

In terms of situational leadership is there a similar danger of conflict between individuals who aspire to lead, who although have shared group goals, they might have different paths to that goal?  

You talk of greater time needed to be assigned to reflection to align personal and group goals.  If leadership is situational is it up to the individual to reflect or does the situational leader have responsibility to lead such reflection with individuals?

In your model of a shared access system do you assume that the individuals in the group will aspire to increase the fitness of the overall system even at their own cost in terms of personal ambition?


What I really like about the sweet spot is that it reflects a social system, humans interacting with all our unpredictability!  

Sorry quite alot of questions there,please feel free to point me towards any further resources that might cover those points.

Thanks again,




Excellent questions Patrick.

A shared-access system is very "transparent" -everyone "deliberately" knows what everyone else is doing or working on. It's quite the opposite of a controlled-access system where much of the information between layers of an organization and management seldom are made available to all members of an enterprise. Therefore, yes, resources are "allocated based on the fitness of the overall system/company i.e. they will have knowledge of the overall picture not just their group." It would be disadvantageous for any individual/group to do otherwise. That's the beauty of transparency. Some people are not comfortable working in such an environment, especially folks who have spent years in very strictly controlled top-down organizations. Some people also have a tough time believing that anything productive can take place in a self-organizing system.

Situational or what I call "catalytic" leadership has nothing to do with "position power" but is founded on expertise. When people aspire to be leaders they are talking about position or assigned leadership. To me that's not true leadership. Authentic leadership is all about "value added facilitation" and not telling people what to do. It's also about doing things that benefit everyone involved.

Reflection is both individualistic and organizational. And, yes, it's also about both individual and group goals. In a shared-access system individual and group goals should overlap as much as possible. It's a self-organizing system where each part of the system needs to work together for the benefit of all concerned like your body. It's all about achieving maximum benefit for members and the system as a whole. You really can't separate the two.

In a shared-access system you do not sacrifice your personal goals/benefits for the overall system. If you look at this critically that really is the outcome of a controlled-access system. In a top-down environment management and the share owners come first the rest of the members come last.  A shared-access system is all about "mutually beneficial goals and results. This has nothing to do with idealism. It's all about human nature. It's also about group size. A share-access system is limited to a group size of no larger than about 150 people. Beyond that mutually beneficial actions are hard to keep track of. Therefore, I suggest that large organizations be made up of small groups that work around a core competency and are well connected to other groups in the enterprise. Again, the overall transparency of all the activities is vital for the maintenance of a shared-access organizational context.

There is nothing "magical" about a shared-access system. It's mostly about common sense that, unfortunately, at times is not very common. Smart people know that if you pursue common interests everyone benefits more than going it alone or trying to dominate others for your own gains. In the short run you can get away with being self-centered but usually not in the long-run.

Cheers, Charlie

While we're celebrating great systems thinkers, I would bring your attention to Mary Parker Follett who was a bit of a seer in this regard. She spoke and suggested many of the concepts we now consider core to good management  in the 1920s,  when "management" was not yet considered a legitimate field of academic study and was one of the first to suggest it should be. 

She is relatively unknown, not because she is a woman, but because her ideas were way ahead of her times.  She wrote about the circular response, power, constructive conflict , authority, etc. at a time when such notions were revolutionary.  Her interest was in the individual in the group and how to empower them and by doing so create greater accountability.

An excellent book on her writings is "Mary Parker Follett - Prophet of Management"


If we want to get a handle on complexity we need to pay close attaention what is happening in the new field of social neuroscience. It's beginning to take the guess work out complex adaptive social systems.

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