Friday, March 7, 2008

Command and Control, Why Not?

“Command and Control,” Why Not!

There is a school of thought that suggests that we should continue with the authoritarian, Command and Control model of leadership for no reason other than there is no alternative.

How can we control an organisations production or service if we are not allowed to specify the parameters within which it works?
After all, we have to tell people what to do or they would never do anything, would they?

We are aware of the flaws inherent in this system of management, strikes, low moral, destructive behaviour, but in the absence of any other way to manage we persevere, flogging this same old dead horse.

But there is a model for non authoritarian leadership, and although the model predates the book it is thoroughly explained in Douglas McGregors work "The Human Side of Enterprise."
Written in 1962.In this book Douglas defines the authoritarian Command and Control model as Theory X management and the non authoritarian model as Theory Y.

In the Theory X model management assume that the workforce are lazy and ignorant, the job of the Theory X manager is therefore to make it so difficult for the workforce not to work that they are forced to do what the manager wants.
The Theory Y manager on the other hand believes that his workforce is intelligent, articulate and imaginative, and above all that they want to do a good job.
The job of the Theory Y manager, instead of telling his workforce what to do, is to create the environment in which they can do their best.

The only way that this can be achieved is by knowing what the workforce actually need in order to do their best, and the only way a manager can do that is to listen to what they want.

Ooops, that is going to be a problem, how can we really listen to what our employees want when we have hundreds or possibly thousands of workers who all need to be heard.

But that is the clue, listening is not a "need" (As defined in Maslows Hierarchy of needs) for the manager.

The manager cannot see any benefit to him or herself that would come from listening to the workforce.
“They have not been to college, I have, why should I listen to them?”
So managers never make much of an effort to listen because they do not feel the need to.

Being heard however is a "need" for the workforce. Being heard gives the workforce the respect that they "need".
It allows them to become engaged and take pride in what they do.
If listening is not a "need" for managers then we have to look for another way for the workforce to be heard, something mechanistic that will not fail because management don't need to do it and therefore will not support it.
Such a system is built and is maintained by the workforce.
It is simple and repeatable; it satisfies their need to be heard without having to rely on management who don’t see why they should listen.It produces practical process improvements whose value can be measured and it makes the workforce feel good about what they do.
Over time management see the measured performance improvements that result from the workforce being heard and then even they start to support the system by asking how they can help.

That last sentence is very important.

In the Nineteen Fifties, Nye Bevan suggested that management for the fledgling National Health Service in the UK should have an “Inverted Pyramid” structure.
He suggested that instead of management being at the top, supported by the rest of the pyramid, the Pyramid should be inverted with management at the bottom supporting the rest of the workforce in their delivery of care to their patients.
This was such a powerful image that few disagreed and the “Inverted Pyramid” model of management became one of the staples of the MBA syllabus.Unfortunately few have ever been able to bring the academic model to life and our management structure remains solidly pyramidal, (Managers at the top and everyone else underneath), despite the consensus with Bevan that it should be the other way up.
Using the workforce maintained system to allow their voices to be heard initially appears to exclude management, this is deliberate and avoids the damage that can be caused by management who lack the “need” to listen and therefore do not.
When the workforce however are being heard and the consequent performance improvement is evident, managers return to the workforce operated system and ask how they can help to support it because they too want to be a part of the improvement.
From being top down driven traditional “Command and Control” managers they have become, in a very short time, Inverted Pyramid Managers who instead of telling the workforce what to do, are asking what they can do to help.

They have developed a “need” to listen to their workforce.

That is a big deal.

Peter A Hunter
Author “Breaking the Mould”

1 comment:

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