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Occupational Psychology.

1967, 4J', 231-237

The Managerial Grid*


By MAX BROLLY
British-American Tobacco Company

M ANAGERS are concerned with production. It may be with the


production of goods, or ideas, or policies or answers to problems.
This concem to produce is observably diflerent among individuals.
It is not something which is all present or all absent. Let us assume, as in the
Managerial Grid, that it can be represented by a scale from 1 to 9 where 1
denotes very low concern for production and 9 denotes very high concern
for production.
Secondly, managers are concerned to achieve production through people.
This concem with people is also something which is not all present or all
absent. Again let us assume that it can be represented by a scale from 1 to 9
where 1 denotes very low concern for people and 9 denotes very high concem
for people.
To reproduce the Managerial Grid we can now show 'concern for produc-
tion' on a horizontal axis and 'concem for people' on a vertical axis. Blake
uses the grid to identify flve broad types of managerial style. In the bottom
left hand comer we have 1.1 management. The I.I manager exerts the
minimum effort necessary to get the work done. His aim is to sustain his
membership of the organisation. In the bottom right hand corner is located
9.1 where efficiency in operation comes from arranging conditions of work
in such a way that human elements interfere to a minimum degree. In the top
left hand comer is 1.9 where thoughtful attention to the needs of people
leads to a comfortable friendly organisation, atmosphere and work tempo.
In the centre is the 5.5 style where adequate organisation performance is
possible through balancing the need to achieve production with the need to
maintain morale at a satisfactory level. Finally, top right is the 9.9 style
where work accomplishment is high and is achieved through people whose
commitment to organisation purpose has been fostered.
It would be possible to locate, in whole number co-ordinates, 81 different
managerial styles on the 9 x 9 grid. The purpose however is not to appraise
and pigeon-hole managers according to the exact proportion of concern for
production or concern for people shown. It is, rather, to provide a framework
for the analysis of the assumptions that underlie various managerial styles
and the kind of behaviour that stems from these assumptions.
Little time need be spent on the 1.1 style. The 1.1 manager is the man
whose shoulder is seen to be against the wheel but who is not really pushing.
He maintains neutrality. He passes things on to whoever is responsible.
Responsibility always lies with his boss or his subordinates, never himself.
He is generally a good timekeeper. His desk is tidy. He does not cause
conflict. He is often accepted as an adequate performer although his con-
•A paper read to the Occupational Psvchology Section of the British Psychoiogical
Sodety on 12 May 1967. '
231
232 THE MANAGERIAL GRID

tribution to organisational effectiveness is nil. He may admit to himself that


his only object is to survive, to continue to earn his salary in return for
minimum effort, to achieve a pension. Often he can rationalise his
behaviour and his neutrality. 'It takes two to make a quarrel', he will say;
OT 'If everyone got on with their job, quietly and unobtrusively, as I do, the
Company would be better off'.
The 9.1 managerial style embodies maximum concern for production.
This is 'scientific management', concerned with the best way of doing the
job. People are seen as tools of production. Lines of authority and respon-
sibility are of paramount importance. The boss plans and decides; sub-
ordinates carry out their instructions. The assumptions that underlie this
style are the assumptions of Douglas McGregor's theory X. People do not
like work but they accept the need to work in order to obtain money. The
boss designs the best way of doing the work; the subordinate performs it and
the ultimate sanction is that he is fired if he does not do so. Conflict is
suppressed. Creativity and commitment (except for the boss) are kept at a
minimum; though creativity among those managed in this way may be evoked
in finding ways to beat the system.
TTie 1.9 manager is a graduate of the least satisfactory type of human
relations school. His is the modern milk theory of production. Like contented
cows that give good milk he sees happy and harmonious people giving high
production. Attitudes and feelings of people take precedence. Harmony and
morale are the goals. Production, somehow or other, he believes, will take
care of itself.
In the middle is the 5.5 manager who shows moderate concern for both
production and people. He does not believe in tough 9.1 management
because people have feelings and he has to get the best out of them. Nor
does he subscribe to 1.9 management recognising as he does the need to do
something positive about production. He is fair but firm. He strikes a
balance, stays on middle ground and believes that by compromise he can get
the best of both worlds (rejecting the likelihood that he will also get the
worst of both worlds). The good manager, he believes, must take everything
into account, see how the wind is blowing, accept the need for expediency
and take fully into account those precedents and past practices which give
a guide-line for decision.
The 9.9 manager accepts the assumptions underlying McGregor's Theory
Y. He sees in people a need to be involved and committed to productive
work. He places high value on performance improvement so that both
personal and organisational growth can be achieved. He is concerned to get
sound creative decisions that are understood and agreed by ail concemed.
Where different people are concemed with a decision, and have something
to contribute to the decision-making process, he anticipates team solution of
the problem along with the highest degree possible of consensual agreement
in, and commitment to, the solution.
Blake identifies other managerial styles but for the present the five main
styles are adequate to illustrate the grid. At this point critics are likely to
say that the idea is not new; that the grid is a gimmick, a fad, the latest
THE MANAGERIAL GRID 233

foUow-up to scientific management, human relations, management b>'


objectives. Theories X and Y, etc. Such criticism largely misses the mark;
since the main function of the grid is to describe managerial behaviour in a
form that makes sense to almost any manager. Some will find it an attractive
new idea; others will say it does no more than state the obvious. Although
some may complain that it over-simplifies it is rare to find anyone who will
not go along with it as a reasonable, if simple, model of managerial style.
There is also the Managerial Grid Seminar. If there are some whose
intelligence is slightly offended by the simplicity of the grid concept, this is
as nothing to those who rebel at the thought of a seminar designed to teach
this concept. On personal experience it would seem that a substantial propor-
tion of senior managers accept the idea of attending a Grid Seminar only
in terms of judging its value for others. Most of these change their views in
the course of the week that the seminar occupies. In my most recent
experience 64 managers attended one or other of two successive seminars.
Of these there were 14, each of whom was the senior man—by whatever title
—in the Company he represented. A majority of the remaining 50 were at
Board level. A subsequent questionnaire showed that 37 were positively
enthusiastic about making use of this organisation development programme
in their own companies. Sixteen were moderately enthusiastic. Seven were
undecided. Two were not keen but felt they would not oppose a contrary
majority view. Two were opposed.
Personal reactions were further questioned by asking participants if they
had found the seminar interesting, stimulating, beneficial, enjoyable. The
response was as follows:
Response Interesting Stimulating Beneficial Enjoyable
Extremely 45 40 26 33
Moderately 8 9 22 19
Otheraffirmative 8 9 8
Slightly 0 3 3 0
Not very 1 1 1 1
Not at all 0 0 0 0
Other negative 0 0 0 0
Total 61 61 61 (il

The remaining 3 did not describe personal reaction in these terms but it
was clear from their more general response that 2 would have come high on
the positive end of the scale and 1 low on the negative end.
It should possibly be emphasised that this, to the best of my belief, was
not a casual offhand reaction but the considered response of a group in
which the great majority were currently concerned with the possible commit-
ment of their Company's time and money on this kind of activity.
What could lead such a high proportion of senior and experienced
managers to find, as personally beneficial, the study of such a relatively
simple concept? To an.swer this, even specuiatively, rtrquires some descrip-
tion of the seminar.
First it involves some 25-30 hours of pre-work including the reading of
the book The Managerial Grid and various related activities. For example
a case history is provided and intending participants are asked to assess
234 THE MANAGERIAL GRID

the most characteristic managerial style (in grid terms) and the next most
characteristic style of each of the five leading characters in the story. Early
in the course of the seminar, at which those attending have been divided
into teams, each team meets to try to achieve an agreed team answer to this
same problem. The material is of sufficient difficulty to ensure that it is very
unlikely that all members of the team will have produced, individually, the
same answer. Their various judgements have to be argued out and resolved.
Already, in an earlier exercise designed to assess and improve their know-
ledge of the book they have become aware both of the time pressure and of
the comparison that will be made, by scoring the team answer, against the
other teams. There is no doubt, on experience, that teams become involved.
Quite fierce arguments can develop particularly in a team that has done
none too well in the previous inter-team comparison. When the exercise is
complete (and this has to be done in a fixed period of time) both individual
pre-work answers and team answers are scored in general assembly. A wall
chart is completed which shows the highest and lowest individual score (the
individual is not named) the average of the individual scores for each team
and the team score. Teams are ranked according to the relationship between
team score and average individual score, this relationship being used as a
measure of team efficiency.
Later in the week another exercise of the same kind is undertaken. This
time participants see a film (a full-length first feature film by cinema
standards). Then six leading characters have to be assessed in grid terms
both in general behaviour and in certain particular aspects of behaviour. The
assessments are made individually. Then teams meet to agree and produce a
team answer. Einally there is the same kind of scoring session as described
above.
Tt is clear both from the volume of argument at team sessions and from
the scoring (and degree of error) at general sessions that the concept, simple
as it may seem, has hidden depths to it. A second question immediately
arises. Given that the grid concept may not be as simple as at first appears
to be the case, are these hidden depths worth exploring? Observation, at
many seminars, leads to a personal conviction that they are. Eirst, in a
general sense, they provide a vehicle for the study of group behaviour in the
same, but more structured, way as sensitivity training. The great majority of
participants are struck by the fact that the team answer is almost always
better than the average of individual answers; that as the week progresses
a failure by the team to beat the individual average is less likely; that the
team quite frequently does better than the best individual in the team. All
this puts a steady pressure on team members to accept the need to listen to
and give real consideration and weight to another member's views. A high
proportion reach the conclusion that the need to listen to the other man is
something to which they have only paid lip service in the past; or that their
ability to listen, in a sincere attempt to achieve the best answer or decision,
is something that requires a great deal of development and improvement.
This list could be extended. Sufficient to say that the understanding of group
behaviour grows apace and without any need for formal teaching.
THE MANAGERIAL GRID 235

A minor morale point stems from personal experience of in-Company


seminars where the Company is large and a substantial proportion of
participants have had minimal contact previously with some of the other
participants. As a matter of deliberate policy 'teams' tended to represent a
'diagonal slice' of the organisation. Any one team would contain several
different levels of seniority and probably as many functions of the organisa-
tion as there were members. In such a team, drawn from a large organisation,
it was quite likely that the most senior and the most junior, coming from
different departments or divisions, had not even met before even although
they worked in the same building. A recurring surprised comment from
seniors was that the young men were astonishingly brijjht and able. Equally
recurring, from the juniors and with possibly greater surprise, was the realisa-
tion that their seniors were nothing like as incompetent as they had believed!
But so far the benefits stem largely from structured group experience and
possibly would be obtained just as readily if built round something other
than managerial style and the managerial grid. So, at least, the critics would
say. Unique in the situation is the effect of study of, and attempts tct define,
the 9.9 managerial style. Verbal definition is not too difiicult; but when
actual managerial behaviour is analysed arguments ensue. Where the
managerial behaviour of characters in the case history or film have to be
agreed, the team typically starts off by collecting and recording the assess-
ments made by each member. Each member then tends to support his
individual assessment in the face of opposition from another who has made
a different assessment. In such debate it is clear that the team member who
is in a particularly weak position is the one who has accepted and assessed
as 9.9 the behaviour of a fictional character where that behaviour is readily
open to criticism. As criticism of the fictional character emerges and
examples of less than satisfactory behaviour are instanced it is more than
likely that the assessment of managerial style will be lowered rather than
raised. It seems likely that every time an individual view is changed from
more favourable to less favourable <in the course of team debate! there has
been some raising of subjective standards.
Original judgements and assessments are made against a personal
standard. I, as a participant in a grid seminar, am asked to assess character
C in grid terms. If C behaves overall roughly as I would behave (and I
believe myself to be a reasonably 9.9 manager) I am likely to assess C as 9.9.
Then, in team discussion, my colleagues point out the many things that C did
badly or could have done better. I now begin to see C as something less than
9.9. My standard has been pushed up. I am quite likely to see myself also
as falling further short of 9.9 than I did before.
This is not just a flight of fancy There is supporting evidence demon-
strating that some such process occurs. Further descripticm of the programme
is necessary here. In another part of the pre-work each participant is asked to
choose among a number of grid-style paragraphs that which comes closest to
describing himself. In doing so he is, essentially, choosing the grid style he
believes he uses predominantly. In public seminars Blake has found that
between 75 and 80 per cent assess themselves, before the seminar, as 9.9.
236 THE MANAGERIAL GRID

In the course of the seminar this figure drops to between 25 and 30 per cent.
In my own experience with 371 managers attending 14 successive seminars
the proportion assessing themselves as 9.9 fell from 61 to 31 per cent.
This I believe to be a crucial starting point in Blake's programme of
organisational development. Achieving real progress in developing the
organisation is extraordinarily difficult. The corporate body seems to have an
enormous inertia. One reason may be that the organisation is made up of
individuals and if each individual sees his own performance as satisfactory
progress is bound to be slow. Tt is necessary to convince the individual that
he falls short of excellence.
Normally the step we take is for the superior to criticise the subordinate-
in spite of the weight of evidence suggesting that this method is compara-
tively ineffectual. It is certainly my experience in talking to the senior man
or senior men of a company that the question is never how can I become a
better manager; always how can I make my subordinates into better
managers. These same subordinates have a double problem. They want to
know what can be done to improve both their bosses and their subordinates.
The Managerial Grid Seminar deserves high marks for its ability to make
some impression on this highly intractable situation.
However the study of the managerial grid and later steps in organisation
development cannot be justified solely in terms of attitudinal change. It is
desirable to show that the change in attitude brings with it other benefits.
This is none too easy since much of industry tends to leave social science
research to the academics. Additionally, the most acceptable measure of
benefit lies in the profit and loss account which is affected by many other
variables; which variables, in turn, the Company is unwilling to hold steady
while experiments on the effect of attitude change are carried out.
One research team (Barnes and Greiner) has studied a large oil company
which had chosen to go ahead with this kind of programme. After allowance
had been made for al! other variables over 40 per cent of the profit increase
seemed attributable to reductions in controllable costs—i.e., those costs the
size of which was govemed primarily by management effectiveness. In the
company concemed these cost reductions accounted for millions of dollars
in the year. None of this could be attributed to greater investment, better
machinery, better people or better working hours. From company records
it was reasonably certain that about two-thirds of the cost savings was
achieved through manpower reduction. The other third, still amounting to
several million dollars, came from higher productivity per man-hour. This
was judged to be primarily related to increased operating effectiveness
achieved through the organisation development effort. The increase in
productivity was impressive. The company calculated an employee pro-
ductivity index. From a previous high point of 103.9 the year before the
development effort began, it rose to a new high of 131.3 at a pomt inter-
mediate in the programme.
In another study on the unloading of tankers the average discharge time
at the docks was reduced from 14 hours to 9 hours. It seemed reasonably
certain that this was achieved entirely as a result of change in attitude of the
IHK MANAGERIAL GRUi 237

people concerned; and that the change in attitude stemmed from Managerial
Grid application. The saving in time added over $200,000 to proflis in six
months.
Finally it should be noted that the Managerial Grid Seminar is no more
than an introduction to a programme of organisation devektpment. It
prepares the ground; it enables managers to make a more realistic assessment
of their own effectiveness; it enables them to assess the organisation in which
they work and to get a clearer view of the improvement they, and the
organisation, might achieve; it is Phase t.
Phase 2 extends the learning process to the work situation. It provides a
structured programme for the development of small work teams (typically
made up of an executive plus those who report to him). The work team
applies grid learning on the job. identifles barriers to their effectiveness,
studies them and plans how to overcome them.
Phase 3 is designed to deal with a recurring problem frequently identified
during a Phase 2 programme. Very often a work team will conclude that a
serious barrier to their effectiveness arises in their relationship with some
other group. Phase 3 is designed to resolve this, to improve co-ordination
across departments and between divisions.
Phase 4 is used to help 'produce a blueprint'. While Phases 1 3 are largely
concemed with improving and correcting, with modifying things as they are.
Phase 4 is a possibly radical review of the foundations of the company in
order to contrast how it is now with an ideal concept of how it would be
organised and operated if it were truly eflective. It moves into problems
that require commitment throughout the organisation to get more and
better performance
Phase 5 is designed to aid with the implementation of the organisational
plan and the achievement of the organisational objectives produced during
Phase 4.
Phase 6 is a review of accomplishment so far and a replanning for still
greater eflectiveness. It is used not only t(» support and strengthen the
changes achieved through earlier activities but also to identify the need for
further change.
The entire programme could take anything from three to five years. This
seems a suitable point at which to return to the most frequent criticism of the
Managerial Grid; that it is a simple and obvious concept. So., too, is a door-
way. The real interest, surely, is in what lies beyond. There can be little
doubt that the problem of achieving results through people is basic. There is
much evidence to show that we are not yet very successful at it. And among
those who have attended a managerial grid seminar ihere is a substantial
proportion who believe that they can now see. beyond this doorway, a road
leading to better management and the better attainment of organisation
objectives.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
BIAKE, R. B.. MoirroN, J, s., BARNES, L. B. and (IRRINER, L. E. Breakthrough In Organization
Development, Harvard Business Review. November-December, 1964.
BLAKE. R. R. and MOUTON. J. s. The Managerial Grid. Texas: Gulf Publishing Company, 1965.
MCGRKiOR, D. The Human Side of Enterprise. L.ondon : McGraw-Hill, 1960.