International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

cluded that well-functioning teams would lead to collaborative problem solving within organizations. Kenneth Benne sought to fuse democratic and scientific values and to translate these into principles for guiding group team effectiveness ( Benne 1943; Benneet al. 1975). Herb Shepard's article ( 1958) produced what could have been the first attempt at developing a theory of group interaction. His theory suggests that a group, or team, evolves through an ascending order of phased maturity and growth.

By the late 1950s the T-group became synonymous with participatory management. In many respects, it offered to managers and practitioners alike an alternative to bureaucracy and authoritarianism. In his early work, Douglas McGregor explained the application of T-group skills to solving complex organizational problems. By 1960, McGregor emerged as the most noted writer and practitioner in the human relations field. With Richard Beckard, McGregor coined the term "organization development" to describe how the T-group evolved into an innovative bottom-up change effort at General Mills Foods.

With publication of McGregor The Human Side of the Enterprise ( 1960), participatory management emerged into a recognized paradigm (Theory Y). Theory Y clearly evolved from the decades of human relations research: To build a constructive group, a manager need to employ Theory Y's assumptions on employee participation. To this day, the principles of teamwork and participatory management remain central to the field of administrative science. For example, the language of the human relationists ("cooperation," "teams," "groups," and "participation") permeates David Osborne and Ted Gaebler ( 1992) Reinventing Government. They state that today's entrepreneurial managers (in the public sector) must "use participatory management to decentralize decision making; they encourage teamwork, to overcome the rigid barriers that separate people in hierarchial institutions; they create institutional 'champions'" ( 1992, p. 254).


Contemporary Human Relations Theory

Since the 1960s, the human relationists Warren Bennis and Chris Argyris have shifted the emphasis from group or team participation to the changing nature of bureaucracies and centralized hierarchies. Many of the management techniques of the 1980s and 1990s (see Peters and Waterman 1982) address the challenges of bureaucracy and culture initially examined by Bennis and Argyris.

Bennis ( 1993) maintained that the bureaucratic organization is at an important crossroad. According to Bennis, the new postbureaucratic world will comprise democratic organizations that are dynamic and didactic. According to Bennis, these organizations need to be more readily adaptable to environmental pressures.

Osborne and Gaebler identify with Bennis' vision of a new postbureaucratic world: "In today's world, public institutions also need the flexibility to respond to complex and rapidly changing conditions. . . . Bureaucratic governments can do none of these things easily. . . . In effect, they are captive of sole source, monopoly suppliers: their own employees" ( Osborne and Gaebler 1992, p. 34).

Argyris seeks to replace the human relations principles of motivation and growth with new values and beliefs. Argyris believes that T-groups and organization development lacked precision as to how to improve the quality of life within organizations. Beginning with his 1973 article, "Some Limits of Rational Man Organizational Theory," Argyris sought to describe a problem-solving and decisionmaking process in organizations that could move organizations "from X to Y."

Argyris ( 1982) took his theory of change further. The central premise of his Reasoning, Learning and Action is that the organization's human potential is best achieved by breaking an institution's bureaucratic barriers. Eliminating such barriers will increase the organization's decisionmaking and problem-solving capacities.

According to Argyris, the culture of bureaucratic organizations is "entropic," a single-loop mentality. Argyris advocates an opposite outlook, which he calls "double-loop learning." Through self-examination of behavior against assumptions, this type of learning allows the individual to enhance his or her capacity to solve problems. Argyris sees double-loop learning as empowering both manager and employee to break away from stifling barriers brought on by the nature of a bureaucracy. In his 1993 publications Argyris described the double-loop model as critical to moving organizations forward in the 1990s.

Argyris's learning paradigm has influenced other writers, who echo his learning and action formula (see Senge 1990 and 1994; and Oakley and Krug 1993). These writers see the need for today's organization to function as "learning systems," as they undergo structural change. Like Argyris, they believe that higher-level thinking will allow an organization to adapt and grow, ad infinitum. Like Argyris, these authors attempt to build upon the rich tradition of human relations: that today's organization can renew itself via the human system's growth and development.

PHILIP NUFRIO


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Argyris, Chris, 1973. "Some Limits of Rational Man Organizational Theory". Public Administration Review, vol. 33: 253-267.

-----, 1982. Reasoning, Learning and Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

-----, 1993a. Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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