Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Human Side of Enterprise Annotated Edition by Douglas McGregor

The Human Side of Enterprise Annotated Edition Updated With New Commentary by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld by Douglas McGregor

Have you ever picked up a book which you learned a lot from, but know you aren't really qualified to comment on it because you really don't have the necessary expertise to understand completely what is being said. I think I understood about half of what was being said in this book. This book is a seminal book on management theory which many people go back to as the basis for modern management practices. It was written 1960 and people still make reference to it.

There is a lot discussed here which is meant for the advanced practitioner or c level executive in a large publicly traded company. It is way over my head. There are portions of it which I can relate to strongly. The premise is that the manager is not in control, they are there to teach, develop, and coach the workers so that they can become self-motivated, self-teaching, and self-actualizing. A lot of the ideas in this book draw from Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. In this book, management is not focused on controlling people but getting people to meet and fulfill goals inside a company.

There is a focus on management by objective and limiting the amount of job descriptions and formal organization charts. In Theory Y management people should be encouraged to work together as groups and rated on their ability to get things done. People are not given formal performance appraisals instead they are given objectives to fulfill.

The job of the manager is described as a problem solver and motivator for line staff and specialists. Leadership comes from training in formal methods of motivation and organization. It is supposed to be spread throughout an organization. Performance is also supposed to be rewarded through a formal incentive structure like the Scanlon plan.

Incentive structures described in this book like the Scanlon plan are practically non-existent in government work. I am not sure how you could apply some of these ideas in a library because of the focus on a non-hierarchical structure which does not match with most civil service positions.

I think this book gave me a lot of insights into the language of management. I learned about concepts like Theory X and Theory Y as well as ways managers might talk about employees. It is not a language which I am used to. One of the reasons I was able to at least partially understand what was being written was that the text was annotated with commentary throughout the book. The commentary was mostly from Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld who is a senior researcher at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division. Also, there was recommended reading at the end of each chapter and a set of questions to ask yourself about what was being said? This made it a bit easier to understand the book.

The end of the book had an appendix with the original papers which the book came from. They were short and clear. There is an extensive index as well. Even if you don't understand most of what is being said, you may learn a few things from reading this book.

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