Wednesday 08th April 01:12

"The Final Demise of Theory X"

Hi everyone,

Can you remember your first management training model?

I can.

It was around 35 years ago and I was sitting in a draughty training room in an Oldham hotel with a marvellous trainer from ITS Services who in between puffs from his cigarette was introducing a group of 10 of us trainee managers to Theory X and Theory Y.

I can still remember watching him as he brushed the ash away from his suit front and drew a line down a flipchart with Theory X on one side and Theory Y on the other.

Under X, he wrote something along the lines of, "people are lazy, need to be controlled, and motivated". Under Y, he wrote something along the lines of, "people want to learn, grow and make something of themselves".

Looking back, I guess that day changed my professional life. It converted me into a Theory Y believer and set me on the path of a life devoted to developing myself and others.

Imagine, then, my shock and horror to discover that, all these years later, Theory X was still alive and rampant in the boardrooms of some of our biggest companies, in particular the banks of the UK. Reading accounts of the reign of Sir Fred Goodwin at the Royal Bank of Scotland was like going back 35 years in a time capsule. According to these reports, one of Sir Fred's favourite management actions as RBS chairman was to summon his top executives to the boardroom every day at 9.30pm prompt and girill them mercilessly on the performances of their branches. His reaction to any executive who had an under-performing branch was a dismissive, "I think you're asleep at the wheel" and "That's life in the big city, chum".

Sir Fred became known as Fred the Shred for his humiliating, threatening, people-destroying management style, a paragon of Theory X indeed.

We now all know the results of his reign of terror.

I'm not pleased at the demise of his bank, particularly with the loss of many jobs for many hard-working people. Nor am I pleased that just when his bank was going under, Sir Fred managed to negotiate himself a neat retirement package of 16 million and an annual income of 693,000. But I am pleased that after all these years, Theory X has been exposed as a failed management style and Theory Y has won the day.


(c) ManageTrainLearn 2011