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Theory X and Theory Y
Select organizational leaders analysis activity current research. Critique leader Douglas MacGregor's Theory X Theory Y Identify proper category leader assessment. Include examples situations actions reflect type leader .
Theory X versus Theory Y: Apple vs. Google
According to Douglas McGregor' analysis of managerial personality styles, managers fall into two basic 'types,' that of Theory X or Theory Y Theory X managers tend to exert authority through a traditional authoritarian approach. The Theory X assumption is that people are basically lazy and desire to avoid work, rather than seek it out for self-enrichment. In contrast, Theory Y managers take a positive view of human nature and view human beings as basically desirous of self-improvement. Theory X suggests that human beings can be internally as well as externally motivated.
Despite the fact that both companies have been highly praised for the positive changes they have wrought, regarding consumer's relationship with technology, the Apple and Google corporations manifest two very different corporate leadership styles. Belying its forward-thinking, green image, hip advertising campaigns and the fact that it is the favored technology brand of young, urban hipsters, the internal culture of Apple is actually extremely 'Theory X' in its orientation. In contrast, the Internet search engine company Google can be described as very 'Theory Y' in the manner in which it motivates workers. The fact that both companies have proven to be so successful suggests, at least on the surface, that there is no 'one size fits all' solution for all companies. A manager should be very cautious about prescribing only one theoretical orientation for a company.
The Apple Corporation's culture is notoriously insular, and the late Steve Jobs ruled over the company with an iron fist. When taking the helm as CEO, Jobs made it clear that it was 'all about' his particular vision for the company. "He refocused the strategy to be about one thing. That meant he killed off even good things. I led server channel management at Apple when Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and I was there when he made the decision to shut down big portions of revenue-generating businesses (including my division) because they didn't fit with his vision for the company. Some people thought he was crazy. But he was being extremely clear, and in doing so, he 'MurderBoarded' -- eliminated many options to get one cohesive strategy -- his way to greatness" said one subordinate (Merchant 2010). Virtually every project that originated at Apple during Jobs' tenure as CEO began in the executive suite and was micro-managed by Jobs. Even if employees had potentially good, innovative ideas, Jobs was not interested, although he did occasionally deign to ask for advice on smaller, more technical matters.
In contrast, Google operates on a nonlinear, discursive structure in terms of how it encourages new ideas. "We strive to maintain the open culture often associated with startups, in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. In our weekly all-hands ('TGIF') meetings -- not to mention over email or in the cafe -- Googlers ask questions directly to Larry, Sergey and other execs about any number of company issues" (Our culture, 2012, Google). At Google, there is no executive cafeteria. All food is free, and even the lowliest, newest employees can dine side-by-side the CEOs. This is meant to create a culture of democracy and symbolically communicate the fact that ideas, not specific offices are what is important. This is classic Theory Y thinking -- all employees are seen as valuable, and TGIF meetings encourage a sense of company loyalty. All employees feel invested in the process of creation.
Rather than making all employees feel included, Jobs was notoriously egomaniacal and merciless in his criticism of subordinates. "He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their 'bozo ideas'" noted one staff member and when dissatisfied with the performance of one team at Apple berated them by saying "you've tarnished Apple's reputation...You should hate each other for having let each other down" (Allen 2012). Such an atmosphere hardly encourages workers to take risks outside of the carefully-delineated sphere eked out by management. Rather than fostering inclusiveness, Jobs "was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager" (Allen 2012). Google, in contrast, says that it strives for innovation, not instantaneous perfection, and considers all of its applications a work in progress. As an information search company that does not produce a hands-on 'artifact' at the end of the productive process like Apple, it can continually tweak, revision, and reconfigure anew its core services (Wojcicki 2012).
Micromanagement is the opposite of the leadership aesthetic at Google, where it is believed that freedom enables workers to perform at their highest capacity. This is most notably manifested in the fact that engineers at Google have free time to pursue their own projects at the company, without specific direction called "20% time' -- a full day a week during which engineers can work on whatever they want....many products started life in employees' 20% time" (Wojcicki 2012). Google's philosophy is that if you put smart people in a room they will begin to generate intelligent ideas that can prove valuable for the company, provided they are united by a common vision. "Work can be more than a job when it stands for something you care about. Google's mission is to 'organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful,'" says Susan Wojcicki, Google's first head of marketing (Wojcicki 2012). This idealistic mission is used to motivate workers, rather than a system of carrots and sticks (although at Apple, it sounds as if Jobs was far fonder of using a 'stick,' with the 'carrot' assumed to be the pleasure of working for Apple rather than one of its lesser competitors).
Theory X assumes that workers do not like to work. To motivate them to do so, it relies upon "coercion, implicit threats, close supervision, and tight controls, essentially an environment of command and control" (Theory X Theory Y, 2012, Net MBA). While it may be a bit extreme to say that it was assumed the talented engineers at Apple were treated as if they did not 'like to work,' at very least it was assumed that they would have to be carefully managed to ensure that they did not divert from Jobs' vision for his products. In contrast, Theory Y states that "work can be as natural as play and rest" and can satisfy such higher-level needs as self-actualization if workers are allowed to be creative and 'play' while working (Theory X Theory Y, 2012, Net MBA).
Google, of course, does offer its employees many attractive benefits. There is free dry-cleaning; a medical clinic on the Google campus; free food at all of the employee cafeterias, and generous benefits -- even free yoga, fitness classes, and massages. This might seem to fall into the model of Theory X 'rewarding' of employees. However, the extensive and targeted nature of these benefits has an ulterior motive -- to make the workplace seem like play. A worker does not need to be distracted by the mundane tasks of home, such as taking his dry-cleaning to the store or worrying about getting to the gym or to buy groceries after work. All of the employee's lower-level needs are met, reflecting Theory X/Theory Y's origins in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Once lower-order needs are satisfied, workers have a desire for their higher-level needs to be addressed. Google focuses worker's attention on the work-related tasks at hand in a positive and motivating fashion, and makes them feel as if they are doing something important. The stated mission for every worker at Google transcends the mundane and serves a higher vision of the information needs of web-surfers all over the words.
Even the design of Google, with its open cubicles, cafeteria spaces, and fitness classes on-site is intended to encourage workers to talk to one another. This is in stark contrast to the legendary insularity of Apple. "Apple also is a brutal and unforgiving place, where accountability is strictly enforced, decisions are swift, and communication is articulated clearly from the top' (Allen 20120). Apple has been described as possessing a corporate culture obsessed with secrecy, regarding the launches of its products and also, until the end, its CEO's health. To maintain a corporate culture with such a 'bunker mentality' requires keeping employees highly controlled. In contrast, Theory Y cites the intellectual ferment and desirability of an environment characterized by a lack of controls. "If firms decentralize control and reduce the number of levels of management, each manager will have more subordinates and consequently will be forced to delegate some responsibility and decision making to them" (Theory X Theory Y, 2012, Net MBA). Delegation, in Apple's view, meant deviating from Jobs' carefully orchestrated plan, and, possibly allowing information to be leaked to the press. Jobs' desire…[continue]
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