I’m a Theory Y guy. I may be näive in my outlook but I’m just a Theory Y guy. I believe that most (not many) people want to do a good job wherever they are. So what do we do when we observe that someone is not doing a good job?
Let’s say that Chidi (a guy I know) is having a difficult time at work, he’s struggling to meet expectations of his co-workers. Even though it seems his trying really hard, he’s struggling to deliver. What could be the problem? How can we help him? Well if we view his performance through the lens of Theory Y, could we identify the reasons why he is not doing so? I can think of at least 3 (I’m sure you can add more):
- Chidi doesn’t know HOW to do a good job – competence.
- Chidi doesn’t know WHAT a good job is – understanding.
- Chidi knows how to do a good job but the environment is preventing him from doing so – system.
Let’s explore these a bit.
Competence means the ability to do something successfully. Does Chidi have the right skill for the job? Was he given the appropriate education to allow to be competent at the job? If this is a new position, is a competent mentor mentoring him? How is the organization taking deliberate steps in improving his competence?
Does Chidi understand the expectations of the job that the organization has given him? Have they been made clear to him? Was it discussed with anyone? Who is available to answer his questions if he has any? Was he told to “figure it out on his own”? Have the outcomes expected from him been connected to the strategic vision of the organization? Does he understand the strategic vision?
Do the structures (Senge) in place enable Chidi to succeed? Is the system working in his favor or against him? Is he doing his best in a poorly designed system? Have problems with the system been identified? Is anyone (management) fixing the system? Is management tampering (Deming) with the system e.g. adding more process? Does management even know and understand the system?
In my experience as a “manager”, competence and understanding often prevent people from excelling at their jobs. However, I have found that the system is the biggest inhibitor to people’s success. It was Dr. Deming, who suggested that 85% of a workers effectiveness is determined by the system. In addition, Lewin’s formula reminds us that the behavior of an individual is dependent on the person AND their environment. This is another reason why performance appraisals can be largely ineffective.
At the beginning of this post, you may have identified yourself as a Theory Y type person. Is your espoused theory the same as your theory-in-use? When people or teams have challenges, how do you look to help them? How does your ladder of inference inform you? Do you just see the tip of the iceberg and act on it or do you go deeper to truly understand why an individual or team is challenged?
At the end of the day, it’s very likely that Chidi is really not the problem, after all, he really wants to do a good job. You see my friends, appearances can be deceiving.