3 November 2010

Theory X

So, how do you manage a team with a variety of values and expectations from their interactions with management?

You know theory X and theory Y.
(X - managers and workers are adversaries, Y - Managers just nee to support worklers and they will do their best.)

I hope that we projects managers tend to fall into the Theory Y zone. Our teams have interesting work, usually good management and people are focused around common goals in a context of a cohesive team. I suspect we are much more Theory X than we think. For instance, my direction to my team to adopt scrum practices is not optional. Until reflecting you wouldn't neccessarily recognise this as a theory X appraoch to work. And we don't expect we are espousing values that say we don't trust our team members.

In fact, any time we mandate a process or control technique, that's exactly what we are doing. I want to be a coach of faciliatator, but I keep demanding certain practices and standards are followed. Deep down I know this is a problem, but how can I let go of the tiller when we are in rough seas? I don't think I can unless I know I have sipport from my sponsors. And my sponsors are in the same boat - manging expectations and dealing with a portfolio of risky investments.

Who makes the call that it's okay to experiment and fail? At what scale?

What are your stories?


  1. Anonymous10:14 am

    As SW PMs and developer we MUST be doing Theory W

  2. The difficulty, Craig, is that Theory Y requires both participants be of the appropriate maturity and far enough up Maslow's needs hierarchy in order for it to succeed.

    If either side isn't in the right place, Theory Y falls flat on its backside.

  3. Steve, when you are in a low trust environment who's job is it to begin he journey to trust and partnership?