Skip to main content

5.1 Concern for Task and Concern for People

Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1964) developed a simple framework which they called the managerial grid. As illustrated in Figure 5.1, this proposes that when you are looking to achieve things through other people then you have to balance concern for the task and concern for the people involved.

If you concentrate exclusively on making sure that the task is completed - maybe in a somewhat cold or unfeeling way – then you may not get the full commitment of the people who might, therefore, not contribute as much as they are capable of. On the other hand, if you focus on trying to ensure that everyone is happy, you may fail to accomplish what you set out to do.

In fact, there isn’t necessarily a trade off between addressing the needs of the task and the needs of the people. A really successful leader understands that the task is achieved through the efforts of the people involved, and will spend time addressing both sets of needs.

Figure 5.1 Concern for task and concern for people

concern task people

This video clip describes five styles of management that arise from taking different positions on the Blake and Mouton grid.

The managerial grid can be related to the Theory X and Theory Y view of motivation developed by Douglas McGregor (1960). If you take a Theory X view of people, you assume that people are inherently lazy, dislike work and seek to avoid responsibility. With this view of the world, you are unlikely to trust people. If incentives and punishments are available to you, you are likely to use a mix of carrot and stick to ensure compliance with your instructions or orders. An authoritarian manager who sees their role as to command, control and direct others probably holds a Theory X view of people.

In contrast, if you have a Theory Y view of people you believe that people enjoy work and are talented, creative and able to motivate themselves. You reckon that people want to do a good job, and that this in itself can be motivating. Hence you are likely to communicate openly, share decision making and generate a climate of trust. Holding a Theory Y belief in people is a great asset if you want to meet the needs of both the task and the people at the same time.

References

Blake, R. and Mouton, J. (1964) The Managerial Grid. Houston: Gulf.

McGregor, D. (1960) The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.