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From Analyzer to Humanizer: Raising the Level of Management Thinking

by Michael Maccoby

Published in: Research Technology Management, Vol. 37 No. 5 September-October, 1994. pp. 57-59.

Most people agree that the information age demands a new approach to management. And indeed companies have spent millions of dollars to re engineer work and design customer focussed processes. In practice, however, the theory often encounters strong resistance.

One AT&T executive recently complained that it was much harder than he expected to change his organization. He was finding that by designing more effective processes, he was bumping up against long established relationships between internal customers and suppliers. He was challenging not only management thinking, but the way things get done.

Since the 19th century, large organizations have been complex bureaucracies, split into functional divisions. Managers have gotten ahead by practicing a way of thinking and by forming useful relationships that fit their organizational culture. The paradox is that on the one hand, to transform the culture requires changing both their thinking and relationships. On the other hand, unless the culture changes, the new thinking will not be adaptive.

To resolve this paradox, information age managers need to develop their thinking so they can learn the practices that facilitate this development. With few exceptions, the descriptions used by companies to describe ideal management thinking and behavior are too vague and generalized to be of much help. The new style manager is told to be a coach, but there are many types of coaches, and some are just as directive and autocratic as the old style boss. Many of these coaches think about winning and losing in the same old short term way that impedes information age management.

On the basis of interviews and observation, I have differentiated managers in four different dominant values or style (see Why Work). I called these styles or types the expert, protector, facilitator, and innovator. Recently, by focussing on the way managers think, and placing these observations in the context of cognitive development theory, I have discerned four types of management thinking that are related to but not exactly the same as these styles. To some extent, they are stages or levels of thinking because each requires further development of concepts and capabilities beyond the preceding level.

The first stage is characterized by the predominance of analytic thinking, hierarchy, and the use of managerial formulas. The second stage while similar to the first, is also characterized by trying out new ideas and tolerating more ambiguity. The third stage moves to systems thinking and the logic of reciprocity. The fourth stage requires systems thinking with the purpose of both organizational and human development that includes the larger society. These stages are embodied in four types of managers: 1) The Analyzer, 2) The Energizer, 3) The Synthesizer, 4) The Humanizer. It is my conviction that the information age organization requires the latter higher, more complex, levels of management thinking.

1. Analyzers fit the industrial bureaucracy, and are easily confused about systemic change. Analysis implies taking things apart, and the analyzers approach organization, tasks and systems by breaking them down as much as possible into piece parts and formulas. They want to focus on a part of the organization they can control, with functional expertise they can apply. They like managerial formulas with clear economic measurements of success: goal setting in terms of revenue, cost and profitability. They believe people can be motivated by satisfying needs for money and promotion. By changing structure and incentives, they believe they can motivate the behavior they want from subordinates. But they do not reflect critically on their theory or examine their assumptions even when the theory does not work well. Rather, they tinker with formulas or look for new management consultants who promise better formulas.

Analyzers approach planning either by analyzing and repeating what has worked in the past and projecting this to the future, or by planning only for the immediate future and responding to crises, or as the British say, "muddling through".

With analyzers, it is cumbersome at best to create cross functional teams. Participants join such teams as representatives of their functions, often without power to make commitments.

2. To break out of this bureaucratic gridlock, some ambitious managers, particularly the gamesmen and women (a kind of innovator) become stage 2, energizers. Their main difference from type 1 thinking is that their way of getting people to work together is not merely manipulating material incentives but also playing on their competitive spirit. Energizers measure success not only economically, but also emotionally, in terms of motivating the team to beat the competition.

Energizers have a high tolerance for ambiguity (chaos), because it is exciting and favors change. They espouse trust and cooperation, although in practice they do not share power. They enjoy brainstorming and are willing to try out new ideas. Their future oriented planning ignores the past and its lessons. Energizers believe they can play the role of the big brain and design a greenfield future that their subordinates will implement. However, because they do not understand the organization as a social system, their experiments tend to fizzle out and their plans don't work out the way they envisage them. Subordinates with their own interests and alliances sabotage or distort these plans. Because they have no way to resolve conflict, their high energy teams tend to decompose into hierarchy, and when push comes to shove, their thinking regresses. They become analyzers.

3. Only if managers move up to stage 3 and become synthesizers can they fully lead organizational transformation.

As Russell L. Ackoff describes it in his new book, The Humane Corporation: Integrating Work, Play, and Learning Oxford University, 1994), the large modern corporation can only be understood as a social (or socio-economic technical) system in which the demands of different stakeholders (employees, customers, owners) must be aligned to create value and achieve success. The old images of the corporation as machine run by a god-like owner or organism run by a big brain are inadequate and misleading.

Synthesizers learn from customers, competitors, and employees. They study threats and opportunities and design an ideal future for the organization as a system. Their view of leadership is to not solve problems but to avoid their occurrence. They enable the organization to implement strategy by supporting people and integrating diverse activities. Synthesizers share their ideal design and the compelling logic of change with the organization, and they invite each level and group to participate in an interactive dialogue to interpret it for themselves. This dialogue results in understanding the gaps between the existing organization and the ideal and then agreeing on the actions required to close the gaps. As the dialogue progresses and new approaches are tried, the ideal design evolves.

The interactive planning process forces synthesizers to reflect on their theories, since others are encouraged to challenge or test them. This may result either in changing a theory or expanding it to deal with different needs due to location, task, or diverse values. For example, when the R&D group of Cultor, a Finnish company, interpreted top management's ideal future, they argued that it did not include a spirit of play essential for motivation and innovation. Top management responded by expanding its vision and affirming the value of enjoying work for the whole company.

When I first studied managers in high tech companies, I found that some had "a systems mind" which could be observed in their responses to Rorschach inkblots (The Gamesman, Simon & Schuster 1976) While most managers tended to break the blots into clearly defined details (the analyzers), those with systems minds first integrated the parts and then described the interrelated details. Possibly, this capability is genetically influenced.

However, the interactive process itself can develop some analyzers into synthesizers and, it helps to define the leadership role as both strategic and enabling. The interactive leader must continually work at drawing a systemic map of the value creating system. By leading an organizational dialogue to implement the ideal future, the leader must integrate diverse views and support system changes. Heterarchical process management teams rather than functional hierarchies strengthen the customer focussed system.

The following is a value creating map that I developed interactively with Tom Weymarn, executive vice president of Cultor. Other companies have also found it useful in developing an ideal future. (Note: this graphic has been revised since the published version)

Value Creating Vision Graphic

This map shows strategy stemming from an analysis of the business environment, especially customer needs, but also such factors as business logics, e.g. customer base analysis which segments the market according to types of customers, and in some cases, government regulations and interest group pressures (e.g. environmentalists). The organizational system should be aligned with this strategy (see "What Should Learning Organizations Learn", RTM May-June, 1993 pp. 49-52.) Elements of the system are structure, information systems, human resource and financial measurements, skills or competencies, and leadership style. This alignment which includes process re-engineering is essential to satisfy customers or in advanced information age companies, to help the customer succeed (see "To Create Quality, First Create the Culture", RTM September-October 1993 pp. 49-51.) For this organizational system to function well, the common values must be aligned with the values employees bring with them. An effectively implemented strategy will result not only in profit but also increasing business value, the reputation for quality that provides a competitive edge. The maps helps the interactive leader to communicate the compelling logic for change so the analyzers can be persuaded that they must pay attention to the whole system.

MITRE, a non profit R&D company which works for the public interest has modified this map to describe initiatives to improve relationships with its government customers by increasing flexibility and efficiency. This responds to changing government policies including procurement and budget constraints. In the case of MITRE, customer success leads not to profit, but to greater prestige and influence, and the ability to employ and further develop a technical staff that values continual learning and working for the public good. This has relevance for many of the national laboratories.

Synthesizers develop trust by designing reciprocal work relationships that support system goals. For example, team members agree on mutual expectations and evaluate each other. If there is conflict, they facilitate its resolution through dialogue based on agreed-to rules and principles, with reference to the ideal future. Differences are based on facts - not opinions or anecdotes. Where feasible, conflicting ideas are tested. Synthesizers learn to be open with information and non-defensive about the challenges and push backs that are stimulated by the interactive process. The organization as social system is strengthened by responding to the needs of all the main stakeholders: customers, employees and owners. Whether explicit or implicit, the synthesizer develops contracts among these stakeholders with the goal of win-win-win. Interactive strategy can lead to effective working partnerships with customers and employee groups.

AT&T's Workplace of the Future attempts to create such an interactive process in all of its divisions and business units with its unions, CWA & IBEW, as partners. On process teams, union members help improve productivity, and there is reciprocal commitment by management to seek solutions that improve jobs and increase employment security. Those managers and union officials who have taken the lead testify that the process is forcing them to become synthesizers. They report that the interactive process has helped them to understand and appreciate the views of others and that it has enriched their lives. They also begin to develop qualities of the fourth stage as the interactive process challenges them to become humanizers.

4. Humanizers are innovators who strategize not only to increase profit and growth but to develop positive human potential. Through the interactive process, they learn to understand diverse cultures and view points. Humanizers inspire people by communicating both human and economic goals. These include development of organization, employees, customers, and the larger social system of transportation, communication, energy, schools, health care, families, communities and the environment which supports and nurtures the corporation.

To some degree, creative entrepreneurs of the past have been paternalistic humanizers. They were protectors like James Proctor of P&G, George Eastman of Kodak, Thomas Watson of IBM who developed their people and contributed to their communities. Modern managers are becoming humanizers, not out of a paternalistic spirit, but a pragmatic understanding that their business depends on developing material and social infrastructures. For example, Percy Barnevik of Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) believes that business opportunity in Eastern Europe requires investment in developing these countries. The humanizer who leads a global company must learn to understand different cultures with different business values.

Business leaders, as a group, are not humanizers. They have difficulties enough adapting their own companies to today's highly volatile business environment. However, it is becoming evident that in the information age, complex companies require synthetic thinking and acting, interactive management, and continual innovation. Increasingly, the most successful leaders will be synthesizers, and as they transform corporate culture to serve all of its stakeholders, they will find themselves thinking more and more like humanizers, even if the pressures of competitive marketplace sometimes cause them to regress to lower levels of behavior.


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