Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

Abstract This brief document endeavors to deliver upon three objectives. First, an explanation of Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid will provide the reader with insight regarding the intent and mechanics behind the theory. Secondly, the feasibility of employing this theory in today’s workplace will be briefly explored. Finally, we will identify some of the challenges that may present themselves when referencing this theory within the context of a global marketplace.

Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid was originally developed in 1962 as an organizational development model (Thomas, 2006, p. 45). The premise of this theory involves two dimensions systemic in all organizations: people and productivity. Through their creation of the managerial grid, Blake and Mouton devised an instrument, which allows managers to plot the strength of their decision-making biases relative to these dimensions on a simple x-y axis grid. The x-axis represents concern for productivity and the y-axis for people.

The grid employs a scale of one to nine. Dimensions are plotted at whole number intervals. A score of one represents the lowest amount of concern and nine represents the highest bias for the respective axis measured. Based upon this spectrum of ratings, Blake and Mouton characterized five distinct managerial leadership behaviors. These included: • Impoverished Leadership (low production / low people): This style represents a low concern for production and people and is plotted at 1, 1 on the managerial grid. The impoverished leader is highly ineffective. These leaders are often burned out, fearful (or otherwise incapable) of making decisions or suffering from a severely deficient morale.

• Country Club Leadership (low production / high people): This leadership style is primarily concerned with the feelings and needs of people and is plotted at 1, 9 on the managerial grid. Organizational efficiency and effectiveness may suffer long-term and morale may decline due to a lack of clear direction and purpose. • Middle-of-the-Road Leadership (medium production / medium people): Employment of this style represents a compromise between the needs of people and production. It is plotted at 5, 5 on the grid. While this style may seem ideal at first, it does ultimately ensure that neither the needs of people or productivity are ever fully realized. • Task Management Leadership (high production / low people):

This style is plotted at 9, 1 on the managerial grid. The leader who relies upon this style is exercising dissonant leadership and can “leave employees feeling pushed too hard by the leader’s relentless demands” (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2002, p. 72). • Team Leadership (high production / high people): This category of behavior represents “the pinnacle of managerial style” on the managerial grid (Borowa & Darwish, 2007, p. 19). Plotted at 9, 9 on the grid, this style epitomizes the prospect of successfully integrating intrapersonal purpose with the organization’s vision.

According to Borowa and Darwish (2007), “when employees are committed to, and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and production needs match” (p.18). To correspond with this grid, Blake and Mouton devised a 35-question instrument to help managers measure the extent of their orientations toward each dimension (Ward, 2006, p.67). However, according to Brooks (2006), “Blake and Mouton found that, left to rank themselves, some 80 percent of people give themselves a 9, 9 rating” (p.1116). In other words, an overwhelming majority of self-assessors selected responses that suggest they have a high degree of concern for both people and productivity.

Brooks (2006), also notes that once this “self deception (is) discussed and considered, this figure is routinely reduced to 20 percent,” suggesting a 60 percent rate of self-deception (p.1116). This theory can be applied to day-to-day management practices within organizations as a basic foundation for understanding how these two interrelated, albeit independent variables can harmoniously coexist. In fact, these two dimensions can synergistically compound both morale and productivity. However, this theory is not without its challenges in terms of implementation in a universal setting.

For example, Chen (2001) asserts the following regarding this theory: “Employees in high power distance cultures (like Japan and China), for example, expect managers to lead and are less comfortable with the delegation of discretionary decisions than those from low power distance cultures such as the United States” (p.133). Therefore, the team leadership orientation may not prove as effective in some cultures. Lastly, even in the United States, contemporary research (such as Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model) suggests a strong need for leaders to be “follower driven” (Hersey & Campbell, 2004, p. 120).

“It appears as though the follower’s role has been overlooked” in leadership theories which focus entirely on manager behavior, such as Blake and Mouton’s managerial grid (Hur, 2008, ¶ 11).

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