You are on page 1of 9

"You cannot teach a man anything;

you can only help him to find it

within himself." — Galileo

Motivational Approach
to Management Development
By Rensis Likert the Institute for Social Research at the Univer-
sity of Michigan have spent a good deal of time
There seems to be widespread and increasing on devising and improving measurements of em-
dissatisfaction with current methods for review- ployee reactions. These measurements indicate
ing the work of managers and assisting them in to me that when subordinates say they want to
their development. Not only is the conventional know how they stand with their boss, they real-
performance review failing to make a positive ly are asking for reassurance as to their future
contribution, but in many executives' opinions in the organization. They want to be encour-
it can do irreparable harm. For example, re- aged and helped in using more of their untapped
cently a superior in a large company said, after potential, but they do not want to be told of
an experience with one of his men in a perform- their weaknesses and failures. Mark Twain ex-
ance re\'iew interview: pressed their orientation well in discussing ama-
"What I would give to have that hour back! teur writings:
That discussion did more harm to my relationship "From old experience I know that amateur pro-
with Joe than I can overcome in. a year's time." ductions, offered ostensibly for one's honest cold
judgment, to be followed by an uncompromisingly
The aim of reviewing the subordinate's per- sincere verdict, are not really offered in that spirit
formance is to increase his effectiveness, not to at all. The thing really wanted and expected is
punish him. But apart from those few employ- compliment and encouragement." ^
ees who receive the highest possible ratings, per-
formance review interviews, as a rule, are seri-
ously deflating to the employee's sense of impor- Unworkahle Process
tance and personal worth. The relationship be- The fundamental flaw in current review pro-
tween the employee and his superior is damaged, cedures is that they compel the superior tl) be-
which in turn affects adversely the quality and have in a threatening, rejecting, and ego-deHat-
often the quantity of the work. It is virtually ing manner with a sizable proportion of his staff.
impossible to tcll an employee either tiiat he is This pattern of relationship between the supe-
not as good as another employee or that he rior and the subordinate not only affects the sub-
does not measure up to a desirable level of per- ordinate but also seriously impairs the capacity
formance, without having him feel threatened, of the superior to function effectively.
rejected, and discouraged.
An incident which occurred not long ago at
During recent years members of the staff of a workshop of experienced personnel men illus-
' Mark Twain, "Mark Twain Speaks Out," Harper's, trates well the difficulty with the current per-
Doct'mbcr 1958, p. 36. formance review process:
76 Harvard Business Reinew
This group worked out an ideal performance rat- velopment. Tbis approacb is based on what I
ing system and agreed unanimously that anyone call a "modified theory of management." It bas
rated hy this process should be informed of the been obtained by integrating into an over-all pat-
results in order to help him grow and develop. tern the principles and methods used by man-
They decided that the review of any rating should agers wbo are getting tbe best performance in
he done in such a way as to make the person rated industry and in government.- Tbese principles
aware of his strong and weak points and to moti- clearly indicate tbe need for a pattern of rela-
vate him to take steps to overcome bis weaknesses.
To illustrate how this should be done, the group tionships between the superior and tbe subor-
decided to role-play a particular case in which poor dinate that is substantially different from the
planning and scheduling had occurred. pattern created by many performance review
A group member volunteered to play the role of systems.
tlie superior in the performance review interview Briefly, here are the most important assump-
and demonstrate how to tell a person what his weak- tions and features of tbe new approach:
nesses were in such a way as to cause him to (a)
appreciate the information, (b) accept it as valid, (1) The quality of superior-suhordinate relation-
(c) motivate him to try to overcome the weaknesses, ships exerts a major influence on the bebavior of
and (d) react favorably to tbe interview. After 20 subordinates and on all aspects of the organization's
minutes the member playing the role of the supe- operation.
rior gave up his attempt. He was unable to handle (2) The relationship between the superior and
the interview in a manner which did not make the his suhordinates which results in the best perform-
person playing the role of the subordinate feel he ance is supportive in nature and contributes to the
was threatened, rejected, and even hostile. Others subordinate's sense of personal worth and impor-
who played the role of the man being rated also re- tance. The superior dcmoiistrates to the subordi-
acted as he did. nate that he is genuinely interested in him and in
Three other members of the f>roup volunteered his career in the organization; believes in his capa-
to play the role of the superior and handle the inter- bilities and is confident that he will perform at a
view. All were equally unsuccessful in demonstrat- high level; considers him a human being and not
ing how the interview eould be conducted so as to a cog in the machine; and is interested in the sub-
meet the conditions specified. No one was able ordinate's mistakes from the point of view of train-
to suggest how the interview could be successful. ing and not of punishment.
(3) Suhordinates seem to react unfavorably, at
Remember, tbis was a role-playing situation; least in our society, to negative evaluations b)' their
and tbe principals in it were intelligent, experi- superior. (Some subordinates are so upset that they
enced men of good will. If frustration attended actually fail to hear the unfavorable appraisals and
tbeir efforts bere, think wbat most executives report that they do not know how they stand with
are up against in reaMife situations! It is no their boss.)
wonder, tben, that in the light of tbis experi- (4) People seem most willing and emotionally
ence the members of the group reversed tbeir able to accept, and to examine in a nondcfensive
previous position and decided unanimously tbat manner, information about themselves and their be-
tbe results of performance appraisals should not havior, including their inadequacies, when it is in
be reported to the person rated. the form of ohjective evidence. (Although new or
unusual kinds of evidence may he resisted initially,
this resistance disappears as experience in the con-
New Pattern structive use of data is obtained.)
(5) People tend to respond positively to infor-
Clearly there is a need to belp supervisors and mation suggesting potential impro\ements in their
managers to appreciate deficiencies wbich can behavioi" when tliis information is convened in the
and should be corrected. Is tbere a better metb- friendly, supportive atmosphere of a small, well-
od tban tbose now in general use? established group in whicb they feel secure.
I \^ ant to outline what I believe to be a new (6) People seek to learn new and more effective
and potentially promising approacb to tbe prob- ways of behaving only when the\, theiiiselves, rec-
lem of performance review and managerial de- ognize the inadequacies in their present beha^io^.
- See, for example, R. L. Kahn, F. C. Mann, and S. E. Psychology, edited hy G. E, Swanson, T. M. Newcomb,
Seashore, Editors, "Human Relations Research in Large and E. L. Hartley (New York, Henry HoU & Co.. 1952),
Organizations, Part 2," Journal of Social Issues, Vol. XII, pp. 650-665; and Rensis Likert, "Motivational Dimen-
No. 2, 1956; D. Katz and R. L. Kahn, "Some Recent Find- sions of Administration," Atnerica's Manpower Crisis (Chi-
ings in Human Relations Research," Readings in Social cago, Piihiic Administration Service. 1952), pp. 89-117.
Management Development 77
(7) The extent of the individual's desire to learn 4. Degree of confidence and trust among mem-
better ways of behaving depends on how important bers of the organization in each other and
he feels the situation is to him. The more impor- in the different hierarchieal levels.
tant he feels the situation is, the greater is his mo- 5. Amount and quality of the teamwork in units
tivation to learn. and between units of the organization.
(8) When an individual is motivated to improve 6. Extent to which people feel that delegation
and modify his behavior, it is essential that he re- is effective.
ceive prompt, accurate reports on the adequacy of
his efforts. 7. Extent to which the members feel that their
ideas, information, knowledge of processes,
(9) Much of the learning needed for managerial and experience are being used in the deci-
development must occur at the intellectual, emo- siou-making processes of the organization.
tional, attitudinal, and behavioral levels. Learning
acquired at any one level is ineffective unless ac- 8. Upward, downward, and sideward efficiency
companied by corresponding changes in behavior and adequacy of the communication process.
at the other levels. 9. Leadership skills and abilities of supervisors
(10) Persons in hierarchical organizations gen- and managers, including their basic philoso-
erally recognize the power of the hierarchy and try phies of management and orientation toward
to evoke favorable reactions from superiors who leadership processes.
have influence in the hierarchy.
(11) Participation in decisions in the small work If there is any danger in using measurements
group under the leadership of a superior skilled in of the preceding kind, it is not their lack of com-
the process is a particularly powerful method of plete and absolute accuracy. It is that manage-
training and achievijig change. ment will ?/»^/t'rcstimatc the skill required and
assume that it is enough if a reasonably intelli-
Performance Variables gent interviewer asks people questions or if a
questionnaire is made readily available. Sueh
The foregoing approach poses a key problem: an attitude leads to costly mistakes and disillu-
Can we measure the human variables affecting sionment with the whole measurement idea. In
organizational performance well enough to sat- reality, the measurement of the variables just out-
isfy people's needs for objectivity? lined is a complex process and requires compe-
Thanks to the achievements of social science tence in the social science Rckl.
researchers, the answer is, I believe, yes. Ad-
mittedly, we have not reached the millennium;
a great deal more needs to he done in the way Steps to Improvement
of refining and improving the present tools. But
the measurements we can now make are accu- How can measurements of the performance
rate enough, in my opinion, to enable a meeting variables just described be applied? How can
of the minds between superior and subordinate they be used to help managers obtain better in-
on what the health and performance capacity of sights into their strengths and weaknesses and
a human organization arc. Here are the kinds improve their performance?
of variables that can be measured with objec- In examining these questions let us keep in
tivity for a corporation as a wbole, a division, or mind that most companies are obtaining satis-
a smaller group: factory measurements for such end results as
production volume, costs, scrap loss, earnings,
1. Extent of loyalty to the institution and iden- and turnover. Moreover, most managers receive
tification with it and its objectives.
regular reports on their performance as meas-
2. Extent to whieh the goals of units and indi- ured by these factors. Such indicators of per-
viduals facilitate the achievement of the or- formance are well accepted in management cir-
ganization's objectives.
cles. What we want to do now is build the
3. Level of motivation among members of the same kind of acceptance for measurements of
organization with regard to such variables as: the impact of a manager's behavior on motiva-
a. Performance, including both quality and
quantity of work done; tion, loyalty, communication, interaction, and
b. Concern for elimination of waste and other aspects of the quality oi' the human or-
reduction of costs; ganization. Unless we can watch changes in
c. Concern for improving the product; these "intervening" variables, we cannot, as I
d. Concern for improving processes. have pointed out in an earlier HBR article,
78 Harvard Business Review
assess tbe effects of a manager's action on the • The satisfaction of subordinates with the com-
future capacity of his organization.^ munication and decision-making processes or
To illustrate bow tbe new measurements can organization.
be applied, I sball take communication as a case
in point. In addition, it is helpful for management to
know the extent to wbicb suhordinates estimate
Communication Failures correctly the goals of their superiors, and tbe
extent to wbicb they know and accept tbe ob-
Tbe efficiency of communication is often
jectives of the organization.
judged by measuring bow well informed lower
levels in tbe organization are witb regard to In situations wberc such measurements ha\'e
company goals, earnings, or similar items of in- been obtained tbe communication process bas
formation; or by measuring bow satisfied tbe turned out to be surprisingly inefficient. Tbe
subordinates are witb the information made results sbown for one organization in EXHIBIT I
available to tbem. These are useful yardsticks are typical of tbe data produced in other studies:
but are not adequate to measure fully the ef- At every hierarchical level subordinates clearly
ficiency of tbe communication process. For ex- feel that their superiors do not understand sub-














ample, measurements sbould also be obtained ordinates' prohlems whereas the superiors feel that
of the extent to which the superior can estimate they do. Similar discrepancies have been found in
correctly: the superior's capacity to estimate the performance
goals which his subordinates feel are reasonable
• The production and performance goals of his and which guide their productivity level; and sub-
subordinates. ordinates are unahle to estimate correetly the per-
formance goals which their superiors expect of
• The problems of concern to his subordinates, them and consider reasonahle.
and the operating problems of whieh the suh-
ordinates are aware but higher management In bow many companies is communication
is not. no better tban in EXHIBIT I ? Probably quite a
' Rensis Likert, "Measuring Organizational Perform- few. But tbe significant fact is tbat, at least in
ance," HBR March-April 1958, p. 4 1 . my experience, neither superiors nor subordi-
Management Development 79
nates are likely to realize how inaccurate and improve communication should also embrace steps
inadequate the communication process is. As a to improve group loyalt\' and teamwork.
consequence, they are very much surprised when
measurements such as those shown in the exhihit Another illustration of the manner in whicb
arc obtained and reported to them. Superiors, the analyses of data can he used to help mana-
particularly, are amazed to discover how un- gers discover the best solutions to the problems
informed or misinformed they are. appears in EXHIBIT II. These data, collected by
Floyd C. Mann, indicate that when a superior
Following Up uses meetings to obtain the ideas and sugges-
tions of his subordinates and honestly tries to
Given an analysis of the kind just described, do something about these ideas, his suljordinatcs
what does a manager do with it? Where do we are much more likely to feel that he is good at
go from here? handling people than in the case of the superior
As measurements of communication, loyalty, who holds meetings but whose behavior indi-
and other such variables become available, each cates that he is not really interested in his sub-
manager can sec for himself what the data re- ordinates' ideas. In other words, a supor\ isor is
veal about his strengths and weaknesses. He does better off never to hold a meeting tban to con-
not have to depend on the subjective judgment duct meetings of his work group in such a man-
of a superior executive. He can decide for him- ner that the men feel he is not interested in their
self, on the basis of the evidence, where he needs ideas — a finding with an obvious bearing on
to improve and to develop. Moreover, analyses attempts to improve, say, the amount of team-
based on the measurements give him informa- work and interaction among subordinates.
tion to guide his choice of action. To illustrate,
let us go back to our communication example: A high level of confidence and trust by the
superior in his subordinates is a basic require-
When a manager has analyzed the data for his ment for full and frank discussion of problems.
organization and becomes convinced that he can Such attitudes and behavior on the part of the
and should improve conmiunication between him- superior arc deeply rooted in his personality and
self and his subordinates, several alternatives can are not easily or rapidly changed and improved.
be considered. Should he seek to use more writ- But there is ample evidence that they can be
ten and printed material between himself and his changed and improved if the superior himself
organization? Should he hold stafE and organiza- V7ants to change and iForks hard to do so.*
tional meetings in order to sbare information and
comniunicatc? Should he issue orders and exhort The use of measurements as guides to action
his subordinates and organization to do more com- enables eaeh manager to tap the full experience
municating? Or what? of his entire eompany — and other companies —
One of the most useful types of information the in seeking ways to improve his behavior and
manager can have is data about the likely results his performance. He need not try eountless ways
from each possible course of action. This he can of improving an operation on a trial-and-error
get from studies of past performance. Analyses basis hoping that somehow he will find one that
show, for example, that using large volumes of will work.
printed material is not likely, in itself, to achieve
effective communieation — at least, as judged hy
the kinds of rigorous measurements which have Using the Tools
been suggested. But when the data measuring tbe
extent to which superiors can correctly estimate Measurements of human variables, together
the production goals of their subordinates are exam- with the traditional data on production volume,
ined closely, the results show that the greater the costs, waste, earnings, and so on, provide the
group loyalty and the better the teamwork which hasic tools needed for a new approach to per-
exists in a work group, the better the communica- fonnanee review and managerial development.
tion and the smaller the errors. Thus, efforts to No doubt there are many ways in which the
* See, for example, Lester Coch and J. R. P. French, Jr., Nancy Morse and Everett Reimcr, "The Experimental
"Overcoming Resistance to Change/* Group Dynamics: Change of a Major Organizational Variahle," Journal of
Research and Theory, edited by D. Cartwright and A. Ahiiormal and Social Psychology, January 1956, pp. 120-
Zander (Evanston, Row Peterson & Co., 1953), pp. 257- 129; and Stanley E. Seashore, "The Training of Leaders
279; Floyd C. Mann, "Studying and Creating Change: A for Effective Human Relations," Some Applications of Be-
Means to Understanding Social Organization," Research havioural Research, edited by Rensis Likert and S. P.
in Industrial Human Relations, IRRA Scries, Publication Hayes, Jr. (Paris, UNESCO Publications Division, 1957),
17 (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1959), pp. 146-167; pp. 81-123.
80 Harvard Bush/ess Review






70-- 74%








review process using these measurements can be used by the organization for planning and set-
conducted. The approach I shall outline is only ting goals.
illustrative, and it is worth emphasizing that Of course, the manager might also appropri-
the exact procedure which should he used in a ately set objectives for a longer term. They would
particular company and with a particular indi- be more tentative, and should be examined and
vidual must necessarily be tailored to fit the tra- readjusted at the end of each shorter period.
ditions and practices of the organization and the In any ease, the objectives would involve goals
background, expectations, and skills of the indi- expressed as (a) end result variables, such as
vidual. Accordingly, I shall concentrate on the volume, production, waste and costs, and (h)
basic steps only. These will be much the same "intervening variables," such as motivations, at-
from company to company and at low as well titudes, leadership, and communication.
as high levels of supervision. Measurements of results tor previous periods
1. Working with his snhordinates as a would be used as guides in setting or revising
teaivi, each manager sets objectives for the the objectives.
next period ahead. T h e plans and objectives prepared by eaeh
manager and his subordinates would specify:
T h e period I am most concerned with here
is the short-term one — tliree months, nine • Performance objectives for the kinds of vari-
months, or whatever else is the normal period ables which have been suggested (e.g., a speci-
Management Development 81
fied reduction in waste or a specified improve- put managers under severe pressure. But the
ment in upward communication). targets should be such as to challenge them.
• Processes or procedures to be used to attain
these objectives. 3. At the end of each period for which
plans and goals have been established, results
• Specifications of measurements needed to as- are reported on all of the variables measured.
certain how well eaeh objective is reached,
how well each procedure is followed, and These results should be reported for the en-
what modifications, if any, are desirable to tire operation under each manager; where de-
achieve further improvement. Managers would sired they can also be reported separately for the
be encouraged to specify the measurements different sub-units under a manager. Along with
which they feel they need in order to plan, his own results each manager would receive
guide, and improve their operation and their data from comparahle operations elsewhere in
own performance. the company against which to evaluate his own
performance. The other units may or may not
Earlier in this artiele I indicated that tlie be individually identified in the data, depend-
system of measurements being proposed was not ing on what top management thinks best.
yet perfect. As a case in point of this statement,
managers will probably find that for some of 4. Each manager studies the results of his
the variahles they would like to see measured operation and evaluates his leadership and
no satisfactory yardsticks have as yet been de- performance.
veloped. An imperfect but workable substitute
method in such situations is to obtain system- What implications does he see? What in-
atic judgments from several persons whose ob- sights can he gain? Which results surprise him?
jectivity and competence are recognized and Following his own study, he should proceed to
accepted.^ These judgments, while far less satis- review the data with his subordinates as a team
factory than actual measurements, are still bet- and examine such questions as:
ter than appraisals made by the manager alone • What was done well in relation to the objec-
or in conjunction with his chief. tives set?
Actually, in the developmental stages of the • Where did performance fail to measure up?
performance review process proposed here, it • Which factors contributed to the successes
probably will be desirable to include only those achieved, and which contributed to the short-
variables for which measurements can be ob- comings experienced?
tained. After the process is well established,
• What should be done in the next period to
variables which can now be handled only by extend the successes and to overcome the past
obtaining systematic judgments might be added. shorteoniings?
2. The manager and his superior review The manager should meet also with his supe-
the plans and objectives set hy the manager rior and review the results reported as well as
and his work group. the interpretations that he and his subordinates
Where the character of the operation permits, have placed on them. Most of this review should
this review should be done by the superior and be done in group sessions with the superior and
all managers who report to him as a team. When with the other managers reporting to him so as
appropriate, representatives of staff departments to gain the benefit of their experience, insights,
should also be called in. In this way the objec- and suggestions.
tives of related units can be brought in balance 5. At the same time that residts of the
and integrated, and the balance and integration previous period are being reviewed, objectives
achieved will be satisfactory to all concerned. and plans arc drawn for the period ahead.
Where necessary the superior should also have
personal sessions with the individual managers. Existing procedures and methods ean be im-
Obviously, it is not wise to set objectives that proved or modified as called for by the data;
new approaches can be devised. The aim, of
- For a fuller explanation of this method sec D. C. Pelz, course, is to exploit all the data in order to bring
"Motivation of the Engineering and Research Specialist,"
Improvitig Mmiagerial Peiiormance, General Management about desirable improvements. All of this work
Series, No. 186 (New York, Amcriean Management As- can go on individually and in groups: by man-
sociation, 1957), pp. 25-46. agers working alone, by managers working with
82 Harvard Business Review
their subordinates in work groups, by the supe- ment wants to see rather than the true picture.
rior alone, and by the superior working with This "doctoring" of the data has been found to
the managers. be widespread even in companies recognized as
being well managed.
6. The complete cycle just described is
carried out continuously so that each manager Individualized Learning
will have a constant flow of information com-
ing to him ahout his operation and behavior. With continuous measurements to guide him,
the manager's learning at all times is focused
The process of planning, taking action, meas- efficiently on his deficiencies. He does not waste
uring results, feeding data baek to management, time learning what he already does well by be-
and planning again must be a never-ending one ing compelled to participate in a variety of com-
if learning also is to go on continuously.** pany-wide programs taking a shotgun approach
to training (and implying, by virtue of their be-
ing eompany-wide, that all managers have equal
Important Advantages need for the same training). He concentrates on
The basic pattern of executive relationships his own needs. Some managers need training
just described is similar in many ways to that in methods of interviewing subordinates. Oth-
which is sought in the new appraisal system de- ers need coaching in improving communieation
veloped by General Mills, Incorporated and used or supervisory skills. Others need help in coordi-
also by General Electrie Company. The role nating activities. And so on. These bidividual
vi'hich that kind of appraisal plan prescribes for problems are the ones calling for attention.
superiors and subordinates has been described by Note the value of group discussions of the
Douglas McGregor in the course of his excellent measurement data. These discussions occur in
article, "An Uneasy Look at Perfonnance Ap- the two work groups of which the executive is
praisal," '' There are, however, two essential a member: the one in which he is the superior,
differences between that plan and the review and the other in which he is a subordinate. He
process proposed here. The process I propose has a key role in the interpretation of the data
uses objective measurements. It also empha- and in the deeision on action to be taken. He
sizes group procedures. The use of the group ean pace his learning and change to fit his situa-
(instead of tbe more private man-to-man rela- tion. He gets constant feedback informing him
tionship described by McGregor) is an attempt of the success of his efforts to improve. His hoss
to apply the findings of the Institute of Social does not evaluate him. He evaluates himself
Research and other organizations making studies and so grows in competence and self-confidence.
in human relations. This is not to say that the individual should
The effect of these features is to create en- not ask for assistance and counsel in making his
tirely different roles for the superior and his diagnosis and planning a course of action. He
managers. The fact that they want the meas- should — and will. But when the measurements
urements for their own information and guid- given him are what he — not his boss — has
anee motivates them positively. They cooperate requested, he is far less likely to be submissive,
and assist in securing the information and strive dependent, or defensive.*
to see that it is accurate. The approach outlined in this artiele is not
This is an entirely different situation from a finished one. It needs experience, testing, and
what all too often prevails today where measure- refinement. Nevertheless, it does appear to rep-
ments in the form of accounting data are used resent a significant improvement over the pro-
by top management to police and "second guess" cedures in widespread use at present. Those
the persons directly responsible for operations. procedures, I am convinced, are fundamentally
When measurements are used in this latter way, inconsistent with the pattern of management
the persons who are policed distort the data ef- used by executives who are achieving the best
fectively to show the picture which top manage- performance in American industry. When effec-
tively applied, the proposed methods should help
" The proposed cycle has been suggested by the work of a well-managed company achieve substantially
Floyd C. Mann, Don R. Hamann, and Virgil K. Rowland* better results — both linaneially and in the
'HBR May-June 1957, p, 89,
^ See Chris Argyris, Personality and Organization development and use of the full potential of
(New York, Harper & Brothers, 1957), pp, 229-239, its personnel.