Likert Scale

Likert Scale

In 1932, Rensis Likert published A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes, introducing the Likert Scale. This now ubiquitous five-point scale measures attitudes by asking participants to answer using numbers 1 through 5, from "strongly disagree" through "disagree," "neutral," and "agree," to "strongly agree." The instrument has remained a staple of the rating industry as well as of training feedback sheets, down to the present day.



Rensis Likert: A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes.

Management Theory, People-Centered

Douglas McGregor and Humanistic Management (Theory Y)

The humanistic or human relations theory of management, which started to emerge in the 1920s and 1930s and came into full flower during the 1960s, focuses on small group improvements within an organization in a "bottom up" approach to organizational improvement. The term "humanistic" in this context refers to a heightened emphasis on the employee's quality of work life and job satisfaction, through such strategies as participative management. In place of a "command and control" structure, human relations management theory fosters self-directed teams and grass roots efforts. The major themes of the movement—change management, team building, enhanced communications, conflict resolution interventions, and increased individual responsibilities—have a familiar ring to them because they have passed into the language by now, and lie at the heart of modern organization development, the discipline that inherited the best and the brightest of these ideas in the 1960s and 1970s. (See Organizational Development.)

The field of players in the humanistic movement include Kurt Lewin, father of organizational development, Elton Mayo, the 1950s psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, and Douglas McGregor from the early 1960s. It was McGregor who came up with the slogan for the humanist group, namely "Theory Y." Theory Y, with its kinder gentler humanism, was the successor to the preceding generation's "Theory X," which, spearheaded by Frederick Taylor, had preached a scientific management to an industrial age. (See Hawthorne Effect; Management Theory, Process-Centered; and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.)

The best of all possible management worlds would combine the best of Taylor with the best of the human relations group and its successor, organizational development. The fusion of these two management theories would carry much power in terms of performance improvement. Marvin Weisbord, in fact, in his Productive Workplaces, charts just how complementary—if not directly overlapping—the two movements are (see Fastpaths 1987, Weisbord).



Kurt Lewin publishes article on the "Humanization of the Taylor System." Lewin, educated in Viennese Gestalt psychology (which studied the relationships between individuals and groups), flees Hitler in the 1930s and emigrates to the United States. Reacting against the mechanistic, authoritarian view of organizations ("management from above")—as supposedly exemplified in Frederick Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management of 1911—Lewin focuses on the organic growth of organizations from within (through "bottom up" small group efforts). Where Taylor stressed "plan, measure, and control," Lewin stresses "participate and collaborate." Where Freud viewed behavior as being dictated by a person's past and Skinner would see behavior being influenced by an employee's future rewards, Lewin (from his grounding in Gestalt psychology) stressed present interactions between the individual and the group in the everyday workplace. In 1939 he coined the term group dynamics, and he would go on in the 1940s and 1950s to found the discipline of organizational development.


Elton Mayo: The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Mayo's reports on the "Hawthorne effect." (See Hawthorne Effect.)


Kurt Lewin: A Dynamic Theory of Personality.


Kurt Lewin: Principles of Topological Psychology.


Chester Barnard: The Functions of the Executive. A classic synthesis work, combining Taylor's "scientific management" with the "humanistic" school of thought.


Abraham Maslow, a humanist psychologist, publishes "The Theory of Human Motivation" in the Psychological Review. This is Maslow's first paper on his well-known "hierarchy of needs." (See Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.)


Kurt Lewin forms a research center at MIT to study "group dynamics"—group behavior in organizations. Lewin's studies of leadership styles encourage participative management techniques in organizational development, and eventually lead to MIT professor Douglas McGregor's work on the human side of management (see Fastpaths 1960, McGregor).


Peter Drucker publishes The Concept of the Corporation. Based on his analyses of General Motors, Drucker's work launches his American career. Drucker, picking up where his hero Frederick Taylor had left off in 1911, helps invent the role of the management consultant and the field of American management theory.


David Riesman, sociologist of human relations, publishes The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. Riesman sets up a typology of three historical figures in American business: the tradition-directed agrarian worker, the "inner-directed" pioneer employee of the industrial era, and the "other-directed" manager of the 1950s, who relies on peer-group pressures.


Carl Rogers, psychiatrist, publishes Client-Centered Therapy, and launches the humanist movement in psychology, where the client-centered perspective helps boost the employee-focused trend within organizational development and which would culminate in McGregor's humanist management theories in 1960.


Edward C. Tolman: Behavior and Psychological Man: Essays in Motivation and Learning.


Abraham Maslow: Motivation and Personality. Landmark book in Maslow's developing ideas about the importance and complexity of human motivation (see also Fastpaths 1943, Maslow; 1955, Whyte; 1960, McGregor; and 1964, Vroom).


Peter Drucker: The Practice of Management.


Eric Trist and Fred Emery of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in England, influenced by Lewin, also engage in the study of group dynamics and socio-technical systems (the interaction of people with technology). Their theory views organizations as "open systems," living organisms interacting with their environments. (See Systems: An Architecture of Continuous Learning Systems.)


William F. Whyte (ed.): Money and Motivation. To achieve optimum output from employees, one must consider motivation as well as money (see Fast-paths 1964, Vroom).


William F. Whyte's classic The Organization Man argues that American business life has abandoned old-style individualism in favor of "the organization man" and a bureaucratic ethic of security, loyalty, and conformity. With the rise of the new postwar corporation, American individualism is fast disappearing from mainstream middle-class life. The organization man will become McGregor's traditional "Theory X" man (see Fastpaths 1960, McGregor).


Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt: "How to Choose a Leadership Pattern," Harvard Business Review (March–April 1957). Theory of a leadership continuum from authoritarian to democratic styles—and thus a precursor of McGregor's management continuum from Theory X to Theory Y (see Fastpaths 1960, McGregor).


McGregor and Beckhard, building on the work of Kurt Lewin, coin the term "organization development." (See Organizational Development.)


Frederick Herzberg, B. Mausner, B. Snyderman: The Motivation to Work. One of the founding texts on motivation, republished several times, and still relevant.


Douglas McGregor (1906–1964): The Human Side of Enterprise. Following Maslow (1943), Rogers (1951), Whyte (1956), and Tannenbaum (1957), McGregor formulates two theories of human nature—and thereby a new generalized theory of human management.

The first, older theory, Theory X, represents the old-fashioned authoritarian "tough manager" belief that "human beings dislike work and will avoid it if they can," and generally supports a punitive management of criticism and control. This is often falsely associated with Taylor's "scientific" management of 1911 and with what Maslow described as the "security mindedness" of American labor unions in the 1950s.

The second theory, Theory Y, offers McGregor's alternative, the democratic "soft manager" view that human "expenditure of effort at work is as natural as play" and hence supports a motivational management of rewards and recognitions. This theory builds on Lewin's humanistic management theories as well as on Maslow's description of our need for "self-esteem" and "self-actualization" (1943, 1954). In Theory Y, participative problem solving replaces military-style directives.

McGregor's book, its message well timed to its appearance at the beginning of the liberal 1960s, meets with huge success and becomes a management classic. The more fascinating truth about McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, however, is that the workplace actually requires a creative combination of both points of view in order to function properly (see Fastpaths 1987, Weisbord).


Victor Vroom: Work and Motivation. Helps popularize Kurt Lewin's work in social psychology, organizational development, and motivation (see also Fastpaths 1920 and 1945, Lewin; 1954, Maslow; and 1955, Whyte).


Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey: Management of Organizational Behavior. Excellent summary of management theory including motivation, environment, leadership, situational variables, and overall organizational effectiveness.


Alfred Marrow: The Practical Theorist: The Life and Work of Kurt Lewin


Tom Peters and Bob Waterman: In Search of Excellence. Kicks off the management guru wave of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The book, by two former McKinsey consultants, preached "stay close to the customer and create customer-value, stick to your knitting," etc.


Rosabeth Kanter: The Change Masters. Studies of entrepreneurship inside large corporations.


Ken Blanchard: Leadership and the One-Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership.


Marvin Weisbord: Productive Workplaces. An extraordinarily readable account of the rise of human relations management and organizational development.


William Rothwell: Practicing Organization Development.

See also Hawthorne Effect Management Theory, Process-Centered Organizational Development