Broader, more Inclusive, Multi-disciplinary Management Approaches- for better Visioning and Strategies in conducting Science and Technology

By William J. LeGray, of CBLG Associates, March 11, 2011.

Scientists are the stewards of our known knowledge. And, when they discover new knowledge within the shadows and darkness of the unknown, they “broaden, and enlarge” the expanse of our known knowledge- for teaching, experiential learning, and developing practical applications (i.e. our technologies). Scientists are generally more freely roaming, and able to think more independently (regarding specific disciplines), so they are better able to absorb, explain, and teach observed realities. By being able to speak and discuss subjects more freely, they can more effectively increase, and broaden, our collective understandings and competencies for achievement and excellence.

Keith Glennan was responsible for administering brand new “leading wave fronts” (in science, engineering and technology), more than once, during his illustrious career. He was the first Administrator of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and also of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Subsequently, with learned insightfulness, he became the first University President to originate an Organizational Behavior (OB) academic program within an Institute of Technology- to evolve more knowledge and practices to make “broader and more inclusive” technology management approaches more available.

The last section of BILL’S JOURNAL (032709) in BoxNet on his LinkedIn Profile (go to ) provides a review of
KEITH GLENNAN’S VISIONS FOR A “BROAD & INCLUSIVE (MULTI-DISCIPLINARY), MGT TECHNOLOGY” ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE. And, in a private correspondence, he summarized his inspirations as being related to desires for a more “broad” education, so that our collective understandings and competencies would grow and foster yet greater achievements and excellence.

To launch the new OB Program, Keith recruited Herbert Shepard, an Economics doctoral graduate from MIT, but also someone who went there especially to study with Kurt Lewin- a leading Social Scientist- who had led in identifying interactive philosophies that enhanced closer interpersonal relationships for fostering creative and problem=solving approaches. (The connection to Economics should be obvious because the fresh thinking and mindfulness involved inspired greater productivity within workplaces).

And, when the OB Program was about to be a reality, Herb already had been authoring papers for a multitude of Journals, and had engaged in several speaking Conferences at a multitude of workplaces around the world. Herb’s “Bibliography about Research Organizations” includes at least 40 different “thoughtful subjects” for enhanced competencies. Further, Keith was acquainted with Herb’s abilities because of Herb’s consulting with various NASA managers (during his term, there).

There is more to the background about Herb’s studies that made him eligible for creating an OB Program. Historically, there have been two threads for developing management approaches- the first were off springs from Frederick Taylor who wrote “Principles of Scientific Management (1915)”, and the second were from Douglas MacGregor who wrote “The Human Side of Enterprise (1960).” And, it was Douglas, who was a Social Psychology doctoral graduate from Harvard in 1935 who eventually turned the “scientific management” tide with regard to human resources development- especially with regard to matters pertaining to the management of technology.

Why? Because, in 1937, he went to MIT where he helped to establish the Industrial Relations Section. And, in 1946, he helped Kurt Lewin establish the Research Center for Group Dynamics, and promulgated the dissemination of related findings for the rest of his years in teaching. Further, Douglas MacGregor and Kurt Lewin, at MIT, had many connections with the thoughts and actions of the founders of the newer Socio-technical theories and applications- in particular with Eric Trist who studied at Harvard.

Douglas did a lot of consulting with companies as one of the first psychologists to emphasize the congruency of personnel policies between people and the systems and procedures of the organization. At General Mills, while implementing a bottom up change effort (having no previous management precedent), he, with Richard Beckhard (a natural at consulting from the entertainment industry) coined the term “Organization Development (OD). ” (Note: most of this history was documented by Marv Weisbord in his “Productive Workplaces”, along with some of my own sources and recollections.)

I, too, began in these footsteps of Douglas MacGregor, Herb Shepard, and Robert Blake. Herb and Bob were the first two specifically trained OD practitioners to be recommended by Douglas MacGregor to work as “internals” in industry at Esso’s (formerly Standard Oil’s) Bayway Refining facility. And, in February 1958, Herb wrote about the “Consultant Role versus the Staff Role at Bayway.”

In 1964, on an airplane trip from Washington D.C. to Cleveland, I loaned Herb’s autographed copy of MacGregor’s “The Human Side of Enterprise” for review, while seated with the Deputy Director of NASA’s Lewis Research Center. I’d been on assignment as an OB Intern at NASA Headquarters for the Summer. My enthusiasm reflected the same “Ph.D. graduate based spirit” shared by the student colleagues at MIT. I was just at the beginnings of my journey along the social psychology, group dynamics, socio-technical path as others hired by Keith Glennan.

Somehow, confusions were aroused about people graduating from the new OB Programs, and even at MIT the trend became split away from it’s true beginnings by the fostering of a “separateness” to disallow any, and mostly important, explorations of the duality nature of the “socio-technical.” Perhaps, it began in 1946, one Summer evening when Kurt Lewin and participants discovered the potentials of process reviews and feedback for learning (while off-site). And/or, subsequently, when Kurt obtained a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to establish Summer workshops in Bethel Maine. Thereafter, many people went to groups away from the workplaces, where loosening and freely speaking and thinking seemed more feasible. But, there were always the challenges of “bridging back” into the workplace situations for many.

I agree with the original thrust of the “socio-technical” perceptions that, at least someone, or a few, should embrace the holistic structure and consequent behavior of the “socio-technical for responsible action and safety”, and that this cadre (at least) should be encouraged and allowed to comment regarding relevant discoveries and findings.

Reflecting more about these “splitting influences”, other OB advisors, for example, have discouraged, or challenged associates, not to embrace and promulgate structural models and rules and guidelines for organizing effectively. And, such behaviors appear more prevalent in our country versus other countries, which have evolved the principles of the “socio-technical” with great refinement from our own positive human psychoanalytic considerations.

However, the thread of the first “socio-technical”- from Eric Trist at Tavistock in the UK, and Elliott Jacques at Wilfred Brown’s Glacier Metals Company in Australia- has continuously grown world wide, mostly with our country being an exception. The GO Society in Canada, under the leadership of Ken Shepard and Herb Craddock is perhaps the best example.

The greatest dispute regarding these suggestions about “the splitting” is the work of Robert Blake who with Jane Mouton wrote “The Managerial Grid” reflecting the iron fist authoritarian approach versus the human considerate approaches. But, this work, also, appeared to stray away from relating to peoples intentions at work in our workplaces to becoming focused more on human interactions as they affect the successful performance of group and team tasks. Note: Robert Blake sent me documents reflecting his Bibliography, and the projects which were undertaken over the years. So this additional basis for continuing discovery regarding the “socio- technical” is also available.

Further, it was significant that Bob Blake, Jane Mouton, and Herb Shepard coauthored “Managing Inter-group Conflict in Industry” in 1964. And, there are reasons to strongly suggest “the same” goes for Conflicts in Higher Education. Perhaps, the “socio-technical” models which have been created and used by a few represent well the “spirit of liberated managers and employees” for Excellence, and these approaches should be nurtured and encouraged more- going into the future.

To complete this Blog, for posterity, I will condense information contained within the Bibliographies from Herb Shepard and Bob Blake, to be used with the “experienced need statements” of Keith Glennan. All of these inputs, which were created in good faith, along with my own writings and reported outcomes, could be a basis for a fresh start.

And, then, hopefully other more authentic investigators might lead OD practitioners into a better, more acceptable, future. Hopefully, the spirit of the “dualities regarding the socio-technical” (for safe and responsible actions) can become married (amalgamated together), and will be forever embraced and spawn continuing advantages.

It may require a ground swell approach for the emphasis and changes required, but the other way (from top down is faster, while perhaps not as lasting). At this time it may be a balancing act which comes first.


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