Gary K. Clabaugh, Professor Emeritus, La Salle University

Too often we ignore or soft-pedal the importance of school management style. Yet assumptions about the staff shape nearly everything that happens. Here is a way to classify schools, focusing on these all-important assumptions.

In a classic paper, Douglass McGregor sets out contrasts between two organizational archetypes. It is based on operative organizational assumptions about human nature. William Ouchi, examining successful Japanese corporations, later added a third archetype. It focuses on how the organization views itself. Here is a summary of all three of these ideal types. Remember, these are idealizations. Where does the school you’re interested in fit?

Ideal Type X: This school is based on the premise that people in the organization are lazy and need compulsion to work effectively. When given the opportunity, they shirk responsibility. They typically lack ambition but value security. And, at bottom, they really want to be told what to do.

Ideal Type Y: Here the school is organized around the central idea that people find work natural. Plus, if they are committed to the organization, it is assumed they will show initiative, self control and self-direction. It is also thought that organization members generally welcome responsibility and value creativity.

Ideal Type Z: This ideal type of school features the same presuppositions about human nature as Ideal Type Y. The difference involves the locus of commitment. Ideal types X and Y focus on the need for people to commit to the organization. Ideal type Z focuses on the importance of the organization committing to the people within it.