Gary K. Clabaugh, Professor Emeritus, La Salle University

Too often we ignore or soft-pedal the importance of school management style. Yet managerial assumptions shape nearly everything that happens. So here is a way to classify schools that focuses on these all-important managerial assumptions.

In a classic 20th Century paper, Douglass McGregor sets out contrasts between two organizational archetypes. They are based on organizational leadership’s operative assumptions about human nature. William Ouchi, examining successful Japanese corporations, later added a third archetype. It focuses not only on human nature, but how management views organizational responsibility. We will address all three.

Here are all three of these ideal types. Remember, these are idealizations; and, as such, real world examples typically fall a bit short. 

Ideal Type X: Here the premise is that the people in the organization are, for the most part, work-shy and need compulsion to work effectively. When given the chance, they shirk responsibility. They also lack ambition but value security. At bottom, they just 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.

Where does the school you’re interested in fit? And which of these school types would you prefer attending or working for? It really can make all the difference in terms of whether you will be happy there.