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Robert R Blake and Jane S Mouton: the Managerial Grid [c].

Robert R. Blake and Jane Srygley Mouton worked together at the psychology department of the University of Texas during the 1950s and 1960s. They are known primarily for the development of the "Managerial Grid" as a framework for understanding managerial behaviour. They subsequently set up a company, Scientific Methods Inc., to disseminate their ideas on organisational development and management effectiveness.

Lives and careers

Blake was born in 1918 and studied psychology at Berea College, University of Virginia, where he took his M.A. in 1941, then at the University of Texas at Austin, where he took his Ph.D. in 1947. He stayed at the University of Texas as a professor until 1964, receiving an LL.D in 1992.

Jane Mouton studied pure mathematics and physics at the University of Texas and received an M.A. in psychology from Florida State University in 1951 and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1957. Blake and Mouton developed the concept of the Managerial Grid while working together at the University of Texas, and their ideas were tested and developed through the implementation of an organisational development programme in the American oil corporation Exxon.

In 1955, Blake and Mouton founded Scientific Methods Inc. to provide consultancy services based on the workplace application of ideas from behavioural science. The company was formally incorporated in 1961, and grew to offer Grid-based Organisation Development and consultancy programmes in the areas of individual learning, team development, conflict resolution and strategic modelling in over 30 countries worldwide.

Blake and Mouton's collaboration continued until Jane Mouton's death in 1987. They have published numerous articles and about 40 books describing their theories and applying them in a variety of contexts. Dr. Blake also lectured at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge, and worked on special projects as a

Fulbright Scholar at the Tavistock Clinic in London. In 1997, Dr. Robert Blake and the estate of Jane S. Mouton sold Scientific Methods to a long-time Grid Associate. The company was renamed Grid International Inc., and still promotes Grid Organisation Development around the world. Dr. Blake remained involved with the company as an associate up until his death in 2004.

The Managerial Grid

Blake and Mouton set out to apply the ideas of behavioural scientists such as Rensis Likert to the practice of management. They built on studies conducted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan in the 1940s which attempted to identify the behavioural characteristics of successful leaders. Blake and Mouton identified two fundamental drivers of managerial behaviour as concern for getting the job done, and concern for the people doing the work. They argued that, on the one hand, an exclusive concern for production at the expense of the needs of those engaged in production leads to dissatisfaction and conflict, thus adversely affecting performance; but that, on the other hand, an excessive concern to avoid conflict and maintain good relationships is also detrimental to the achievement of goals and objectives.

In order to provide a framework for describing management behaviours, the two variables of "concern for production" and "concern for people" were plotted on a grid showing nine degrees of concern for each, from 1 indicating a low level of concern, to 9 indicating a high level of concern. Five positions on the grid represent five differing managerial behaviour patterns.


The bottom right corner of the grid represents a 9,1 style of management--maximum concern for the efficient accomplishment of tasks, but minimum concern for human relationships. This pattern corresponds to the traditional authority-based style of command and control management. The 1,9 position at the top left, in contrast, focuses on human relations at the cost of efficient production, and has been called the "country club" style of management. 1,1 management--minimum concern for either production or people--is characterised by a desire to avoid responsibility, and exert minimum effort. The 5,5 manager attempts to maintain a balance between both concerns, but 9,9 management, which integrates maximum attention to both people and production, is put forward as the most effective approach.

As a further refinement to Grid theory, additional managerial styles combining two or more of the basic styles are identified. For example, paternalism is defined as 9,1-1,9 management where the manager swings between two extremes. There is a need to control and dominate and resistance is met with reprimand. At the other extreme compliance is reinforced by recognition and appreciation.

Grid Organisation Development programmes (Grid OD)

While the Managerial Grid was considered useful in helping managers to understand their own behaviour patterns it was recognised that only so much could be achieved through individual management development, and that problems needed to be addressed at work group and organisational level. Consequently, Grid theory was used as a starting point for the development of organisation development programmes designed to enhance managerial effectiveness, resolve conflict and develop teamwork within the organisation.

The programmes follow a six-phase approach:

1. Grid seminar

2. Team development

3. Inter-group development

4. Goal setting and strategy development

5. Implementation

6. Stabilisation

The Grid seminar generates awareness of how personal behaviours have an impact on others in the workplace. Participants learn and practise specific skills in teams, and engage in a structured critique that measures activity results on several levels. The skills are commonsense ones in any workplace, and include, for example, the best ways to take initiative, resolve conflict, or make sound decisions. Participants use Grid theory to clarify personal values and attitudes regarding behaviours, and then work in teams to complete structured activities under time and performance pressures. The seminar is over 90 per cent experiential, placing the responsibility for learning, practice, and change into the hands of participants. This level of team involvement and responsibility is found to make the learning effective and lasting.

Phases two and three focus on problem solving and conflict resolution, both within and between work groups. A major concern is to enable teams to develop the ability to work together towards a common goal in a synergistic way. In phase four the focus moves to reaching agreement on broader, organisation-wide goals. Planned changes are implemented in phase five and in the final phase progress is monitored, to ensure that the changes continue in the workplace, and are consolidated and stabilised. This programme is applied throughout the organisation at all levels, and in large organisations the process may take three to five years to complete. In the course of the programme the focus moves from the behaviour of individual managers to the effectiveness of work groups and teams, and the involvement of the whole organisation.

Over the years the concepts and principles of Grid Organisation Development were refined and applied in a variety of different fields. Several new editions of The Managerial Grid(c) were published, as well as books covering the use of Grid programmes in areas such as sales management, academic administration, real estate, social work, medicine and even marriage. More recent publications emphasised the application of Grid principles to areas of topical interest such as team-building, change and stress management.


Blake and Mouton also developed their own educational theories on how best to teach Grid theories and concepts in the work group context. These are described in the book Synergogy published in 1984. The term 'synergogy' was coined by Blake and Mouton, and describes a systematic approach to learning that leads team members to learn from each other in a co-operative and participative way. Synergogy, defined as "working together for shared teaching", was contrasted to pedagogy, where instruction is given by a teacher, and andragogy, where the teacher acts as a facilitator. Four synergogic learning designs were developed to provide a structure for the process of learning. The 'Team Effectiveness Design' and the 'Team Member Teaching Design' relate to the acquisition of knowledge. The 'Performance Judging Design' relates to the development of skills. Lastly, the 'Clarifying Attitudes Design' concerns awareness and development of appropriate attitudes. Techniques employed include individual preparation, presentations, multiple choice and true/false tests and team discussion. The role of the learning administrator is limited to making sure that the learning design is effectively implemented. These methods were first used by Blake and Mouton to teach university courses but were later adapted to workplace training sessions.

In perspective

The Grid is regarded as one of the first attempts to define appropriate management behaviours. Blake and Mouton's approach to organisation development focuses on human behavioural processes rather than technological and structural aspects of organisations. There is an underlying supposition that a single, universally-applicable leadership style will fit all situations.

The theoretical basis of Blake and Moutons' approach has sometimes been questioned, and critics have pointed to a lack of substantial research evidence for the effectiveness of Grid Organisation Development programmes. Testimonial evidence, however, is not lacking and Grid programmes continue to have widespread appeal. Over two million copies of Grid publications have been sold, and Grid programmes have been implemented in world-class companies, such as BP and ICI. The Grid concept has helped managers to grasp the ideas being presented, and the direct practical approach embodied in Grid development programmes has made them more accessible than theoretical approaches.

Blake and Moutons' ideas focus on the behaviour of individual managers, and have been presented as embodying commonsense wisdom. These factors have undoubtedly helped them to gain acceptance, and their influence has been substantial in Europe, Asia and North America. Their success, however, is often seen as due more to their marketing expertise than to the originality of their ideas.

The development and promotion of the Grid Seminar represents a key stage in the history of promoting management ideas, and is a prime example of the role of packaging and branding. Scientific Methods Inc. successfully segmented the market for organisation development with the application of the Grid principles in a variety of sectors.

Key works by Blake and Mouton

The editions cited here are those held in, and available for loan to members from, the Chartered Management Institute's Management Information Centre. These may not always be the first edition.

The managerial grid: key orientations for achieving production through people

Houston, Texas: Gulf, 1964

Corporate excellence through grid organisation development

Houston, Texas: Gulf, 1968

Synergogy: a new strategy for education, training and development

San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey Bass, 1984

Spectacular teamwork: how to develop the leadership skills for team success, with Robert L Allen

London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1987

Change by design, with Anne Adams McCanse

Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1989
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Date:Jun 1, 2006
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