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Chris Argyris was basically a psychologist who studied organisation from the stand point of psychology. He has dwelt on length on the social and psychological needs of the organisation and the demands of an organisation.Chris Argyris has extensively applied the research findings of psychology, social psychology and human relations in the study of organisations. He studied the organisations both in the field of business administration and public administration.Major works of Chris Argyris are Personality and Organisation (1957), Understanding Organisational Behaviour (1960), Interpersonal Competence and Organisational Effectiveness (1964), Organisation and Innovation (1965) and Overcoming Organisational Defence (1990).

Chris Argyris has viewed organisation as an open system and has analysed the interactions between the organisation & the individual and between the organisation & the external environment. According to him classically the techniques employed by management produce counter-productive consequences. These techniques are employed to enforce the norms of formal pyramidal organisation which lays stress on rigid rules of high productivity. Argyris proves that the personal development of members of the organisation is shaped by the culture existing in the organisation. Views of Chris Argyris are discussed under the following heads below:

Human Personality and the Organisation

  • According to Argyris, the human personality affects the organisation very much. Each member of the organisation has his own needs and these needs to be satisfied for keeping the individual happy. The satisfaction of these needs generates “psychological energy*. The more the psychological energy the more is the satisfaction of the individual. According to him, only through the release of psychological energy and better co- ordination of the employees does the organisation reach higher performance.

    Chris Argyris argues that the organisational management should provide a culture in which the members of the organisation may develop their personalities from a state of “infancy” to a state of “psychological maturity’’. This personality model of Argyris is a great contribution to the behavioural approach in the organisational theory. There are seven developments for this movement from infancy to maturity:
    From infant passivity towards adult activity

  • From dependence towards relative independence
  • From limited behaviours to many different behaviours
  • From erratic, shallow and brief interests to more stable and deeper interest
  • From short-time perspective to longer-time perspective
  •  From a subordinate social position to an equal or super-ordinate social position
  • From lack of self-awareness to self-awareness and self-control
    • He does not remain forward looking and innovative
    • He becomes resistant to new initiative
    • He becomes concerned about his own work difficulties only

When the individual behaves in the above manner, the management becomes still more directive which further alienates the individual from ‘participating’ in the decisions. These control systems of the organisation such as cost accounting and work study etc. are seen as punishment by the employees. This culture of the organisation creates lack of trust among the employees and between the employees and the management.

Hence the principles of formal organisation, management control system and lack of participation of employees in the decision making system of the organisation hamper the creativity and innovativeness of the employees and they are dissatisfied at the work place.

The impacts of the formal organisation practices on the personality of individual are summarized below:

    • The incongruency between the needs of the individual and demands of the organisation proves to the individual that he cannot pursue his personal interests with organisational objectives. The “self-actualization” need of the individual and the demand of psychological “infancy” from the organisation become at loggerheads.
    • The above situation compels the individual to think in terms of leaving the job, ignoring the organisational needs and taking leave without informing. This leads to conflicts and tensions which may lead to organisational problem
    • Employees become frustrated. They lose hope for a healthy existence in the organisation.
    • The management reaction to the behaviours of employees creates a feeling of “psychological failure” in the employees which results in loss of self confidence, interest in work, a tendency to blame others for their mistakes and so on.

To reduce the conflict between the management and the employees, informal organisations are born in the organisation. This reduces the frustration of the employees; provides a way of expressing their feelings against the management control programmes, demands of organisation & the ‘pseudo’ human relations programmes of the management; creates a ‘psychological shelter’ for the employees in the competitive environment of the organisation which is created in the very own culture of the employee and creates stability for the employee while he adjusts to the organisational reality. However Argyris is also aware of the problems which may stem from the existence of informal organisations and says that their creation may create problems also for the employees & could be a source of tension for them.

Solutions to Reduce Tensions between the Individual and Formal Organisation

Some of the remedies to reduce the conflicts between the individual and the formal organisation due to the reasons mentioned above are:

    • Management should concentrate on “job enrichment”. The diversity and content of the job should be increased. This will create an interest of the employees in the job, motivate them to take more responsibility and increase their level of satisfaction
    • A culture of participative management should be imbibed in the organisation. The management should identify the “mature” individuals to take on the leadership positions.
    • Management should develop “reality” leadership which is based on the honest & frank discussion among the employees & the management regarding their strengths and weaknesses.

Form of Future Organisations

Chris Argyris seeks to develop “flat organisations” abandoning the present “pyramidal organisations”. These new organisations will integrate the individual development with the organisational objectives. He suggests different organisations for different purposes. According to him, the future organisations would be a mix of traditional and modern forms. Different forms of organisations according to him are:

Pyramidal Structure

This type of structure is suited for the organisations which perform routine, non- innovative type of tasks requiring low commitment from the employees.

Adapted Formal Organisational Structure

This type of structure is similar to the Linking Pin structure proposed by Rensis Likert, It promotes participation of the employees.

Defined but Participative Structure

In this type of structure though there exist equal opportunities for the employees still they can be subjected for more control in their areas of operation. It may be use for inter­departmental operations and for new product development etc.

Matrix Organisation Structure

The basic feature of matrix organisations is that absence of superior-subordinate relationship and its replacement with the self-disciplined individuals. There is more participation in decision making for the employees. They have responsibility and power in their own areas of operation. “Project Teams” formed for carrying out specific activities perform the managerial functions and the members of the team are in charge of their respective areas.

The future organisation according to Argyris will be like the classical organisation but its leadership will be matrix based more on the power of ideas, competence, information, skill and expertise and less on the formal power.

T Group or Sensitivity Training

The aim of the management, according to Argyris, should be on the full development of the potentialities of its employees. For this he emphasises relevant training for the employees which may sensitise them towards their work situation and their personality. He gave the concept of T group method or sensitivity training for this.

T group method is designed to prepare employees for effective group functioning. It increases the inter-personal competence, psychological energy and the self esteem of the employees. It is a sort of laboratory training designed to create “reality” leaders. This programme enables the employees to see their style of leadership & its consequences and to get feedback for improvement or change. This type of training is not conducted in the classical hierarchial fashion but more distributive style.

Critical Evaluation of Argyris

Argyris’ ideas have been criticised on the following grounds:

    1. The concept of self-actualization according to Argyris is regarded as just a utopia according to many thinkers such as Herbert Simon who calls it anarchy.
    • Argyris’ assumption that people am basically opposed to authonty is disputed by many. Many employees may not like to be interested self-actualization and may prefer to be under directive leadership only.
    • If the basic differences exist between the management and the employees then techniques such as T-group methods cannot help. They only maintain status-quo.

Notwithstanding these criticisms, Argyris has made a great contribution towards understanding human behaviour and changing the leadership style in consonance with the needs of the individuals. He emphasised that management should evolve a strategy so that the employees as well as the organisation may lead a healthy life. Argyris believed that the management finally it will be realized that management cannot develop the interpersonal competence of the individuals, they can develop only on their own Management can develop only the climate and opportunities for the employees and the people. It was the uniqueness of his thoughts that he considered individuals and the organisation as inter-penetrating and not inter-related to each other.

According to Argyris, individual behaviour, small group behaviour and the inter-group behaviour formed the organisational whole He made an important point by emphasising hat the behaviouralists such as Simon had made a mistake by leaving the important dimensions such human personality, inter-personal competence and need for self- actualisation etc. For preventing the authoritarianism and de-humanistic approach of the organisations, Argyris has concentrated on the following four core areas:

    • Organisational climate should be such as to develop the personality and psychological maturity of the individual.
    • The inter-personal competence of the employees should be improved
    • The traditional pyramidal form of organisation should be changed into flat organisation
    • Programmed learning aimed at the individual change should be started

The biggest success of Argyris has been to point out that the management strategies Pursued by organisations are basically at odds with the psychological “maturing” of the employees which is the root cause of so many problems

Public Administration by G.Rajput

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