Evaluating Earlier Models >>Model II-behavior and norms  

Model II-behavior and norms

Chris Argyris starts his research end sixties/beginning seventies of the last century with the ideas of Douglas Mc Gregor. As with Mc Gregor Argyris finds that the majority of managers are X-managers, their behavior lead by X-norms. His researchfindings show over and over again that managers and consultants have stories to tell about their ways, views, norms, micro-theories of managing and consulting (their espoused theories of action), and that in about 80% of these cases there is a significant difference between these espoused theories of action and their factual theories of action: i.e. their theories in use. When interviewed their stories prove constructed the socially more acclaimed Y-way, but in practice they act the X-way.
The inconsistency between espoused theory-of-action and theory-in-use means that the factual effectivity of these managers with regard to their self set goals is far lower than they themselves assume. This messages to managers: seriously observe the effects of your behavior and become conscious of the norms that factually regulate your behavior.

Furthermore Argyris found proof that a vast majority of the above indicated 80%-group has no conscious knowledge of their inconsistency: they honestly think they factually act and interact with colleques and workers in conformity with their espoused theories. How to explain these important findings that message us that fundamental behavioral change is in many cases so hard to achieve ? Traditionally  speculative assumptions to explain this phenomenon come from a field close to psychotherapy: one can for instance argue that even the idea of surfacing this inconsistency is perceived by many managers as threathening, say for their integrity, their selfimage or their presentation of self in organisation, community and their family or for another important personal reason. We believe this is true in many cases, but there is also another line of explanation possible: when you come from a cultural or parental tradition where reflection upon behavior was far from stimulated a manager lacks the tools and the experience nor does he have an internalised oriŽntation to look at the effects of his behavior. Furthermore we have met a lot of managers who do not want to achieve the goal of consistency. They primarily pursue other goals: a career, money or power. Or they are just happy to be able to survive in a managementposition that asks more then they able to deliver. Whatever explanation is valid in an individual situation to explain the inconsistency between espoused theory and theory in use general in all cases helping these individuals become more effective leaders will be very difficult. Great personal commitment is necessary to bring the norms that are in use to the surface. Changing these norms (and by doing so generating more effective managementbehavior) will be no less difficult.

Model I Theory in Use
Argyris - in line with Mc Gregor's X - sees a lot of managers act out of governing variables as:
- define goals and try to achieve them
- maximise winning and minimise losing
- minimise generating or expressing negative feelings
- be rational

This leads to manager actionstrategies that can be described as:
- design and manage the environment unilaterally
- control the task, guard its definition and execution closely yourself
- unilaterally protect yourself by giving little observable data, engaging in rethoric,     blaming, intellectualizing
- unilaterally protect others from being hurt by not confronting directly, by             non-intervention behavior

The results are to name a few: defensive behavior, little helping of others, inconsistent behavior, mistrust, lack of risk taking, conformity, power centered competition, and low freedom of choice. The reader can predict the organisational effects: no well discussed durable decisions, and an organisational culture of non-commitment of workers and blaming, control, top-downrelations by leaders.
Argyris calls the above indicated set of norms, behavior and consequences: Model I Theory in Use. Users of Model I do a lot of single-loop learning. And as with Mc Gregor more-of-the-same-solutions wil be predictable.

Model II Theory in Use
Argyris - and his colleques as for example Don SchŲn - see a possibility for individual managers to use a Model II Theorie in Use. A manager then wants to act from governing variables as:
- searching valid information
- making free and informed choices
- realising internal commitment to the choice and constant monitoring of the        implementation

This leads to manager action strategies that can be described as:
- design situations in wich persons experience high causation/influence
- control the task jointly, bi-laterally, multi-laterally
- jointly protect each other as persons and be oriŽnted towards learning and growth
- bi-laterally protect others

The predictable results become now: minimal defensiveness of manager, minimal unilateral control by manager, minimal defensive groupdynamics, high freedom of choice for all partipants, risk taking takes place, high internal commitment with finan choices and interactionproces, frequent public testing of theories and the assumptions in them. In all this leads to improved organisational effectiveness. Double-looplearning - learning to change the norms behind processes, strategies and visions - creates room for new ideas and real change.

Training managers to be aware of part Model 1- norms and behavior and helping them towards Model II
With the models come a lot of exercises that help individual managers (or consultants) become more aware of their (in-)effectivity and of the norms, micro-theories, assumptions they use in practice and cause this ineffectivity. Argyris uses very often verbatim-texts written by managers or consultants presenting their realised or prospected interactive conversations with the object of their influencing (a co-worker, a chef, a colleque) connetcted with the thoughts the influencer had after and/or before an invention. Most of the time two steps are made in sequence:

1. becoming aware of ineffectivities and most often of their structural causal               factors (see Model I) and

2. trying to engage in more effective verbal communication in training to use               the governing variables and action strategies of Model II. In many of his many         books and articles examples of this training/learning method can be found.

What is our evaluation of the Argyris-model for training leaders and managers to become more consistent and become more effective as managers and leaders ?
On the positive site we do find that for example:

1. the wide array of insights and stimuli given by Argyris to the real world of management have no equal. Focus is completely on what is verifiable of interest for management and organisational practice. There is sharp attack on the non-applicability in organisational practice of many scientific researchfindings. This way of looking at organisational and managerial practice proves itself again and again.

2. the theory on how managers must try to realise consistency, the ways to show managers their unconscious unilateral influencing behavior, acquiring measurable behavior towards multilateral control of a task or situation, realising fully informed choices, learning to communicate to be (very) direct but also mutually protecting persons, etcetera is transparent and directly observable in its positive consequences in real life organisational practice.

3. we seem to see that the changes managers have realised when arriving in the neighborhood of Model II are often very durable: it takes a lot of training, reflecting, experimenting to reach this higher level of communication and interaction. Most important is that new norms have taken the place of old norms and these managers start acting out of these internalised self choosen new norms. And then the changes in the processes of  their organisations are huge: these managers dare to double loop learn with their organisations, create a climate of commitment and stimulate room for authenticity of individuals, and for creativity and growth.

4. the core-messages are relatively easy to understand rationally. It is just a question of having the longing and courage to see reality as it is, to confront your perceived effectiveness with your real effectiveness, daring to reflect on your micro-theories of action and the assumptions that govern them, and investing a lot of time in experimenting. A managers behavioral inadequacies and ineffectiveness present an individual challenge and that (not) wanting to see and change them is each individuals responsability and choice. This is however a trajectory that can not be enforced upon individuals in training.

5. in a training parts of the insights and approach can be presented when situationally effective. It is not necessary to fully disclose/instruct both models and the theory behind them. This adds to the flexibility in practice and makes it possibible to coach individual students along their learningtrajectories by step by step presenting insights from both models.

Although we do cannot give not enough praise, some critical remarks must be given:

1. as indicated by Argyris himself the approach focusses on managers and workers who are able to directly influence results, as in collegial problemsolving. In organisations with a traditionally hierarchical culture much work at lower levels will be protocolised, meaning that the Model II-world in these organisations is restricted to higher or top organisational levels. So the Model II-theory is in general not of use to lower and mid levels of management. Furthermore the Models focus is on processes of decision making in complex issues, especially in bilateral or multilateral (team-)interactions. It does not handle the way simple protocolised tasks have to be given to workers and how these workers are to be coached to higher competencelevels.

2. the higher one intervenes in an organisation the more managers have developed a modus operandi that has brought them to these higher positions. This modus operandi is complex, ambiguous, inconsistent. It must be predictable that an approach that teaches them to redesign - if necessary all - their roots, assumptions, interactions, powergame, their presentation of self etcetera will not be embraced by many. And so it is. As with all normative reeducation it meets a lot of resistance, fear, hesitation or to refrase: defense. This is demonstrated in many of the examples of teamtraining that are presented by authors using the model. For some teammembers the point were their defense wins it from their espoused commitment to experimenting comes early and teamlearning stops. The approach is therefore most effective in educating individual managers, especially those in their beginning stages when experimenting can be done more freely inside the organisation, in their freetime, at home.

3. the distance one has to bridge between Model I and Model II can be for some objectively vast. The farther away one's position is on a line between Model I and Model II, the more difficult it will be to engage and to commit oneself to learning Model II behavior and values, because the amount of learningmaterial one must devore to be succesfull is greater. Succes is a that stage not easy to perceive as a certainty. There are no inbetween milestones that help make measurable step by step progress: it is like being in class 2 and having to jump in one giant step to the higher class 5 (note: in our regions class 1 is lowest, class 6 highest). Organically such a jump can only be tried by the very gifted.
The above is proposed from the wrong assumption that Model I and Model II are of the same quality(-level), as some seem to think. They depart from the assumption that both models behaviors lie on the same continuŁm and that only a relative simple shift on this continuŁm is at stake. In our opinion bridging the gap between Model I and Model II behavior represents a "qualityjump". As does bridging the gap between Mc Gregors X and Y.
For such a jump great commitment and willing to arrive at this higher-other level is prealable. And one must have internalised diametrically different views and norms than those that were used at the "lower" Model I stage of development. Why otherwise jump and invest vast amounts of personal energy ?        
Could this be true then perhaps growth in practice - although of espoused value - becomes even more difficult.

4. the approach demands very skilled trainers who themselves have reached high levels of consistency in norms and behavior. They must have reflected a long time on their own Model I behavior and have been personnally committed to become an living example of a (more) Model II theory in user. There are not many professionals who belong to this league.
And then there is this other ever relevant question in training managers: when a trainer does not has experienced in the full (rationally and emotionally) what it is and how it feels as a manager to be in charge and responsable for organisational results, he cannot bring much authority into the learning situation from reflected upon own practice. He has no own examples of his fight as a manager to master Model II in manageral challenging situations. Models that focus exclusively on behavior 'at the surface' are much easier to work with for a trainer in managementbehavior. This all ads to the exclusivity of effective training of Model II-behavior by managers.

5. the route towards Model II seems paved with excercises helping students to verbally master Model II communicative behavior while also en route trying to change values, norms, micro-theories. We first wonder why this is an often choosen didactical route. Are there no individually or generally more effective and shorter didactical routes to design for students to arrive in this place called Model II. For example: the theory states that norms generate predictable sets of behavior/action strategies. Then the primary imperative should be: focus on the fundamental unfreezing of existing values and on realising a thorough internalisation of new more effective values, norms, managementgoals for interacting. Consistent effective behavior will automatically follow, because one then operates from the intentions of Model II.
Training the use of verbs and sentences to sustain the already internalised values will, I persume, be more effective then when a trainee is engaged in a trajectory that focusses on values equally well as on sentences/verbs. Values are already realised and they then help acquire more effective verbalisations. This predicts faster learning. Furthermore workers wil see as well the consistent intentions of a manager who has internalised the new values as his/hers not yet ideal verbalisations. And especially at these higher organisational levels workers know to value internalised new values that will benefit all and a manager learning to become more verbally effective. This recognition by his workers will help the manager even faster in reaching Model II-behavior: his direct working environment reacts favourably and will even offer complementarily help.

For example: in our view changing from unilaterally to bilaterally controlling a situation or task needs a lot of inwardlooking into the self for part (un-)conscious motives, fears, defenses, self-images, neurotic drives. Why does one not start with focussing on rationally analysing causal-consequence chaines of general management behavior and their effects on organisational effectivity in order to demonstrate the necessity for Model II and create this personal awareness-commitment to the required change ? And once a student is committed to arrive in Model II as his personal goal in (organisational and or private) life why not engage first and foremost in a direct inwardlooking - and for some therapeutic - process, instead of first dealing with timeconsuming symptoms at behavioral levels ?