You are going to read an article about Elliot Jaques, a management theorist. For each question, choose the answer which you think fits best according to the text.
Controversial management theorist who extolled the virtues of hierarchy and coined the term “midlife crisis”.
Elliot Jaques, who died on March 8 aged 86, applied the disciplines of psychology to theories of organisational structure, management and leadership; he was a founding member of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and founder and head of the Social Sciences Department at Brunel University. In 1952, Jaques, a Canadian-born psychologist and psychiatrist, was hired by the Glacier Metal Company to help them improve management-workforce relations. In the course of his research, a supervisor at the company asked him whether it was significant that shop floor workers were paid by the hour while executives were paid an annual salary. The question turned his mind to the issue of the significance of what he called “time-span autonomy” in determining the individual’s position in the workplace hierarchy.
Jaques suggested that, at the lowest level, most work is routine, suitable for people who can cope with a time span between the initiation and completion of a task of between one day to three months. Above this, some workers are capable of planning and carrying out tasks that take three months to a year and are suited to a line management role. A smaller group, capable of one-to-two-year assignments, should serve as department leaders. General managers should be able to handle two to five-year projects, and division heads five to 10-year strategies. Chief Executive Officers should be able to think in terms of 10 to 20 years.
Jaques developed tests to measure employees’ capabilities and potential to move from lower to higher “time frames”; and he showed how these time frames could be used as a way of grading the inherent value of a job and setting “fair” rates of pay. Jaques’s “Glacier investigations” have had an immense impact on management theory and he incorporated his findings into what he called a “Stratified Systems Theory” of “requisite organisation”, which provided a link between a theory of organisations and social theory, to explain the rationale behind the management chart.
Hierarchy, Jaques suggested, is a natural form of social organisation that has evolved as an elegant solution to the problem of integrating the individual efforts of people of diverse capability and skills. A feature of hierarchy, in all cultures and at every level of education or civilisation, is that there is only a small number of people with the long-term vision necessary to lead. Though details may vary between different organisations, a well-managed organisation will adopt a structure which reflects employees’ abilities to handle long-range assignments and the types of judgment needed at different levels of management. A characteristic of such organisations is that there are clearly demarcated levels of authority and accountability and management structures will taper to a few people with leadership qualities at the top. Without such a structure, Jaques argued, an organisation can never expect to succeed in the long term. Attractive products and services or a highly creative leadership might give a short-term competitive edge, but long-term success and survival depends upon effective organisation which ensures that the right people continue to be deployed at the right level in the right kind of work.
Jaques’s theory challenged the attitudes of managers who justify organisational hierarchies on the grounds that “we’ve always done it this way”. But he was accused of elitism, even “managerial fascism”, by management theorists who stress the importance of teamwork, employee participation, “downsizing” and the removal of management layers. Some business school professors even prohibited students from discussing Jaques’s work in their classes. Jaques believed that such “touchy-feely” approaches to management were not merely misguided, but dangerously wrong; he attributed some of the well-publicised failures among the new “dotcoms”, for example, to the modern obsession with flatter, more “democratic” models of management.
Elliott Jaques was born on January 18 1917, in Toronto, Canada. He took a science degree from the University of Toronto in 1935, a medical degree from Johns Hopkins Medical School at the age of 23, then a doctorate in social relations from Harvard University. During the Second World War, Jaques served in London as a Major in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and acted as liaison to the Psychiatry Division of the British Army War Officer Selection Board. His Army work, combined with his clinical studies, gave him an interest in how people and organisations develop and interact. He remained in England after the war, working with the Austrian psychoanalyst Melanie Klein and qualifying as a psychoanalyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society.
In 1946 he became a founder member of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, a research organisation that studies human relations and promotes the health and effectiveness of individuals and groups. In 1964, he founded the School of Social Sciences at Brunel University where he became a professor and head of the school, and of its Research Institute of Organisational Studies.
Jaques worked as a consultant for many companies and organisations throughout Europe, Australia and America; his clients included the Church of England and the US Army. In 1982 he was presented with the Joint Staff Certificate of Appreciation by Colin Powell for his “outstanding contributions in the field of military leadership theory and instruction to all of the service departments of the United States”.
Jaques wrote more than 20 books, including General Theory of Bureaucracy (1976), Requisite Organisation (1996) and Human Capability (1994, co-written with his wife Kathryn Cason). He is widely credited with coining the phrase “midlife crisis”—in a paper published in 1965 on the working patterns of creative geniuses. Examining the careers of a number of composers and artists, he detected abrupt changes in style or declines in productivity around the age of 35 and suggested that a critical transition begins at around this age, not only in creative geniuses, but in some form in everyone. He described the process as “the adult encounter with the conception of life to be lived in the setting of an approaching personal death”.
Jaques was a founding fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry and retired from Brunel in 1980. In 1991 he left London and settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He became research professor in Management Science at George Washington University, Washington DC, and, in 1999, he established the Requisite Organization International Institute in Massachusetts, an educational and research group. He is survived by his wife Kathryn and by a son and two daughters.