Weisbord’s early journey and some HRD history

ADLT 620 – HRD Overview – Session 3

I really enjoy reading Weisbord’s stories of how his learning about learning in the workplace started. The stories bring all the theory alive, make it relevant, paint a picture of what really happens when you put something into action. There seems to be always the unexpected odd thing/situation/event that requires adapting to. The fact that the situation at his family’s printing company became such that a wall was built to separate people. It seems extreme, but he allowed it because he was shifting to a more participative approach. And later, the wall came down when the work redesign and teams really began to go smoothly.

I think one thing that struck me was that  Weisboard considers that we all have both Theory X and Y within us. X being a tendency towards laziness and incompetence. Y being self-motivated to learn, grow and develop one’s potential.

And then there is Taylor, father of scientific management. Ah… applying the machine model to life at work. The worker is dumb and just needs to be told what to do to be more efficient which the engineer determines and then puts on a work card. Efficiency, production, pay for what work you do. I am struck that many things about Taylor actually made some conditions better at the work places of the time. There was also the key point that he always brought the workers into the picture before a new system was implemented and actually worked with them to make it happen.

However, it seems quite obvious now that he totally left out the human aspect of the worker – didn’t consider that a worker could learn, or even had learned anything that might contribute to the overall work, or the social aspects of the workplace. And the impact of Taylorism or Theory X still runs through many organizations, and I think as Weisboard says, it runs through each of us to some degree or another. I was struck how Taylor avoided conflict, but then he seemed to have extreme demands about implementing his system and seemed to have had his spells of being angry at management in some of the companies he worked with. But then, examining the psychology of the self had not started yet and so, he seemed to be missing some tools and resources that later practitioners in the same field had available.


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