Theory P and Q

Do you know about Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and theory?

How about Theory P and Theory Q?

Just in case they’re new to you, Theory X managers assume that “workers” are lazy and can’t be trusted, and treat them accordingly, whereas Theory Y managers assume workers are self-motivated, good people, and they treat them accordingly.  See below for more detailed descriptions*.

You can imagine that, in Agile (or anywhere actually) we’d like it if most managers had lovely Theory Y thoughts running through their heads.

Well, lately I’ve been developing two similar theories: theory P and theory Q.

Theyre not about managers. They’re about workers and the theories they have in their heads concerning managers.

  • Theory P workers think managers are stupid and out to get them, to exploit them, to bully them. They behave accordingly.
  • Theory Q workers think managers are clever, but have hard jobs, and try to do their best. They behave accordingly.  

You can can imagine that Agile is much easier to adopt with more Theory Q folk in the building.


Here’s the big question: How do you get more Theory Y and Q people working in the building?  



* From Wikipedia:  

  • Theory X is based on pessimistic assumptions regarding the typical worker. This management style supposes that the typical employee has little to no ambition, shies away from work or responsibilities, and is individual-goal oriented. Generally, Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent than the managers are, lazier than the managers are, or work solely for a sustainable income. Due to these assumptions, Theory X concludes the typical workforce operates more efficiently under a "hands-on" approach to management.
  • In contrast, Theory Y managers act on the belief that people in the work force are internally motivated, enjoy their labor in the company, and work to better themselves without a direct "reward" in return. Theory Y employees are considered to be one of the most valuable assets to the company, and truly drive the internal workings of the corporation. Also, Theory Y states that these particular employees thrive on challenges that they may face, and relish on bettering their personal performance. Workers additionally tend to take full responsibility for their work and do not require the need of constant supervision in order to create a quality and higher standard product. 


clarke ching2 Comments