Managerial Grid

Robert Blake and Jane Mouton believe that management exists to encourage efficiency and performance, creativity, experimentation and innovation, and learning from colleagues. This needs teaching and learning. It combines an approach for people and an approach for production and was formulated into a grid applied around the world and in many business departments, as well as organisations which have a production of some sort but may not usually be counted as businesses. Indeed different organisations can ask themselves where abouts in the grid should they be aiming their own management approaches. The grid itself suggests that management is best at a 9,9 co-ordinates, where both people and production concerns are fully addressed, but a question is whether this is always appropriate, either all the time or at different times.

Managerial grid x axis is approach geared for production, y axis is approach geared for people

9,1: Country club management
Production is incidental to lack of conflict and good fellowship.
  9,9: Team management
Production is from integration of task and human requirements.
5,5: Dampened pendulum (middle of the road)
Push for production but not all out giving space and being fair but firm.
1,1: Impoverished management
Effective production is unobtainable because people are lazy, apathetic, and indifferent and also sound and mature relationships are impossible because human nature inevitably leads to conflict.
1,9: Task management
People are a commodity, just like machines. A manager's responsibility is to plan, direct and control the work of subordinates.

A 9 by 9 grid is suggested, with degrees of variation, but five positions are given as a matter of simplicity.

Production means what ever the organisation is supposed to be doing. Each department has its own task to which it should be dedicated. People means all the human relations goals set out by an organisation, including commitment to equal opportunities, personal commitment, respect and proper procedures.

The grid relates to organisations as a whole and to managements within them both as teams and individuals. Management may vary for a variety of reasons, such as individual personalities, but an organisation should properly attempt to guide appropriate management. This is itself a production and people matter.

Another simplified way to look at this is see which tendency managers gravitate towards, perhaps via a questionnaire process as part of training (see below):

1,9: Country Club 9,9: Team Leader
1,1: Impoverished 9,1: Authoritarian

1,9 management has been called country club management in that it concerns itself with positive encouragement but the avoidance of conflict. Work (or the task) is something people do, but they do it in work time. Everyone (or the person) jollies and jokes along with one other and cannot criticise, in the hope that things get done as a result. Economic protectionism or cost-plus accountability leads to this relaxed, inefficient approach. Many religious organisations may be like this because a production concern is fellowship itself, but at times of decline more instrumental needs for recovery may come into play.

9,1 Task management is all about the rigour associated with high efficient output. There are orders to be given, received and obeyed, and schedules should not be missed. Mistakes lead to blame and correction, and if the employee is not up to the task under this regime then another job is the only medium term outcome. There is a high degree of supervision and control, and creativity is only placed high within the hierarchy. Lower down people do not need to be creative and indeed to say anything different is insubordination. Whilst high output is achievable in the short term, much will be lost through an inevitable high labour turnover. Only the money paid will matter, as the rest of the work involvement is likely to be apathetic with no input. The question is whether this management suits any business. It does in that there are repetitive work tasks requiring low innovation and low education/ training. There are also short term economic tasks which, once complete, end the producing unit. In these two cases, such management may be appropriate.

1,1 must be inept management because it neither shows much concern for production nor people. The fact is that there are such people around and many of them who have perhaps been overlooked by the organisation in terms of career progression. People reciprocate. So these managers go in, do their jobs with a minimum of effort, wait for home time to come, and then leave. If responsibility is required, then it is avoided; if people need to be motivated, nothing much happens beyond the minimum of instructing. In terms of accountability, the workforce had its instructions and that was that. A whole organisation run like this, perhaps after considerable and repeated infighting, is simply going to drift. Sometimes drift is needed as a gap that takes place after infighting so that slowly (but not too slowly) the pieces can be picked up.

5,5 management is a kind of realistic medium without ambition. It is deemed as practical. It is also an outcome when production and people issues are seen as in conflict (as indeed are 9,1 and 1,9, but such an organisation values both people and production matters and settles for 5,5: it is always a 10 sum game). There is never too much jollying and humour - but some, and never too much criticism - but some if really needed. Such an approach may follow times of lack of success in a previous period of ambition, or when a 1,9 or 9,1 approach did not work due to perceived deficiencies which created problems in the organisation. This position is called pendulum dampening because so often a pendulum swings between 1,9 and 9,1. managers change approach: perhaps new work comes in or there is a perceived need to increase performance and the firm must geet busy; or perhaps there has been a dispute and the organisation needs to repair relationships. Perhaps though in certain voluntary organisations 5,5 is a good position to hold, as volunteers need the social aspect to crowd out some of the work aspects. Life is both bread and circuses.

9,9 management then is when there is no zero sum game or crowding out, and when systems are in place, and management teams working, to get the best out of an organisation in terms of commitment and human relations. Information must flow up and down the system, and everyone must feel valued. That value must be highly purposive, and directed into the objectives of the organisation, and indeed where the valuing is gained. Managers must feel able to consult with each other without mini-empires developing in a spirit of co-operation to achieve the overall objectives. Of course conflict does arise, but it has systems that allow it to work through without avoidance, so that people can continue their work and work together. It may be that conflict cannot be completely ended, but the organisation faces it and seeks the best outcome. Blake and Mouton themselves looked at intergroup conflict with nine (they seem to like this number) approaches - win-lose power struggle, third party decision, stalemate until a so called fate arbitration (something happens unplanned), one gives up, parties isolate, a facade of indifference, stressing common intersts, compromise through bargaining towards accommodation, and positive resolution of difference through genuine effort. The last is the most promising and would be part of 9,9 management.

To get to 9,9 management requires a phased programme, according to Blake and Mouton (of this time only 6 phases). Before it a good idea is to place individual managers within the grid. Many placing themselves on the grid over estimate themselves towards the 9,9 position and some 60% deceive themselves. They revise this after training when correction can take place.

Phase 1
Off site training in the managerial grid that does not allow conflict in a company to carry forward. There might be groups of up to nine that can critique the testing of oneself according to the grid carried out again with colleagues. For example, a person who is seen to alter behaviour from own claims made can be reclassified according to the grid.
Phase 2
On site training in problem solving team management. Working out tasks according to the grid in these circumstances is more testing because real work issues are present. Conflict solving strategies for each person's skills are worked on because these are essential for getting to a 9,9 position and both 9,1 and 1,9 people are not skilled conflict solvers.
Phase 3
Inter group training where co-operation and co-ordination is required. This looks at ideal-actual comparisons and how the actual might get towards the idea that groups identify.
Phase 4
Group goals are set for the whole organisation's optimal performance. This might be through a study of some considerable time which brings into exposure for change the first three phases and sets up the ideal models.
Phase 5
What is learnt is implemented. The ideal model is activated perhaps by task forces.
Phase 6
Changes are measured for consolidation and stabilisation under the new regime and creating new goals.

However it is done, it should be obvious that a combination of stable maximum production and maximum people performance takes training and processes of information exchange and methods of handling conflicts with all goals in mind.


Clark, D. (2002), Leadership Questioner, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL:,_robert [Accessed October 29, 2003, 00:35].

Flower, J. (1992), Human Change by Design: Excerpts from a conversation with Robert R. Blake, Ph.D., [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed October 30, 2003, 00:30], first published in Healthcare Forum Journal, July-August 1992, Vol. 35, 4.

Pugh, D. S., Hickson, D. J., Hinings, C. R. (eds.) (1971), Writers on Organizations, Second Edition, London: Penguin.

Refers to:

Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S. (1964), The Managerial Grid, Gulf Publishing Company.

Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S. (1964), Managing Intergroup Conflict in History, Gulf Publishing Company.

Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S. (1969), Corporate Development through Grid Organization Development, Addison-Wesley.

Blake, R. R., Mouton, J. S., Barnes, L. B., Griener, L. E. (1964), 'Breakthrough in Organizational Development', Harvard Business Review, Vol. 42, No. 6, 133-155.