Likert's Four System

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DEFINITION OF THE THEORY

Likert theory called Likert's Management Systems Theory. Rensis Likert developed this theory in the 1960s. He outlined four systems of management to describe the relationship, involvement, and roles of managers and subordinates in industrial settings. He based the systems on studies of highly productive supervisors and their team members of an American Insurance Company. Later, he and Jane G. Likert revised the systems to apply to educational settings. They initially intended to spell out the roles of principals, students, and teachers; eventually others such as superintendents, administrators, and parents were included. According to Rensis Likert the best managers in business and government point to a much more effective system of management. Low efficiency departments have supervisors who, being job centred; keep workers busy through a prescribed work cycle at a satisfactory time rate. The job is reduced to component parts, with trained people to do them, and constant pressure to achieve output using all the resources which are available. High efficiency departments have supervisors who, being people centred, focus on the human aspects and build effective work groups pursuing high achievement goals. The supervisors attempt to know employees as individuals. They give general rather than detailed supervision, with overall targets rather than prescribing methods. They accept maximum participation in decision making and see employees as capable of joining in the decision making processes.

Likert categorised his four management systems as follows;
Exploitive authoritative system (1)

In this type of management system the job of employees/subordinates is to abide by the decisions made by managers and those with a higher status than them in the organisation. The subordinates do not participate in the decision making. The organisation is concerned simply about completing the work. The organisation will use fear and threats to make sure employees complete the work set. There is no teamwork involved.

Benevolent authoritative system (2)

Just as in an exploitive authoritative system, decisions are made by those at the top of the organisation and management. However employees are motivated through rewards (for their contribution) rather than fear and threats. Information may flow from subordinates to managers but it is restricted to “what management want to hear”.

Consultative system (3)

In this type of management system, subordinates are motivated by rewards and a degree of involvement in the decision making process. Management will constructively use their subordinates ideas and opinions. However involvement is incomplete and major decisions are still made by senior management. There is a greater flow of information (than in a benevolent authoritative system) from subordinates to management. Although the information from subordinate to manager is incomplete and euphemistic.

Participative (group) system (4)

Management have complete confidence in their subordinates/employees. There is lots of communication and subordinates are fully involved in the decision making process. Subordinates comfortably express opinions and there is lots of teamwork. Teams are linked together by people, who are members of more than one team. Likert calls people in more than one group “linking pins”. Employees throughout the organisation feel responsible for achieving the organisation’s objectives. This responsibility is motivational especially as subordinates are offered economic rewards for achieving organisational goals which they have participated in setting.

FOUNDER OF THE THEORY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE THEORY

This theory was founded by Rensis Likert. He was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to George Herbert Likert and Cora A. (née Zonne) Likert, where his father was an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad. After training to be an...
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