May 18, 1982
Despite increasingly sophisticated organization development and management techniques, organizational effectiveness is declining. Chris Argyris seeks to reverse that trend by offering tested strategies for improving individual and organizational performance – strategies that will help executives, managers, and supervisors deal more effectively with people and problems. Concerned about the self-defeating, counterproductive behavior that prevails in organizations – such as conformity, lack of initiative and teamwork, games of deception, and reluctance to accept responsibility – Argyris worked directly with managers and management trainees in large and small organizations to determine what causes such behavior. He found that ineffectiveness stems from faults in the ways people diagnose problems (reasoning), decide how to respond (learning), and implement solutions (action). In this book Argyris describes these sources of ineffectiveness and illustrates ways to help individuals and organizations overcome them.
Argyris’s methods are based on the theory of reasoning and action introduced in his earlier book with Donald Schon (Theory in Practice, Jossey-Bass, 1974). Argyris has since tested and refined these methods through nearly a decade of research and actual implementation in all types of settings – including businesses, professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions. He has used his approach successfully with individuals and groups in offices, conference rooms, workshops, seminars, and classrooms.
Argyris presents numerous case examples from these settings to illustrate his methods. The cases include dialogues from problem-solving and training sessions, accompanied by explanatory comments. One group of cases identifies typical faults and reasoning that lead to ineffective behavior; a second group details the process of learning to correct such errors and reach accurate conclusions; and a third shows how the approach can be put into action in organizations to solve problems and develop team effectiveness.
Chris Argyris is James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behavior at Harvard University.