Mary Parker Follett, who was also known as “Mother of Modern Management” was born on September 3, 1868, in America. Not only was she a pioneer in the organization behavior and organizational theory field but also a philosopher, management consultant, and social worker. She came from a Quaker family that was wealthy and studied in Cambridge. Theories founded by her helped a lot of people but she did not manage a for-profit enterprise. It was Mary Follett, who was the face behind the famous organizational theory.
Mary Parker Follett Theory
Follett always believed in “the art of getting things done through people.” The organizational theory by Follett emphasizes individuals and the autonomy power that encourages workers to work in collaboration. This management theory by Follett came up from an unfamiliar angle. She served the poorer neighborhoods of Boston as a social worker after graduating. She created an educational and social group when she came across the damage that was caused to people in her neighborhood because of not having enough community space. This is when she started researching her topic, group dynamics. Society and individuals go hand in hand to shape each other was her central theory that was derived from community centers and not from the boardroom. On translation of the theories in her workPlace, Follett again found that collaboration and defining of roles makes a group successful. According to her leadership was not power over but power with which she meant that the key attribution of a leader is working collaboratively with resolving conflicts through finding the middle ground.
Applying Follett’s Management Theory To Employee Engagement
After the demise of Follett on December 18, 1933, people hardly remember her work. But, eventually, in the 20th century, there was a revival of attention in the theory of ‘soft’ organizational that included the movement of human relation by Elton Mayo for expanding the theory of group dynamic by Follett. Her theory had a modern approach but the message was very simple. It said that the engagement of employees will be more efficient when in their role autonomy will be given, considering them to be intelligent and last but not the least working in collaboration.
Follett’s Theories As ‘Drivers’ For Engagement
Follett argued that a complex organization can never be successful with a model that has a single leader, who is bossy and goes around giving orders. If an organization allows its employees to use experiences and ideas of their own, there can be benefits such as giving the organization an intelligent resource and that employees acknowledging their skills. But, the question today remains that how can dynamic theories of group applied by managers today? The answer to this question is:
- Make the colleagues work as a team by establishing open-plan offices and project teams.
- The manager should make the employee aware of the end goal, but let him/her be flexible to reach their target.
- The organization should encourage a hierarchy that is flat and should not make the employee feel devalued.
- One of the best ways to encourage the employees is to let the people from different teams work together by creating a buddy system. This system will enable the employees of all departments and levels to share learning as well as spend time.
So, this system is a win-win as said by Follett. Not only is it beneficial for employees but also for employers and organizations. One of the best ways to apply the Follett management theory is by conducting an employee engagement survey.
Mary Parker Follett Principles
It is very clear that this theory by Follett is for making sure that there is proper coordination with the employees of an organization. Below are few coordination principles that were followed by Follett to make her management theory effective.
Direct contact with the employees
When the contacts between the manager and employees are direct, there is less misunderstanding and conflicts. One of the easiest ways to practice this theory is to hold meetings and discussions with the team in person.
The coordination should be mastered and learned straight away. Every employee is equal and it is a group they make an organization, so the role of every individual is important.
Each employee regardless of the level in which they are, should give equal efforts and work effectively and efficiently. An organization always works with team efforts and cannot be run by the effort of an individual.
Coordination is something that should be followed at every point and not just be learned and forgotten about. It is a continuous process and management should ensure the same.
Apart from the above four Follett main focus was:
Follet believes that for an organization to reach its goals, employees of all levels need to integrate. In case of a conflict, a conscious effort should be made to make the team work together and to pull rather than push. The results will be more content as each employee will be doing their part.
The senior management should not try to control everything, rather it is best to delegate most works. But while delegating the work, there should not be a strict hierarchy that the organization follows. Co-active power is something that Follett believed should be practiced. She believed that one should power with the team and power over them, to make sure every employee feels they are important.
It is obvious that one cannot eliminate the hierarchy completely as it is crucial to have a structure. But at the same time, it is even important to make the people of the organization will be valued.
Instead of personal power, it is the group power that should be valued. It is not just one person who benefits for whom the firm exists but it is for the benefit of every employee as a whole. If group power exists, the employees and their colleagues will work as a team to reach the goal rather than competing with each other.
So, even today, after a century or more, leaders and organizations follow this theory as it helps to have a collaborative and motivated workplace.