Why do we still teach Maslow?

Must read

Embrace the change: Getting to grips with new IT systems

New IT systems for a growing business can be an exciting prospect and deliver many benefits, but how do you convince employees to embrace...

5 Skills Needed To Drive Future Projects

Why do projects fail? It's a question that invites a lot of interest and significant statistics. And there are no wrong answers here. Skills shortages...

Does a Project Manager Need PM Qualifications?

What makes a successful project manager is a combination of their academic abilities, experience and skills, both "soft" and "hard" skills i.e. communication skills...

It’s good to talk but difficult to communicate

One of the insights from this year’s AXELOS PPM benchmark report was that poor communication continues to be the biggest challenge hampering projects and...
Adrian Dooleyhttp://www.praxisframework.org
I was originally a construction project manager but moved into training and consultancy 30 years ago. After a career of trying to explain the reasons why the various PPM guides use different terminology and individually cover only parts of organisational PPM, I decided to develop the Praxis Framework.

This question was recently asked in a LinkedIn forum. It went on to say that Maslow was ‘disproven in the 1950s’ so we should not continue to teach it.

In case you didn’t know. Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ is a theory of motivation published by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It was never based on any empirical research and was, in effect, Maslow’s opinion from his own experience. Its popularity arises from the fact that it ‘feels right’ on an intuitive level. In effect, any ‘disproval’ of Maslow’s theory would be a disproval if his opinion – which doesn’t make sense.

But there is a bigger issue that this question touches upon. How should we regard the standard models of human behaviour that are frequently quoted in all management (not just project management) training?

If you have been on one of these courses, you may well have been introduced to Hersey and Blanchard (Situational Leadership), Tuckman (Teamwork) or Thomas-Kilmann (Conflict Management) to name but three.

There are a myriad of these models to describe many different aspects of human behaviour. Different models were, and continue, to be developed using varying degrees of empirical observation. No doubt some use statistics to validate their results but these are no ‘Standard Model’ in the mould of particle physics. No one will claim to have defined human behaviour to the 5-sigma degree of certainty required to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson.

All models of human behaviour are approximate theories. They are not taught because they are proven, they are taught because they make you think about people and the way they behave in a structured way.

These models should always be taught in a way that emphasises that they are ‘ideas’. There are conflicting and complementary ideas – all of which provide a framework to organise personal experience in a more efficient way.

So the next time someone teaches you about one of these models, see it for what it is – a starting point to try and understand how people behave, not a set of rules that people always adhere to.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will never be ‘proven’ and equally I don’t see how it could be ‘disproven’. But it does have enough intuitive sense to make you start thinking about motivation and, hopefully, make you want to learn more.


- Advertisement -

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

- Advertisement -

Latest article

Project Accelerator Website Has a Makeover

I have been running this project management news website for over 10 years now, the domain was registered in 2008. Today we...

Project Management Strategies Every Tech Leader Can Use

As a tech leader, you're responsible for leading a development team. Thus you're in control of all the technology deliverables that contribute...

Parallel LIVE! Part 2. APM Project Roles in the 7th Edition of the APM BoK

This week Parallel's Matt Bolton and Jan Underdown discussed the roles in the 7th edition of the Body of Knowlege from the...

Parallel LIVE Again

So this week, we did our second live stream. This time John Bolton and I discussed linear, iterative and hybrid lifecycles. It's...

How Are Tech Solutions Improving Project Management?

The professional environment for a modern project manager is a diverse, multi-disciplined landscape. This complex fusion of information maintenance, personnel leadership, cost...