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Argyris' Model 2 Values


Explanations > Values > Argyris' Model 2 Values

Valid information | Free and informed choice | Internal commitment to choices | Constant monitoring | So what?


Chris Argyris at Harvard identified four common values that drive people that he called the Model 1 Theory-in-use, to differentiate it from the more saintly Espoused Theory where which we tell other people (and ourselves) how wonderful we are.

He consequently described a Model 2, as discussed here, with an alternative set of values that are more selfless and lead to a better way of behaving that is nearer to an honest espoused theory.

Valid information

We should base our decisions on information that is relevant to the situation and which is as full and correct as possible. Any omissions and limitations are understood and taken into account.

If plans are based on invalid information, then everything else will be invalid, including decisions, communications and actions. We hence need to invest up-front to get valid information rather than base decisions on hearsay, opinion or limited data.

Free and informed choice

When we make decisions, it should be without explicit or implicit pressure from others. The decision should be based on the valid information available rather than social reasons such as avoiding criticism or avoiding harm to others.

In practice this can be very difficult as organizations are social institutions staffed with people who have their own desires and agendas that may well not align well with higher strategies and decisions of the organization.

Internal commitment to choices

When we make decisions, this should not be lip-service. We should believe that they are valid and good decisions, and that we should actively pursue the consequent actions.

When people are truly committed to decisions, they will naturally act on them with passion and energy, as opposed to half-hearted efforts that can easily fail through a simple lack of commitment.

This is true also of group decisions and where a leader makes a decision that requires others to act. If they can show that this was an informed decision, based on valid information, then they have a far greater chance of gaining the commitment of others than if the decision appears to be self-serving or based on weak data. 

Constant monitoring

Even when we make commitment to good choices, it is easy for actions to be less than is needed to make things work in practice. As a result, we should be careful to ensure implementation of sound choices is executed correctly.

Monitoring should also follow the Model 2 values, being done in a way that provides valid information about how things are going and leads to sensible course corrections that are followed through to make things work better.

So what?

Try to follow these values yourself and encourage them in others. Particularly if business people follow these, they will end up with a lot more success.

They may seem obvious, but they are not common. A reason for this is that it requires a collaborative culture where people feel open enough to allow difference of opinion and where high integrity is valued over shorter-term personal gain.

See also

Argyris' Governing Values, Consistency Theory, Decisions


Argyris, C. and Schon, D. A. (1996), Organizational Learning II, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley


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