Elliott Jaques

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Elliott Jaques (January 18, 1917 – March 8, 2003) was a Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational psychologist, known for developing the notion of requisite organization from his 'stratified systems theory', running counter to many others in the field of organizational development.


Born in Toronto, Ontario, Jaques was educated at University of Toronto and studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University before receiving his Ph.D in social relations from Harvard University. During World War II, he moved to England where he remained after the war, studying under British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein. He was a founding member, in 1946, of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. In 1964, he founded the School of Social Sciences at Brunel University where he became a professor and head of the school, and of its self-financing research and consultancy unit, the Brunel Institute of Organisation and Social Studies (BIOSS).[1]

The concept of the mid-life crisis was introduced by Jaques in 1965.[2] His development approach to organizational development makes him one of the early contributors to Positive Adult Development.

He died in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 2003.


Jaques developed a system and structural hierarchical framework of requisite organization from his 'stratified systems theory', running counter to many others in the field of organizational development.

He developed the concept of 'social systems as defense against unconscious anxiety' (Jaques, 1951) which shed light on the close relationship between organizational task (i.e. the main aim of an organization, such as to produce, cure, etc.) and unconscious group dynamics and how each can aid or distort the other.

Jaques' ideas are still very influential in a practical study of organizations and the optimization of structures and systems that support productive work for the achievement of the organization's purpose. He is most widely known for his concept of the "time-span of discretion," a measure of how much responsibility an employee has.[3]

Jaques argued that the higher a person was positioned in a hierarchy, assuming the individual possessed a corresponding level of cognitive complexity, acquired skills and knowledge (gained through experience) and presuming that individual valued the work he or she was tasked, the longer he could work to complete a task without supervision. The time span of a CEO of a major institution might be 15-20 years. This concept enabled him to describe a "requisite organization" as one in which each level in the hierarchy had its own distinctive time span. If an organization had too many levels, then their time spans overlapped. If a manager at a higher level was ill equipped in respect of his or her inherent mental processing capability, or lacked the required skills and knowledge the risk is they would interfere in the work of managers at a lower level generally propelled by their own anxiety and insecurity. The process of delegation would be undermined leading to organizational dysfunction.

With an understanding of mental processing capability and a hierarchy that supports the proficiency of work in the organization Jaques provided some insight into effective managerial practices that are aimed at freeing up the human potential in the organization. For example, Jaques advocates the importance of effectively assigning tasks to individuals in the organization delivered by contextualizing the significance of the task(s) to the organization's purpose in terms of output including clear deliverables in respect of quantity and quality and the time for delivery. Moreover, a manager has an obligation to provide coaching to his or her subordinates, and the manager is in fact accountable for his or her subordinates' outputs.

Dr. Jaques' work has often been met with criticism and the suggestion that a "requisite organization" provides a rigid and condescending structure that inhibits the performance of people within the organization. The opposite can be argued. Organization's are naturally formed in this manner. All living organisms that organize their work interdependently in cooperation for a mutually beneficial purpose employ hierarchies for the achievement.


  • The Changing Culture of a Factory: A Study of Authority and Participation in an Industrial Setting (London: Tavistock, 1951)
  • Measurement Of Responsibility: A study of work, payment, and individual capacity (Tavistock, 1956) [Reprinted as ISBN 0-415-26443-X]
  • Equitable Payment: A General Theory of Work, Differential Payment, and Individual Progress (London: Heinemann, 1961)
  • Equitable Payment (London: Heinemann, 1963)
  • Time-Span Handbook: the Use of Time-Span of Discretion to Measure the Level of Work in Employment Roles and to Arrange an Equitable Payment Structure (London, Heinemann, 1964)
  • Product Analysis Pricing: A method for setting policies for the delegation of pricing decisions and the control of expense and profitability (Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1964) [with Wilfred Brown ]
  • Glacier Project Papers (London: Heinemann Educational, 1965) [with Wilfred Brown ] ISBN 0-435-85102-0
  • "Death and the Midlife Crisis", International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1965.
  • Work, creativity, and social justice (London: Heinemann Educational, 1970) ISBN 0-435-85479-8
  • A General Theory of Bureaucracy (London: Heinemann Educational, 1976) ISBN 0-435-82473-2
  • Health Services (London: Heinemann Educational, 1978) ISBN 0-435-82474-0
  • Levels of Abstraction in Logic and Human Action: A theory of discontinuity in the structure of mathematical logic, psychological behaviour, and social organisation. (London: Heinemann Educational, 1978) with R.O. Gibson and D.J. Isaac [Editors]
  • Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1994) ISBN 0-631-19313-8 [with Stephen D. Clement and Ronnie Lessem]
  • Human Capability: Study of Individual Potential and Its Application (London: Gower, 1994) ISBN 0-566-07652-7 [with Kathryn Cason]
  • Requisite Organization: Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century (London: Gower, 1997) ISBN 0-566-07940-2
  • La Organizacion Requerida: Un Sistema Integrado Para Crear Organizaciones Eficaces y Aplicar el Liderazgo Gerencial en el Siglo XXI (Ediciones Granica, S.A., 2000) ISBN 950-641-303-7
  • Social Power and the CEO: Leadership and Trust in a Sustainable Free Enterprise System (Greenwood, 2002) ISBN 1-56720-551-8
  • The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms: A General Theory (Greenwood, 2002) ISBN 0-275-97501-0


  1. ^ http://bioss.com/about/our-history/
  2. ^ Psychology Today: Midlife
  3. ^ Jaques, E., Time-span handbook: The use of time-span of discretion to measure the level of work in employment roles and to arrange an equitable payment structure (London: Heinemann, 1971)

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