Elliott Jaques

Updated at: June 28, 2008, 2:45 p.m.

Dr. Elliott Jaques (January 18, 1917 – March 8, 2003) was a Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational psychologist. He developed the notion of requisite organization, running counter to many others in the field of organizational development. Although he is most widely known for developing 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 the psychoanalytic study of organizations. During his extensive work with disparate organizations such as the U.S. Army and corporations, Dr. Jaques was first to develop an objective scientific process for testing and measuring human behavior through a numeric and provable methodology. This breakthrough approach has been used for the selection of generals for our armed services, political leaders as well as managers in some of the world's largest businesses. This science is now recognized as one of the most important discoveries in its field, making Dr. Jaques one of the most referenced psychologists.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Jaques graduated with a B.A. Honors Science degree from the University of Toronto at the age of eighteen in 1935, an M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School at age twenty-three in 1939, and a Ph.D. in Social Relations from Harvard University. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry and was a Visiting Professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and Honorary Professor of the University of Buenos Aires. He became well known for identifying and coining the "mid-life crisis" and his breakthrough discovery that a person's capability to perform complex tasks is both a lifelong evolution and predictable.

Jaques served as a Major in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during WWII and acted as liaison to the British Army War Office Psychiatry Division, whose members developed the War Office Selection Boards.

He remained in England after the war where he was qualified under the renowned psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, and became a founding member of the Tavistock Institute in 1946, later moving away from the group-dynamics model toward a rigorous science-based model of human development and maturation. In 1964 he created the School of Social Sciences at the new Brunel University in London, where he served as Professor and Head of School. Jaques created chaired departments in psychology, sociology, social anthropology, economics, social policy and law.

Dr. Jaques is the author of more than 20 books, including The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms (2002), Social Power and the CEO (2002), Requisite Organization (1996), Human Capability (1994) with Kathryn Cason, and General Theory of Bureaucracy (1976). Dr. Jaques is recognized throughout the world for the discoveries he made in the social sciences, contributing in a significant way to our understanding of human nature and social institutions. His life and work has been a great gift to the world.

Noteworthy awards include the Joint Staff Certificate of Appreciation presented by General Colin Powell on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces for "outstanding contributions in the field of military leadership theory and instruction to all of the service departments of the United States" and the Harry Levinson Award of the Consulting Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association for "a distinguished career and impressive accomplishments."

Dr. Jaques' contributions are multi-disciplinary and include fundamental developments in our understanding of the meaning of work and in the evaluation and development of individuals engaged in work, as well as a method for objectively measuring the complexity of work roles. Further, his contribution to the social sciences include an objective understanding of the nature of human potential capability and of its maturation throughout life from infancy through old age.

Nearly 60 thesis have been developed based on the work of Dr. Jaques and more continue to be developed and written around the world. His work has changed and advanced family and business relationships dramatically over the past half century.

He has been engaged in consultancy research over the past 50 years in the development and testing of a comprehensive science-based theory of behavior and system of organizational development and managerial leadership. This work has been carried out through projects in industry and commerce, in government and policing organizations, and in social, educational and health services including the Church of England and the United States Army.

The seeds of his science-based system, Requisite Organization, were germinated in 1952 as he pursued his work as a psychoanalyst combined with social project work on industrial organization at the Glacier Metal Company Limited in London with Wilfred Brown. The findings from this research, which became Jaques' Stratified Systems Theory, produced sweeping changes in approach to organizational development work which were successfully employed by Rod Carnegie at CRA (Australia), where for over thirty years, Jaques continuously expanded the concepts and principles derived from this research consultancy project. These developments and many others will make a substantial contribution to the betterment of society and its values. His development approach to organizational development makes him one of the early contributors to Positive Adult Development.

He died in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 2003. He is survived by his wife, Kathryn Cason, as well as three children and grandchildren. "What's most important is that his work be carried forward," said Kathryn Cason. "It took 25 years for Elliott's work on midlife crisis to be accepted; we don't want to have to wait that long for recognition of his other work. Through the individual work of psychologists and the Requisite Organization International Institute (ROII), we hope that Elliott's ideas will be discussed — even debated — in order to once again improve upon human growth and understanding and to create superior working environments. This is what Elliott always strived for."

Related Books

A General Theory of Bureaucracy

Requisite Organization: A Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century 2nd Ed.

Executive Leadership: A Practical Guide to Managing Complexity 2nd Ed.

Social Power and the CEO: Leadership and Trust in a Sustainable Free Enterprise System