Classical Management Theory

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Classical management theory, for all it’s rationality and potential to improve efficiency, dehumanised the practice of management (Inkson & Kolb, 2001). Choosing either bureaucracy or scientific management, discuss this quote and argue whether modern business’ continues to dehumanise.

People’s conception of the nature of work and the social relationships between individuals in various levels in organizations changed, brought by the industrial revolution of the late 1800s. Classical management believed in work specialization. That is, that work should be organized and divided according to one’s specific individual skill. There are three subfields of management, each with a slightly different emphasis: scientific management, bureaucratic organisations and administrative principles (Wrege & Stoka, 1978). Using scientific management, we will explore the ways it dehumanised the practice of management. Firstly, by discussing it’s systematic approach that was designed by Frederick Taylor, to solely improve productivity by reducing the amount of time and effort needed in solving a task. Secondly, by exploring how human needs and considerations were given little or no regard. Then lastly, how the human relations movement was formed and the ways it ‘humanised’ the practice of management to become what modern management is today.

Scientific management was a systematic approach that was designed by Frederick Taylor, one of the original advocates of scientific management, to solely improve productivity by introducing a machine-like structure that reduced the amount of time and effort needed. His philosophy is encapsulated in his statement, “In the past the man has been first. In the future, the system must be first” (Wren, 1979). This job redesign was at the heart of the scientific management movement, and efforts to simplify job design reached its peak in the assembly-line production techniques that became popular in the early 1900s. It formed the basis for what became known as the scientific management movement, and had the following characteristics; Machine pacing – this was when the production rate was determined by the speed of the conveyor belt, not by the workers themselves. Task repetitiveness – tasks were performed over and over during a single work shift. On auto assembly lines, for example, typical work cycles (that is, times allowed for completion of an entire piece of work) ranged from thirty seconds to one and a half minutes. This means a worker performed the same task up to 500 times a day. Next were low skill requirements – jobs could be easily learnt and workers were easily replaced. Task specialization – each job consisted of only a few operations. Limited social interaction was also a factor – due to the speed of the assembly line, noise and physical separation. Finally, tools and techniques specified – selected tools and techniques were assigned by staff specialists (usually industrial engineers) to maximize efficiency. As you can see, organisations had machine-like structures, which increased a workers speed and expertise in one specialised area. It also reduced the amount of time spent on a task and the effort of teaching them a range of skills, which in turn helped the business achieve organizational productivity and efficiency. But buy doing so; management lost its human side.

Human needs and considerations of its workers were given little or no regard. Therefore Taylor felt the worker was, essentially, just part of a huge line of processes. Although the techniques led to an increase in output as well an increase in efficiency, problems with this new form of management began to arise. Firstly, it became increasingly apparent that factors other than money had motivating potential for workers to increase output and efficiency. Second, managers became aware that many employees would work consistently without the need for close supervision and control. Lastly, some managers attempted job simplification...
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