Classical School of Management

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Management Theory Dr. Stephen W. Hartman New York Institute of Technology Introduction and Main Points Civilization is the product of those who came before us. The evolution of modern management thinking begins in the nineteenth century and flourished during the twentieth. The twentieth century has witnessed a revolution in management theory ranging from classical theory to the Japanese management approach. Today’s management theory is the result of the interdisciplinary efforts of many people. The Founders The beginning of the modern organization occurred primarily during the middle of the nineteenth century with the rise of the factory system, principally in the textile industry, where automation and mass production became the cornerstone of productivity. Management thinking, however, was slow to evolve during the century. The need existed to define what management was in the first instance as well as to operationalize it in meaningful terms for an organization. During this period two principal management theorists took up this challenge and emerged as the so-called Pre-Classicists of management thought. Pre-Classicists In the nineteenth century, Robert Owen and Charles Babbage seriously addressed the quest for the development of management theory. Owen was an entrepreneur and social reformer while Babbage was a noted mathematician with a strong managerial interest. Robert Owen (1771-1858) Robert Owen’s ideas stemmed from his ownership of a cotton mill in New Lanark, Scotland where he developed a strong interest in the welfare of the 400 to 500 child employees. Owen spearheaded a legislative movement to limit child employment to those over the age of ten while reducing the workday to 10 1/2 hours. In 1813 Owen published a pamphlet, A New View of Society, where he described his vision of society. He also became active in improving living conditions of employees through the implementation of improvements in housing, sanitation, public works and establishing schools for the children. Owen strongly believes that character is a product of circumstances and that environment and early education is critical in forming good character. While being extremely controversial during his lifetime, Owen is credited with being the forerunner of the modern human relations school of management. Charles Babbage (1792-1871) Charles Babbage, a noted English mathematician, is credited as being the “father of the modern computer” for performing the fundamental research for the first practical mechanical calculator as well as doing basic research and development on an “analytical engine” acknowledged to be the forerunner of today’s modern computer. His interest in management stemmed largely from his concerns with work specialization or the degree to which

work is divided into its parts. This is now recognized as being the forerunner of contemporary operations research. Babbage’s other major management contribution came from the development of a modern profit-sharing plan including an employee bonus for useful suggestions as well as a share of the company’s profits. While both Owen and Babbage were important nineteenth century management innovators, their efforts lacked the central tenets of a theory of management. Owen was primarily credited with making specific suggestions regarding management techniques in the areas of human relations while Babbage is credited with developing the concepts of specialization of labor and profit sharing. These pre-classicists paved the way for the theoretical ferment of the classical school of management. The Classical School The twentieth century witnessed a period of tremendous management theory ferment and activity. Calls were heard for the development of a comprehensive management theory. The classical school of management was primarily concerned with developing such a theory to improve management effectiveness in organizations. However, the classical school theorists went a step further. Not only did they...
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