Construction Management

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Part A

“If history is our teacher then managers in the construction industry of today needs to reflect upon the evolution of management thought and practice and learn from this.”

Discuss this statement in the context of the historical development of management theories and their significance, if any, for the construction industry.

Throughout the last century, management theories have been developed, adapted and changed over time. Management theories have been studied and used in all different organisations. Management is essential in the construction industry in delivering timely, well planned, quality jobs.

Management theories are important as they have helped managers develop leadership skills and information to achieve, good productivity and organisation in businesses. There are a number of published managerial approaches and some have developed as common practises.

Below is the time line for published management thinking;

Figure 1 – ‘the development of management thinking’- The practise of construction management, Barry Fryer.

One of the first significant management theories recognised was the ‘Classical Approach’, In 1916 H. Fayol produced and explored this type of management theory, this was about the same time F. W. Taylor also produced a similar theory. This theory is also known as scientific management. The basic of this theory is five main functions to be thought about and actioned in management.

These basics are: plan, organise, command, co-ordinate and control.

These are important factors found and used widely in the construction industry today in a manager’s role.

Although these five basic principles are still looked at today in management as what managers should do, the classical approach was mainly focused on efficiency and the labour (work) of an organisation. Not much thought about the employees themselves was developed. Organisation and management was not really focused on. ‘Taylor’ was more interested in the efficiency of working methods and developing a science for each operation an employee carried out.

Therefore there was room to improve this management theory and the principles produced. This theory was then developed from the five basic principles a manager should carry out and what managers actually do. H. Mintzburg studied the role of the managers, and developed a ‘cycle of managerial roles’ which includes ‘decisional roles’, ‘interpersonal roles’ and ‘informational roles’.

The next major management theory which developed management thinking was the ‘Human Relations Approach’.

This approach was developed and studied by E. Mayo, Maslow and Hertzberg. This approach was looking at people, and the groups of people working in an organisation.

E. Mayo was one of the key figures involved in a study that looked at group relations and relationships between employees and management. This study was called ‘The Hawthorne Studies’. It involved 5 different stages and studies of employees and management in a company. These studies were carried out from 1924 to 1936.

The relationship between workers and management and the communication between them is essential in the Construction Industry, due to the way work is carried out. Normally work is gained by a main contractor and then they employ a number of subcontractors that carry out the works and obligations of the contract for them, under their supervision and management. Therefore communication and good relations are a must, or the work could be put at risk. There must be understanding, trust and reliability. When employing a different number of subcontractors they all need to be controlled and managed.

‘The Hawthorne studies’ helped communication and employer/worker relations and from it managers recognised the importance to be aware that groups need to collaborate together with the organisation or they might work against it.

Other group management studies have taken place like ‘The Asch Experiments’...
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