Contemporary Management Practices

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The Premodern Era

Organized activities and management have existed for thousands of years, for example, the construction of the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China.
Michelangelo, the genius artist of the Renaissance era, was a manager himself. In order to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and other great things, he personally selected his workers, trained them, and assigned them to one or more teams, and he kept detailed employment records.

In the past several hundred years, especially in the last century, management has undergone systematic investigation, acquired a common body of knowledge, and has become a formal discipline of study.

What was Adam Smith’s Contribution to the Field of Management?

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), made an argument on the economic advantages that organizations and society would achieve from the division of labor, which is the breakdown of jobs into narrow, repetitive tasks.

Smith concluded that division of labor increased productivity by increasing each worker’s skill and dexterity, by saving time that is usually lost in changing tasks, and by the creation of labor- saving inventions and machinery.

Probably, the most important influence on management was the Industrial Revolution. It began in the late eighteenth century in Great Britain, where machine power was being substituted for human power.

Thanks to this movement, there was the development of big organizations. John D. Rockefeller was putting together the Standard Oil monopoly, Andrew Carnegie was gaining control of two- thirds of the steel industry, and other people were creating new businesses that would require formalized management practices.


The roots of modern management lie within a group of practitioners and writers who gave their contributions to management which we call the classical approach. The classical approach is the term used to describe the scientific management theorists and the general administrative theorists. We can divide it into two subcategories:

1. Scientific management theorists: It’s the theorists that looked at the field from the perspective of how to improve the productivity of operative personnel.

2. General administrative theorists: They were concerned with the overall organization and how to make it more effective.

The year that the modern management theory was born was 1911. This year was the year that Frederick Winslow Taylor published his book Principles of Scientific Management, where he describes the theory of scientific management which is the use of the scientific method to define the “one best way” for a job to be done. Taylor is known as the father of scientific management. He was a mechanical engineer with a Quaker Puritan background and was appalled at the inefficiency of workers. Employees used different techniques to do the same job. Taylor set out to correct the situation by applying the scientific method to jobs on the shop floor.

Taylor wanted to create a mental revolution among the workers and management by defining clear guidelines for improving production efficiency. He defined four principles of management which are:

1.Develop a science for each element of an individual’s work, which replaces the old rule of thumb method. 2. Scientifically select and the train, teach, and develop the worker. 3. Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done according to the principles of the science that has been developed. 4. Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers. Management takes over all work for which it is better fitted than the workers.

Taylor argued that following these principles would benefit both management and workers. Workers would earn more pay, and management more profits.
Using scientific management techniques, Taylor was able to define the one best way for...
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