Critical Evaluation of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Classical and Human Relations Theories

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Critically evaluate the classical and human relations approaches of management theory. Your essay must clearly define the term ’’ management theory’’ and include industry examples to illustrate your answers.

The purpose of this essay is to provide a critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the classical and human relations theories of management giving some industry examples which supports their applicability and importance or otherwise. “‘Critical evaluation is the skill of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a piece of work, and of understanding the importance of its contribution to the subject’. Hulme, J.A. (2004). For the benefits of in-depth analysis we will look at the classical scientific of F. W. Taylor (and not the classical administrative approach of say Weber), identifying expert supported strengths and weaknesses of his approach. Equally, we will look at Herzberg’s human relations theory of motivation. Classical management was rooted on the belief that employees have only economical and physical needs, and that social needs and need for job-satisfaction either don't exist or are unimportant. Accordingly, this school advocates high specialization of labor, centralized decision making, and profit maximization. The humanistic (or human relations) school recognized people as a special sort of resource. They not only work for the organization – they are the organization.

Mary Parker Follett succinctly defined management as '...the art of getting things done through people.' Management theory can be defined as a body of general principles on how best to manage a business or organization to achieve its goals and how to motivate employees to achieve highest possible performance.

F. W. Taylor (the father of scientific management) was the intellectual leader of the efficiency or classical movement. According to him the main object of management ‘should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity of each employee’. For employers ‘maximum prosperity’ not only means large profits but overall development in the enterprise to a state of permanent prosperity. Taylor was, therefore, driven to ask why is there so much antagonism and inefficiency? He suggested three causes: (1) the fallacious belief by workers that massive increase in output will ultimately lead to their unemployment; (2) the defective systems of management which make it possible for workers to restrict output so as to protect their interests; (3) effort- wasting methods of work. The aim of scientific management to him was to overcome these obstacles by a systematic study of work to discover the most efficient methods of performing the job, and then a systematic study of management leading to the most efficient methods of controlling the workers. As Taylor puts it: ‘What the workmen want from their employers beyond anything else is high wages and what employers want from their workmen most of all is low labour cost of manufacture….the existence or absence of these two elements forms the best index to either good or bad management.’ (Pugh & Hickson, 1996) Taylor, therefore, propounded four principles of management: Development of a true science of work to replace the old rule-of thumb; those fulfilling optimum goals would earn higher wages; failure would result in loss of earnings. The Scientific selection and progressive development of the worker: Every worker can be trained to be ‘first- class’ at some task. The mental revolution in management: He argued that the major resistance to scientific management came from management as workers are all too keen to learn to do a good job for a high rate of pay. The constant and close cooperation of management and workers: Every job is divided into various tasks each of which is done by a specialist- this system he calls ‘functional management’. He also formulates the ‘exception principle’ where management reports only details deviation...
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