Is the Classical Approach to Management Obsolete? Critically Discuss Your Views on This Matter.

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There have been many different approaches to management over the past few centuries; autocratic, which causes dissatisfaction for employees due to authority being in the hands of one person; paternalistic, in which the authoritative leader cares for his employees more than his profits; democratic, in which the management allows the employees to voice their opinions and laissez faire in which the management stays, for the majority, out of its employees business. These approaches are ever changing due to developments in modern day society. (Khilawala, 2002).

The classical approach to management is typically known as the scientific or autocratic approach. I intend to investigate three of the original classical management theorists; Taylor, Weber and Fayol, and discuss their principles coming to my own conclusion as to whether their views are still relevant in today’s society.

Frederick Taylor 1856-1915 – Scientific Management
In a time of Industrial Revolution where there were new scientific discoveries being brought to light every day, Taylor was well placed to imagine that science could also influence the way in which managements were run. Taylor aimed to improve economic efficiency and maximise productivity by optimizing the way in which tasks were performed and preventing the ‘soldiering’ (slacking) of workers. The name of this new era of modern management was to be Scientific Management.

To reverse this soldiering, Taylor began a series of ‘time studies’ hoping to find the optimal way in which to perform particular jobs. The conclusions of these studies resulted in Taylor’s principles of scientific management; the ‘rule-of-thumb’ – in which workers decided personally how to perform their jobs – was to be replaced with the task the worker was best suited for – the ‘one best practice’ meaning a short learning curve therefore maximum efficiency in minimum time. Worker’s would be trained and observed ensuring the scientific methods were being carried out, and workloads were to be split evenly between manager and worker; if the manager planned efficiently enough there would be no interruptions.

There can be no doubt that Taylor’s approach to management greatly impacted on the world’s economy; his principles were implemented in many factories often increasing productivity three times over. However there were many complaints about Taylorism; it increased the monotony of work resulting in the lack skill variety, autonomy and employers took no feedback. Taylorism has been described as ‘dehumanising’. Aspects of Taylorism, such as the ‘one best practice’ are still being used today, for example in corporations like McDonalds, though with much opposition.

I think that whilst Scientific Management may have revolutionised industry at the turn of the 19th century, present day organisations would have trouble managing employees using Taylor’s principles; the workforce is generally better educated and are therefore better placed to question the managerial techniques. Workers rights have also increased significantly over the last century and employers must now recognise employee expectations and rights; not treat them as machines.

Max Weber 1864-1920 – Bureaucracy
Weber was interested in studying authority within organisations; he believed in authority over power and distinguished three types of legitimate authority; charisma, tradition and rational-legal, which he considered the most important. (Miller, 2008) . From this he developed the bureaucracy; an organisation based on the principles of rational-legal authority. Although Weber wasn’t personally in favour of the bureaucracy he saw it as the only form of organisation that could cope with the massive rise in business that came of the Industrial Revolution.

Characteristics of the bureaucracy include: management by rules; division of labour; a formal hierarchical structure; employees hired due to technical competence; managers are...
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