Management Theories

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A manager’s role is to plan, make decisions, and co-ordinate the organising, leading and controlling of an organisation’s resources, in order to achieve organisational goals in an efficient and effective manner (Davidson, Simon, Woods & Griffin, 2009). Management theories from the past can be utilised by contemporary managers, enabling them to consider a range of perspectives on how to approach problems, make decisions and develop systems designed to reap the benefits of employees exhibiting desirable behaviours (Davidson et al, 2009). Despite the common conception that theories are abstract and irrelevant to practical situations, management theories are grounded in reality (Davidson et al, 2009). Knowledge gained from experiences in the past should be used as a foundation for future plans (Campling & Pool, 2008)- understanding the history of management thought can help managers avoid the mistakes of others (Davidson et al, 2009), as well as emulate their successes. Management theories from the past have been drawn upon to create contemporary theories, making a study of the evolution of managerial thought entirely beneficial for an understanding of the modern ones, and thus the current roles of modern-day managers.

The classical management approaches were the first management theories focussed on developing universal standards for various situations (Campling & Pool, 2008). This approach to management arose between 1885 and 1940 in an effort to provide a rational basis for the management of organisations. It stemmed from the Industrial Revolution when people begun to work in large scale factories. Industrialisation created a need for efficient planning, organising, influencing and controlling of work activities (Pindur, Rogers & Kim, 1995). Classical management consists of two branches: scientific management and administrative management (Davidson et al, 2009). Scientific management, also called Taylorism, is centred on methods for improving productivity. Administrative management theory examines organisations as whole entities and focuses on ways to make them more efficient and effective (Pindur et al, 1995).

The most well-known proponent of scientific management is Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915). During his time at the Midvale Steel Company in the early 1880’s he recognised the need for labour and management co-operation, cost controlling and work methods analysis (Pindur et al, 1995). He observed what he termed soldiering- employees deliberately working at a pace slower than their capabilities (Davidson et al, 2009). In his book ‘The Principles Of Scientific Management’, published in 1911, Taylor suggested that there are two types of soldiering: natural soldiering and systematic soldiering. Natural solidering is ‘the natural instinct and tendency of men to talk it easy’ (Taylor, 1911). Systematic soldiering, he proposed, was caused by ‘more intricate second thought and reasoning caused by their relations with other men’, and had three reasons for occurring (Davidson et al, 2009). The first was that many workers had the belief that working faster would cause large numbers of men to lose their job. The second was that the ignorance of employers to the time it takes for work to be done. The third cause of soldiering was that ‘rule-of-thumb’ methods were adhered to, rather than scientifically examined methods (Taylor, 1911). He wrote that ‘there is always one method and one implement which is quicker and better than any of the rest. And this one best method and best implement can only be discovered or developed through scientific study and analysis’ (Taylor, 1911). Taylor also advocated ‘piecework’ pay: workers being paid according to the amount of work they have done. A key part of Taylor’s theory was that employees’ pay will rise in accordance with the increase in their productivity.

Whilst Taylor was the major influence on Scientific Management, there were others involved in developing the theory. Notable,...
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