Relevance of Classical Management Theories in Modern Business Environment

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  • Topic: Management, Scientific management, Organization
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  • Published : December 14, 2008
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The Classical Management Theory is thought to have originated around the year 1900 and dominated management thinking into the 1920s, focusing on the efficiency of the work process. It has three schools of thinking: Scientific management, which looks at ‘the best way’ to do a job; Bureaucratic management, which focuses on rules and procedures, hierarchy and clear division of labour; and Administrative management, which emphasises the flow of information within the organisation.

Scientific Management

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) is known as the father of scientific management. His approach emphasised empirical research to increase organisational productivity by increasing the efficiency of the production process. In the United States especially, skilled labour was in short supply at the beginning of the twentieth century. The only way to expand productivity was to raise the efficiency of workers. Scientific management theory states that jobs should be designed so that each worker has a well-specified, well-controlled task and specific procedures and methods for each job must be strictly followed.

Taylor's management theory rests on a fundamental belief that managers are not only superior intellectually to the average employee, but that they have a positive duty to supervise staff and organise their work activities. Thus, it was only applied to low-level routine and repetitive tasks that could be managed at supervisory level.

Taylor developed four principles of scientific management:

1. A ‘best’ methodology should be developed scientifically for each task. 2. Managers should select the best person to perform the task and ensure that the best training is given. 3. Managers are responsible for ensuring that the best person for the job does the job using the best methodology. 4. Remove all responsibility for the work method from the worker and give it to management. The worker is responsible only for the actual job performance.

Taylor based his management system on production-line time studies. Using time study as his base, he broke down each job into its components and designed the quickest and best methods of performing each component. He also encouraged employers to pay more productive workers at a higher rate. Scientific management became very popular in the early part of this century as its application was shown to lead to improvements in efficiency and productivity.

Advantages of Scientific Management

❖ Introduced a scientific approach to management.

❖ Improved factory efficiency and productivity.

❖ Used as a model upon which the creation of modern assembly lines was based on.

❖ Allowed managers to reward workers for higher performance and productivity through the differential rate system.

❖ Built a sense of co-operation between management and workers.

Disadvantages of Scientific Management

➢ Limited by its underlying assumption that workers were primarily motivated by economic and physical needs. It therefore overlooked the desire of workers for job satisfaction.

➢ Led, in some cases, to the exploitation of workers and it has been often suggested that scientific management was at the centre of many strikes prevalent in those days.

➢ Excluded the tasks of management in its application.

➢ Instilled an authoritarian leadership approach.

➢ Focused only on the internal operations of the organisation.

Bureaucratic management

Max Weber (1864-1920), known as the father of Modern Sociology, was the first person to use the term ‘bureaucracy’ to describe a particular, and in his view superior, organisational form. He considered the ideal organisation to be a bureaucracy whose activities and objectives were rationally thought, whose divisions of labour were explicitly spelled out. He believed that technical competence should be emphasized and that performance evaluations should be made entirely on the basis of merit. Weber...
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