Scientific Management and Human Relations School of Management

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Scientific management theory and the human relations school theory are both theories developed in the 20th century as a means of increasing proficiency and effectiveness as well as profits and outputs in organisations. While the two theories have two different approaches to reaching organisational goals, both theories to an extent aim towards similar goals. Scientific Management was developed by Frederick Taylor as a means of replacing old ‘rule of thumb’ methods with scientific methods for best and rational design of optimising any task which would lead to enhanced productivity and profitability. Scientific management (also called Taylorism) concerns four primary principles of: developing scientific methods, thoughtful selection of labour, education and development of labour, and, specialisation and collaboration between managers and labour. Utilising scientific management methods means that every step of production is calculated using motion and output with human movement. When every step of production is premeditated and accounted for – this leads to standardisation of work practices and, tools, equipment and materials, as well as enhanced use of resources and reduced wastage. On the human side, work is broken down into smaller parts or segments that are easier to manage as workers skills at the workplace become highly specialised. Detailed instructions and even training is provided to workers reducing the amount of time wasted and enhancing quality of work. Prior to scientific management workers would work as best they could using the best tools they had. Also departments such as planning and design, personnel, maintenance and quality control did not exist. Scientific management streamlined and standardised industrial production, created harmonious and organised workplaces, increased effectiveness and productivity, and increased customer satisfaction through reduced costs and quality(2). Today in the 21st century scientific management method is fully utilised but certain principles of the theory are still in effect today, especially in high output production companies such as Ford, Apple and Sony. Managers under scientific management analyse the work to be done, plan and train the workers to complete tasks. However that is the extent to their relationship with the worker. As a result the workplace is more harmonious and the relationship between managers and workers is peaceful, because interaction and conflict is kept at a minimum due to the organised nature of the workplace (1). Contrary to scientific management is the human relations school of thinking which came into vogue in the mid 20th century and centered on embracing the human factors at play in the work environment rather that trying to suppress them. The thinking behind the human relations school was born largely out of the Hawthorne Studies, which were undertaken during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s at the General Electric plant. The studies were based around strictly controlling a selected group of workers and their work environment to see what effects on output would arise. What was discovered through the tests was that a process was taking place, which would later become known as the ‘Hawthorne effect’. The Hawthorne effect basically explained how when a worker was selected out of a group and specially supervised, their work output would generally increase. From this it was discovered that the human or informal processes at play in the workplace could actually be managed to improve work output. Michiel Kompier (2006) explains that actually much of the methodology of the Hawthorne tests’ was incorrect and the conclusions that are often made from them cannot actually seen in the results (Kompier, M 2006) however, the new ideas that arose about managing human needs in the workplace were very important and seemed to fit well with the social changes taking place around the same time. This was not the first discovery of human factors at play in the...
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