Usefulness of Classical Management Theory in a Modern Organisation

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DEFINITION

Classical Management Theory propounds that a manager’s foremost preoccupation is how to increase an organisation’s efficiency in order to increase productivity.

Scholars of management from as early as the 19th century touted the need for managers to find that formula, that modus operandi, that would deliver positive results, on a sustainable basis, in the most efficient manner. In the process they sought to define the role(s) of a manager and although these have been altered by influences such as technology, the key underlying principles remain unchanged.

Management today, like it was 100 years ago, is still very much about planning, organising, controlling, influencing. Classical Management theorists sought to connect these functions to growing an organisation’s efficiency and productivity.

The most notable contributors to classical management thinking, namely Fredrick Taylor, Henri Fayol and Max Weber might have cloaked their ideas in different language and applied diverse nomenclature, but they were by all means taking different buses to a similar destination. Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory, Fayol’s Theory of Management and Weber’s Bureaucracy Theory all sought, as a basic, to tackle one key aspect: increased efficiency for increased productivity. That the goal of management in contemporary organisations does not depart any significantly from the views these scholars espoused provides the early evidence that classical management theory still has a place in a modern organisation—but only to a point.

How much relevance classical management theory might enjoy today will, without doubt, depend on the component under examination. The degree to which Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management approach applies to management of an organisation in the 21st century varies from that to which Henri Fayol’s Theory of Management or Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory apply. The need to retain a sizeable prospect of accuracy while assessing these three key approaches to management situations today therefore informs the need to separate and individually examine each theory’s merits.

FREDRICK W. TAYLOR’S SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT THEORY

Fredrick W. Taylor’s primary goal was to increase worker efficiency by scientifically designing jobs, with the basic premise that there was “one best way” and that this way should be discovered and put in operation. Taylor propounded a scientific approach where scientific methods for performing given tasks were used in order to maximise efficiency/productivity. His philosophy was informed by his experiences at Bethlehem Steel where productivity had been improved through observation and experimentation with workers based on factors such as their size and the kind of tools they were provided.

These experiments led Taylor to propose the following principles of scientific management:

Work methods based on a scientific study of the tasks carried out should be adopted. •Employees should be scientifically selected and trained by the management and not left to their own devices. •Managers should train workers and audit the workers' performance to ensure that the adopted scientific methods are being properly performed. •Work should be divided between managers and workers so that managers can apply the established scientific methods and processes of production, whereas the workers can perform the job according to the established procedures. The principles outlined above encapsulate Taylor’s proposition. They provide the basis for an appraisal of his views on management and their applicability to a modern organisation. On the basis of the principles Taylor put forward, it is clear that his views to management remain relevant today.

Organisations in the modern age continue to validate Taylor’s principle that work methods should be based on a scientific study of the tasks involved. Factory processes, to name one example, involve scientific determination of the...
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