The History of Management Thought
The Beginning of Management
It is highly probable that the management process first began in the family organization, later expand to the tribe, and finally pervaded the formalized political units such as those found in early Babylonia. In these organizations, a type of financial control and record keeping was invented which usually took the form of clay tablets with inscriptions.
The recognition of the concept of managerial responsibility was clearly evidenced through the Code of Hammurabi. Later the Egyptians provided us with one of the first examples of a dispersed, decentralized organization with little or no control, with its consequent poor end results. This system of organization is, in fact, the first recorded instance.
Instance of the utilization of a decentralized form of organization to manage an empire, and illustrates the inherent weaknesses of this system which eventually led to its demise. The Egyptian skill in planning and organizing the construction of public edifices, however, is evident in their pyramids and buildings. The Hebrews, too, made their contribution to organization theory and first illustrated the use of the exception principle.
The ancient Chinese philosophers were the first to recognize the need for methodological means of employee selection and staffing, which they supplied through their civil service system. Throughout these early civilization we see evidences time and again of the early recognition of the principle of specialization, noting especially in the writing of Mencius, its the application in such areas as divisions of a trade, and hereditary trades.
Perhaps the Greeks more than any other people provide us with the most extensive documentation of management principles in Xenophon’s writing about the universality of management, specialization, management as an art, employee selection, delegation of authority, and motion study. In fact, these and other instances from early history point clearly to the “originality” of our “modern” managerial practices!
The Romans, as we have seen, made the same mistake that the Egyptians made in the organization of their empire on a decentralized basis with little or no control. But civilizations never seem to learn from others’ mistakes, and during the Middle Ages the principle of decentralization was again violated in the feudal system of management, with the same ultimate demise.
Looking at the entire continuum of management thought during this early period of history, we can conclude that management was strictly on a trial and error basis, with little or no theory and virtually no exchange of ideas and practices. Perhaps inadequate records, poor communication, and failure to analyze the reason for non-success lay behind this lack of profiting from the earlier experiences of others. Evidences of managerial practices clearly indicate, however, that some principles of management were recognized in these early times and communicated at least locally on a “how-to-do-it” basis.
In general, it appears that the managerial principles employed were born out of the necessity of having to accomplish goals, and these principles were “discovered” over and over again by numerous individuals in history as they went attempting to reach needed objectives. Thus, in these early times, management thought existed, but only in a some what nebulous and unsophisticated state. Management as a separate process was not verbalized until Plato and Socrates. Even then, however, the principles were not united in a scheme of...
References: George Elton Mayo (December 26, 1880 - September 7, 1949) was an Australian psychologist, sociologist and organization theorist.
He lectured at the University of Queensland from 1919 to 1923 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, but spent most of his career at Harvard Business School (1926 - 1947), where he was professor of industrial research.
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