Basic Schools of Management

Article Index
Basic Schools of Management
Exercises
Vocabulary
In response to the growth of large organizations in the late nineteenth century and during the early twentieth century, there was an intensified interest in management as a process and as a science.

Classical School of Management

The oldest and perhaps most widely accepted school among practitioners has been called the classical school of management thought. This is the approach to management thought that arose mainly from efforts between 1900 and 1940 to provide a rational and scientific basis for the management of organisations. This is sometimes referred to as the traditional school of management.

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, people were brought together to work in factories. This system was in marked contrast to the handicraft system whereby people worked separately in small shops or in their own homes. Thus industrialization created a need for the effective management of people and other resources in the emerging organizations. In other words, there was a need for efficient planning, organizing, influencing, and controlling of work activities.

In response to the growth of large organizations in the late nineteenth century and during the early twentieth century, there was an intensified interest in management as a process and as a science. It was apparent to many that management could be made more effective and efficient. The primary contributions of the classical school of management include the following:

  1. Application of science to the practice of management.
  2. Development of the basic management functions: planning, organizing, influencing, and controlling.
  3. Articulation and application of specific principles of management.
Classical management concepts have significantly improved the practice of management.

Scientific Management

Frederick Taylor, who made major contributions to management thinking around the turn of this century, is often called the Father of Scientific Management. Taylor was supported in his efforts by Henry Gantt, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and Harrington Emerson. All of these Taylor disciples became famous in their own rights. Together with Taylor they revolutionized management thinking. Scientific management is the name given to the principles and practices that grew out of the work of Frederick Taylor and his followers and that are characterised by concern for efficiency and systematization in management.

Taylor was convinced that the scientific method should apply to the management process. The scientific method provides a logical framework for the analysis of problems. It basically consists of defining the problem, gathering data, analyzing the data, developing alternatives, and selecting the best alternative. Taylor believed that following the scientific method would provide a way to determine the most efficient way to perform work.

Instead of abdicating responsibility for establishing standards, for example, management would scientifically study all facets of an operation and carefully set a logical and rational standard. Instead of guessing or relying solely on trial and error, management would go through the time-consuming process of logical study and scientific research to develop answers to business problems. Taylor's philosophy can be summarized in the following four principles:

  1. Develop and use the scientific method in the practice of management (find the "one best way" to perform work).
  2. Use scientific approaches to select employees who are best suited to perform a given job.
  3. Provide employees with scientific education, training, and development.
  4. Encourage friendly interaction and cooperation between management and employees but with a separation of duties between managers and workers.

Taylor stated many times that scientific management would require a revolution in thinking by both the manager and the subordinate. His purpose was not solely to advance the interests of the manager and the enterprise. He believed sincerely that scientific management practices would benefit both the employee and the employer through the creation of a larger surplus. The organization would achieve higher output, and the worker would receive more income.

The greater part of Taylor's work was oriented toward improving management of production operations.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth concentrated on motion study to develop more efficient ways to pour concrete, lay bricks, and perform many other repetitive tasks. After Frank's death, Lillian became a professor of management at Purdue University. Until her death in 1972, she was considered the First Lady of Management.

H.L. Gantt developed a control chart that is used to this day in production operations.

Harrington Emerson set forth "twelve principles of efficiency" in a 1913 book of that title. Certain of Emerson's principles state that a manager should carefully define objectives, use the scientific method of analysis, develop and use standardized procedures, and reward employees for good work. His book remains a recognized management classic.

General Management Theory

In contrast to Taylor, Emerson, Gantt, and the Gilbreths, Henri Fayol and C.I. Bamard attempted to develop a broader theory concerned with general management. (Although Frederick Taylor and Henri Fayol were contemporaries, the two apparently never knew of one another's work. Fayol's major contribution to management literature, Industrial and General Management, was not translated into English until long after Taylor died and, in fact, after Fayol himself had died.) Fayol's thesis was that the fundamental functions of any manager consist of planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. He attempted to develop a number of general principles designed to improve the practice of general management.
Chester Barnard's ideas, expressed in his classic book, The Functions of the Executive, have significantly influenced the theory and practice of management for nearly half a century. For years, Barnard was president of New Jersey Bell Telephone and also held a number of important public service posts. Barnard believed that the most important function of a manager is to promote cooperative effort toward goals of the organization. He believed that cooperation depends on effective communications and a balance between rewards to, and contributions by each employee.

Behavioral School of Management

In the 1920s and 1930s, some observers of organizations became convinced that scientific management was shortsighted and incomplete. In particular Eiton Mayo and F.J. Roethlisberger began to point out that the approaches advanced by scientific management were not necessarily the most efficient, nor did they always work as intended. These researchers believed the human aspects of business organizations had been largely ignored. The behavioral school of management is the approach to management thought that is primarily concerned with human psychology, motivation, and leadership as distinct from simple mechanical efficiency. The behavioral school of management thought includes what has come to be called the human relations movement, as well as modern behaviorism.

Human Relations

The field of human relations emerged from the work of Eiton Mayo, who has become recognized as the Father of the Human Relations Movement. The human relations movement is the name given the trend that began in the 1920s and that reached its apogee in the 1940s and 1950s toward treating satisfaction of psychological needs as the primary management concern. The project that had the most to do with the beginning of the concern for human relations in business was the Hawthorne experiments, conducted in the Chicago Western Electric Company plant (the Hawthorne works) between 1927 and 1932. In these experiments, researchers attempted to prove the validity of certain accepted management ideas. Several of the experiments attempted to determine the relationship between working conditions and productivity.

In one study, the researchers set up test groups, for which changes were made in lighting, frequency of rest periods, and working hours, and control groups, for which no changes were made. When rest periods and other improvements in working conditions were introduced, productivity of the test groups increased, as expected; however, the researchers were surprised when output increased again when the various improvements in working conditions, such as rest periods, were removed.

Mayo and the other researchers concluded that their presence had influenced the behavior of the workers being studied. The influence of behavioral researchers on the people they study has come to be called the Hawthorne effect. A management corollary is that when employees are given special attention, output is likely to increase regardless of the actual changes in the working conditions. Mayo and Roethlisberger followed up the early experiments at the Hawthorne plant with (1) an investigation of cliques, work groups, and other information relationships in organizations, and (2) an intensive interviewing program. The basic conclusions reached as a result of the interviewing program were that the psychological needs of individuals have a significant impact on group performance and that employees often misstate their concerns.

Much behavioral research supports the thesis that reasonable satisfaction of the needs and desires of employees will lead to greater output. This suggests that any management approach that ignores or deemphasizes the human element may result in only partly accomplished objectives.

Modern Behaviorism

Since the early experiments at the Hawthorne plant, there has been an increased interest in and application of behavioral science in management. The human relations approach has evolved into modern behaviorism. The term "modern behaviorism" refers to the current stage of evolution of the behavioral school of management, which gives primacy to psychological considerations but treats fulfillment of emotional needs mainly as a means of achieving other, primarily economic goals.

In recent years, there has been renewed interest in developing techniques to utilize people more effectively in organizations. The contributions of such well-known behavioral scientists as Abraham Maslow, Douglas McGregor, Chris Argyris, Frederick Herzberg, and Rensis Likert have provided considerable insight into ways to achieve managerial effectiveness.

Behavioral scientists have often criticized classical management theory and scientific management as not being responsive enough to the human needs. The behaviorists' specific criticisms include the following:

  • Jobs have been overly specialized.
  • People are underutilized.
  • Managers have exercised too much control and have prevented employees from making decisions they are competent to make.
  • Managers have shown too little concern about subordinates' needs for recognition and self-fulfillment.

Behavioral scientists argue that the design of work has not changed to keep pace with changes in the needs of today's employees. In today's complex, affluent, and rapidly changing society, they say, employees cannot be treated like interchangeable parts. Today's worker has a higher level of education and tends to possess higher expectations for the working environment than workers of the past did. Modern behaviorists say employees of today desire diverse and challenging work. This desire has placed increased pressure on management to be responsive to change and to provide an environment designed to meet human needs.

Attempts to Integrate the Three Approaches

During the last 25 years, there have been attempts to achieve integration of the three approaches to management. One of these attempts, the systems approach, stresses that organizations must be viewed as total systems, with each part linked to every other part. Another, the contingency approach, stresses that the correctness of a managerial practice is contingent upon how it fits the particular situation in which it is applied. Let us briefly examine each.

The Systems Approach. The systems approach to management is really a way of thinking about management problems. It views an organization as a group of inter-related parts with a single purpose. The action of one part will influence the others, and managers cannot deal separately with individual parts. In solving problems, managers using the systems approach must view the organization as a dynamic whole and must try to anticipate the intended as well as unintended impacts of their decisions. Such managers do not solve individual problems. Rather, they intervene in a total system of inter-related parts, using the management functions of planning, organizing, and controlling.

The age-old confrontation between production costs and the marketing objective of a broad product line is one example of the interrelated nature of management problems. Each objective conflicts with the other. For production costs to be their lowest, the firm would produce one color and one style. To achieve the marketing objective, several models and several colors would be required but at higher costs. In this situation, a compromise is necessary for the overall system to achieve its objective. The objectives of the individual parts must be compromised to meet the objective of the entire firm.

Using the systems approach, individual managers must adopt a broad perspective of their jobs. With a systems perspective, they can more easily achieve coordination between the objectives of the various parts of the organization and the objectives of the organization as a whole.

Contingency Approach. The systems approach forces managers to recognize that organizations are systems made up of interdependent parts and that a change in one part will affect other parts. It seeks to identify the characteristics of jobs, people, and organizations, allowing managers to see the interdependence between the various segments of an organization. The basic idea of the contingency approach is that there is no best way to plan, organize, or control. Rather, managers must find different ways to fit different situations. A method highly effective in one situation may not work in other situations. The contingency approach seeks to match different situations with different management methods.

Actually, the idea of contingency, or situational thinking is not new. An early writer in the classical approach spoke during the 1920s of the "law of the situation". Mary Parker Follett noted that "different kinds of knowledge, and the man possessing the knowledge demanded by a certain situation tends in the best managed businesses, other things being equal, to become the leader of the moment".

The contingency approach has grown in popularity over the last two decades because some research has found that, given certain characteristics of a job, specific management practices tend to work better than others. For example, rigid plans, clearly defined jobs, autocratic leadership, and tight controls have at times resulted in high productivity and satisfied workers. At other times, just the opposite (general plans, loosely defined jobs, democratic leadership, and loose controls) has produced the same results.

If, for instance, productivity needs to be increased, the manager will not automatically assume a new work method is needed (a classical solution) or that a new motivational approach needs to be tried (a behavioral solution). Instead, the manager will study the characteristics of the workers, the nature of the job, and his or her own leadership approach before deciding on a solution.

Managers in the 1990s and beyond must use more of a contingency approach to survive. Reliance on a classical or a behavioral or a management science approach will not be sufficient for tomorrow's organizations. The reasons why the contingency view will become more relevant and prominent are:

  1. Increased globalization of enterprise and the need for more government business alliances to compete internationally.
  2. Demands for ethical and social leadership.
  3. Changing demographics and skill requirements of the work force.
  4. The emergence of new organizational structures that emphasize speed in reacting to environmental changes.
  5. Changing needs, preferences, and desires of employees for job security, participation, ownership, and personal fulfillment.

The student of management preparing for the 21st century must learn multiple ways to compete, innovate, create, motivate, and lead. Both the systems approach and the contingency approach can provide valuable insights.



 

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