Essay on historical trends of management, English

I. The Introduction

I chose the topic of the historical trends in management because I was always interested in the details of a job of a manager, and not just the routine tasks or mechanical procedures, but also personality traits, conflict handling, and whether leaders are born or made.  The word "manage" has its roots in the Italian word "maneggiare", meaning to handle tools.  The process of organization and coordination of the activities in any business is a complex procedure that must be aligned with certain policies and guidelines in addition to clearly defined objectives.  The management thought existed in the ancient times and there were many styles of management throughout the history of mankind that shaped where we are today in the business world.

The leaders and managers of any organization have the authority and responsibility to make decisions to manage their business enterprise when given the authority by the shareholders. The management functions interlock numerous functions, such as policy formulation, organizing, planning, controlling, resource distribution, and strategic planning.  I am also particularly interested in Frederick Taylor's theory of scientific management because of its logical nature in terms of labor division and how this specific idea influenced the trends in management science today.

II. The Review of the Literature

At the turn of the century, the scientific management theory was utilized in the most notable organizations were large and industrialized. The ongoing and routine tasks contributed to the manufacturing of a variety of products. The United States of America highly prized scientific and technical matters, including careful measurement and specification of activities and results. Frederick Taylor developed the scientific management theory which specified and measured all organizational tasks, standardized the tasks, and used reward and punishment towards workers.  Taylor (2011) in his Principles of Scientific Management stated that "no one can be found who will deny that in the case of any single individual, the greatest prosperity can exist only when that individual has reached his highest state of efficiency, that is, when he is turning out his largest daily output" (p. 2). This approach appeared to work fine for organizations with assembly lines and other commercial routine activities.

When Frederick Taylor wrote this book in 1911, it would appear to many scholars and business leaders to be the way to go in managing and motivating people.  Taylor spoke about rewarding good men (employees), which ultimately called for scoring and ranking workers.  The organizations today, as entities competing in marketplace need to have employees collaborating to present the best solutions.  Taylor (2011) stated that "to enhance the rewarding effects of teamwork, provide the workforce a form of profit/loss share such as stock options. Should everyone do their parts and it leads to a successful business, everyone wins".

The bureaucratic management theory, defined by Max Weber, enhanced the scientific management theory by dividing organizations into hierarchies, establishing strong lines of authority and control. According to bureaucratic theory, the organizations should develop comprehensive and detailed standard operating procedures for all routine tasks.  Weber (2002) stated that "certainly, the casting aside of economic traditionalism seems to be one phenomenon that was bound to lend strong support to the tendency to call into question religious traditions and to rebel against traditional authorities" (p. 2).  He specifically tried to refute two common prejudices: that modern capitalism arose from greed or alternatively, from industriousness. The Chinese, for example, have proven throughout history to be industrious and hard working as much as any people in the West, but they have failed to widen modern capitalism. Weber was trying to change the view of certain groups of people at the beginning of the modern era. As a result of religious beliefs and attitudes some people rejected the age-old and still prevalent ideal of the "universal man" of sound erudition and refined taste, the "gentleman" ideal of the Renaissance, in favor of a completely different life goal, that of the "professional man". Weber also contributed to the development of the modern, rational view in all areas of life and thought.    

The human relations management movement was the result of the reaction of unions and government to the dehumanizing effects of the previous theories.  The individuals and their unique capabilities were given more attention because they improved the performance of organizations, because the organizations prosper when its workers prosper as well.  The presence of the human relations department became crucial for most organizations because the needs of workers needed to be aligned with the needs of the organization.  This theory contributed to the growth of behavioral sciences.  The movement of human relations created the necessity of training programs and progressive management development programs to develop supervisory skills, such as delegating, career development, inspiring, training, and mentoring.

There are numerous contemporary theories of management in existence today.  The contingency theory, for example, encompasses the management decision making process where decision makers have to take into consideration all aspects of the current situation and act on those aspects that are key to the situation. The best style of leadership or management might now conclude that the best style depends on the situation, for example, the military combat situation would call for the autocratic style, whereas the participative or facilitative leadership could be more appropriate for an university or a hospital.

Donaldson (2001) discussed the workings of a contingency theory in organizations in relation to the foundations of organizational science and discovered that "some of the more important contingency theories of organizational structure involve the three contingencies of the environment, organizational size, and strategy" (p. 2).  His works provide a comprehensive review for scholars and business leaders of the structural contingency theory and well formulated direction for future studies.

The systems theory brings more understanding of management science in relation to organizations.  The system, in this specific context, is a collection of parts unified to accomplish an overall goal. If one part of the system is removed or replaced, the nature of the system is changed as well.  The performance management theory constitutes an important part of the systems theory.  According to Senge, the leading researcher of the systems theory, there are five principles that define any system: personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, team learning, and employee identification. These principles serve as guidelines for employees in terms of their performance, motivation and behavior.  The organizational management is responsible for the performance evaluation, the definition of job responsibilities and functions from a systems point of view. These criteria cannot be measured separately, for example, the performance of an employee in the advertising department is greatly influenced by the decisions of the finance department or human resources.

The systems can be compared to the workings of a car, because if one part of the vehicle is removed, the car does not function as a whole, therefore the systems can be looked at as having inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes. Systems share feedback among each of these four aspects of the systems.  The inputs would include resources such as raw materials, money, technologies, and people. These inputs go through a process of planning, organization, motivation, and control, so that the goals of the organization can be met. The outputs would be products or services to a market, such as enhanced quality of life or productivity for customers or clients, and productivity. Feedback includes the information from human resources carrying out the process and customers or clients using the products, in addition to the larger environment of the organization influenced by the government, society, economics, and technologies.

The systems theory is bringing significant paradigm shift to many organizations, especially in the way the management studies and approaches organizations.  This theory guides writers, educators, and consultants in helping managers to look at the organization from a broader perspective. Systems theory has brought a new perspective for managers to understand patterns and events in the workplace by recognizing different parts of the organization along with their interdependence and synchronization patterns.

In the chaos theory, managers believed that in spite of chaos, the major organizational events can still be controlled, even though it occurs rarely in reality.  According to this theory,  systems naturally go to more complexity, and as they do so, these systems become more volatile (or susceptible to cataclysmic events) and must expend more energy to maintain that complexity. Such expansion of energy brings more structure to maintain stability. This trend continues until the system splits, combines with another complex system or falls apart entirely.  Gleick (2008) in his Chaos: Making a New Science discussed the workings of a chaos theory in the world of business and compared it to the process of weather forecasting that is not always effective.  He stated that "weather forecasting had been waiting two centuries for a machine that could repeat thousands of calculations over and over again by brute force" (p. 13).  Gleick focused not so much on chaos itself as it is the people who first explored chaos theory and eventually managed to make it respectable and bring it into the mainstream. His theory of chaos deals mainly with its roots in the '60s, '70s and early '80s.

Gleick was able to convey the nature of nonlinear dynamics and the sense of wonder and excitement that comes from looking at nature in a new way, through the lens of nonlinearity.  The chaos should be more accessible and understandable through this lens, so that the wide range of organizational fields could apply it more effectively.

Wren (2005) researched various aspects of management styles throughout the history and discovered that "the study of management, like the study of people and their cultures, is an unfolding story of changing ideas about the nature of work, the nature of human beings, and the functioning of organizations" (p. 3).  His comprehensive research involved tracing the origin and development of modern management concepts, that would benefit other researchers and graduate students in developing more logical and coherent picture of the present state of management practice in addition to deeper understanding of the analytical and conceptual tools of the trade. The History of Management Thought by Wren presents the unfolding story of the lives and times of major figures in the field of management and their connection to themes and ideas that influenced and shaped the management thought.  Wren's research covers the early beginnings of the pre-industrial era to the modern theories of management by profiling significant eras and analyzing numerous trends and movements, especially the impact of technology and volatility of market conditions.

Schafritz and Hyde (2012) discussed in their Classics of Public Administration,  the principles of public administration through the use of the most significant scholarly writings on the topic, from Woodrow Wilson's theories to the modern political scientists.  The authors devoted the entire section of their book to the writing and thinking trends of the 21st century and addressed  the key fields of public administration such as bureaucracy, organization theory, human resources management, the budgetary process, public policy, implementation, evaluation, intergovernmental relations, and public service ethics.

Roth (1998) studied the evolution of the management theory throughout the centuries by investigating four interdependent forces that shaped the history: socioeconomic thinking, technological development, organizational size, and the pressures of the marketplace. Roth's research shows readers not only how management has become as much of an art as a science, but also where it is heading.  The study begins with the medieval times of business, which were guild-controlled because "the main responsibilities of the guild were to protect the interests of member units from outside competition and to restrain these units from taking unfair advantage of each other" (p. 7).   The overview of the management theory history proves that the roots of modern day practice and theory are often grounded in centuries old customs of business.

Organizations today are struggling to make their management systems more effective, and most of them are losing the battle. The biggest part of this problem lies in the lack of thoughtful of the forces that have shaped them historically, that are currently shaping them, and that will shape them in the future. 

Denhardt (2011) analyzed the theory of public organizations throughout the ages and discovered that "we are constructing our own personal approach to our theory of public organization; we are seeking explanations or understanding that will allow us systematically to view public organizations, their members, and their clients" (p. 3).  This is a very comprehensive overview of public administration theory that presents multiple viewpoints, enabling the readers to develop their own philosophies of public administration, and helping them relate theory to application. Denhardt also incorporates the new theme of governance, which explores the traditions, institutions, and processes that determine how power is exercised, how citizens are given a voice, and how decisions are made on issues of public concern.

Another important aspect in the field of management theory is the existence of various leadership styles throughout the ages.  There are three traditional leadership styles: autocratic, delegative, and participative, however, the new style of a transformational leader started to merge in the last fifty years.  Authoritarian leaders, also known as autocratic, provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. These types of leaders make a distinct division between the leader and the followers because they are the ones who make the decision independently with little or no input from their followers.  This style of leadership could easily lead to the state of abuse, resulting in the leader being viewed as controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.  The authoritarian leadership is mostly effective in situations where there is no or very little time for making the decision as a group.  The democratic, or participative leadership style, is the opposite of the first one and potentially the most effective because these types of leaders offer assistance to group members, while participating in the group and allowing the input from other group members. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, however, they will still have the final say at the end of the decision making process, while making the group members feel engaged in the process and stay more motivated and creative (Lewin, 1951).

The third category, the delegative leaders, offer little or no assistance to group members and leave the final decision up to group members.  This style can be effective in certain situations, for example, where group members are highly qualified in a specific area of expertise, however, there is a risk of falling into the trap of poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.  The concept of a transformational leader encompasses connecting the sense of identity of the follower with the one of the leaders in order to project the collective identity of the organization. Such a leader is a role model for followers because he or she inspires them and makes them interested, challenges the to take bigger ownership for their works, and understands their strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that improve their performance in the future (Lewin,1951).

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III. Conclusions

The future of management thought and theories will be dependent upon the political and economical situation in the world due to globalization and advanced technology.  Modern management approaches incorporate the classical, human resource, and quantitative theories of management. However, successful managers recognize that although each theoretical school has limitations in its applications, each approach also offers valuable insights that can broaden the chosen options in solving problems and achieving organizational goals. Successful managers work to extend these approaches to meet the demands of a dynamic environment.

Modern management concepts gear towards the recognition of the fact that people are complex and variable. Employee needs will always change over time and these people will  possess a range of talents and capabilities that can be developed over time. Organizations and managers need to respond to persons with many strategies.  The global economy today has a very dramatic influence on organizations, especially in the ways of management practices in other countries.  People are the most important asset of any organization, therefore managers must shine in their leadership responsibilities skills to perform numerous different roles.

The history of management and leadership influences management styles and theories today in many ways.  There is a definite need for more extensive academic research on the subject of the influence of various management styles from the past on the current organizations, their effectiveness of operations and decision making process.  Modern managers use many of the practices, principles, and techniques developed from earlier concepts and experiences, for example the Industrial Revolution caused the emergence of larger businesses and its need for professional and competent managers.  Managers have to carry out many roles in the organization and how they handle a range of situations will depend on their style of management.

Posted Date: 3/28/2013 1:06:51 AM | Location : United States

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