Contemporary Management

11 November 2016

The Classical Management approach attempted to apply logic and scientific methods to management of complex organisations, such as factories. It assumed that there was “one best way” to manage an enterprise. Classical Management comprises three different approaches: Scientific Management, which represents Frederick W Taylor’s work, developed scientific principles of management, focusing on the individual, rather than the team and aimed to improve efficiency through production-line time studies, breaking each job down into its components and designing the quickest and best methods of performing each component. He also encouraged employers to reward productivity. Employees did the physical labour, managers did the planning and organising.

According to Taylor, employees were motivated by money. From Taylor’s research emerged time studies, work studies and industrial engineering, making an important contribution to the central procedures of many organisations. ยท Bureaucratic Management emerged from the work of Max Weber, who developed an “ideal model” organisation, hierarchical in structure, governed by a set of impersonal, formal rules and policies.

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Weber believed this was the most efficient way to organise and govern an enterprise. ยท Henri Fayol’s Administrative Management assumed that 14 general principles of management could be applied to any situation or circumstance: 1. division of work 2. authority 3. discipline 4. unity of command 5. unity of direction 6. subordination of individual interest to the common good 7. remuneration 8. centralisation 9. hierarchy 10. order 11. equity 12. stability of staff 13. initiative 14. espirit de corps

Fayol divided managerial activities into five functions: planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling. This idea set the basis for many modern management techniques stressing rational central planning. The Human Relations approach, focusing on work relationships as the key to improving workplace productivity, was inspired by the Hawthorne studies performed by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger. They studied the effects of physical working conditions on employee productivity and fatigue.

These studies suggested that leaders are able to positively influence employee motivation and productivity by showing concern for employee relationships. Mayo discovered that a work group would establish its own informal group performance norm, which represented what it considered to be a fair level of performance. The work group would convince ratebusters to slow down and slackers to work faster. Mayo’s conclusion that “work is a group activity” had a profound influence on modern individual management.

Two key aspects of the human relations approach are employee motivation and leadership style. Pay can motivate only lower level needs and once those are satisfied, non-monetary factors such as praise, recognition, and job characteristics motivate human behaviour. Fayol’s Management approach emphasised maximum efficiency and productivity through standard operating procedures; viewed money as the one true motivator for workers; stressed the need for managerial control; and viewed organisations as machines.

Taylor’s Scientific approach over-simplified the issues, emphasised the individual rather than the team and was hostile to trade unions and labour organisations. Whereas Fayol and Taylor both emphasised the production process and adjusted humans to this process, Mayo’s Human Relations approach emphasised the coordination of human and social elements in an organisation through consultation, participation, communication and leadership.

However, the equation merely replaced “rational economic man” with “emotional social man” and this approach merely shifted the blame for poor performance from structural to personal attitudes and emotions. Both approaches held that there was “one best way” to manage all organisations. Assess the relevance of Classical Management theorists to the management of contemporary organisations. The modern assembly line pours out finished products faster than Taylor could ever have imagined. This production efficiency is just one legacy of Scientific Management.

Its efficiency techniques have been applied to many tasks in non-industrial organisations, ranging from fast-food service to the training of surgeons. However, Taylor’s emphasis on productivity and speed placed undue pressures on employees to perform at faster and faster levels. This led to exploitation and resulted in more workers joining unions. Modern management is still viewed as a process that enables organisations to achieve their objectives by planning, organising and controlling their resources, as advocated by Fayol, but views gaining the commitment of their mployees through motivation as a key element. Hierarchical organisation (introduced by Fayol) has become the dominant, traditional mode of structure in large corporations and civil/public service departments. In some cases this “mechanistic” model works best, however, the emphasis is on efficiency and control, whereas a greater balance between people and performance is generally considered the more desirable approach nowadays.

Although the Classical Management (vertical/hierarchical) approach dominated organisational structure for decades, the Human Relations Movement (horizontal/inter-departmental), encouraging adaptation to external changes, seems the more relevant approach for modern management. Contemporary management builds on the Classical and Behavioural approaches and goes beyond them. The Systems approach of “different strokes for different folks” finally put the “one best way” theory to bed and has dominated modern organisational analysis since the 1980s.

The Contingency approach views the organisation as an organism, segmenting as it grows, each segment specialising in knowledge and activity, all of which must cope with their external environment and integrate harmoniously. The main difference between Classical and Contemporary approaches is the modern belief that it is futile to search for “one best way” to manage an organisation. Instead, managers must take into account the internal and external environment to match the appropriate management practices to the surrounding circumstances for an effective outcome.

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