It is hard to imagine a workplace without managers and leaders. Mullins (2011) says that "a central part of the study of organisation and management is the development of management thinking and what might be termed management theory". He also says that "in order to help identify main trends in the development of organisational behaviour and management theory, it is usual to categorise the work of writers into various 'approaches', based on their views of organisations, their structure and management." This is why this essay, will analyse the first two approaches to Management: The Classical, consisting of scientific (Taylor), bureaucratic (Weber) and administrative management (Fayol) areas of study, and the Human Relations approach, represented by Mayo, Maslow and McGregor. This essay will also discuss a few industry examples where these approaches have been put into practice in different organizations as well as form of evidence that "by reviewing lessons from the past, managers can see patterns and turning points that help them anticipate and meet the challenges of the future" (Bovlee, 1993).
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One of the "fathers" of the Classical Approach to Management was Frederick W. Taylor. In 1911 he published his work Principles of Scientific Management, where he explained "how to define the one best way for a job to be done". (Robbins, 2001).
According to Huczynski et al, (2001) Taylor's methodology for improving efficiency consisted of five principles:
A clear division of tasks and responsibilities between management and workers.
Use of scientific methods to determine the best way of doing a job.
A scientific selection of the person to do the newly designed job.
Training of the selected worker to perform the job in the way specified.
Surveillance of workers through the use of hierarchies of authority and close supervision.
Overall, the application of these principles "achieved consistent productivity improvements in the range of 200 percent or more" (Robbins, 2001).
The second important writer of the classical approach is Henri Fayol. Quoting Push at el. (1984): ( pages 64-67) Fayol's main contribution is his definition of Management as comprising five elements:
To forecast and plan,
To coordinate and
Push also added that Fayol outlines 14 General Principles of Management; known as the Administrative Approach to Management.
Some authors (McLean 2011) believe that Fayol has left an indelible mark on management history and that his theory has stood the test of time and is still relevant and valuable to contemporary organizational leaders.
The third architect of the Classical Approach was the German sociologist Max Weber. Robbins (2001) claims that his main contribution was his concept of bureaucracy, "a form of organization characterized by division of labor, a clearly defined hierarchy, detailed rules and regulations, and impersonal relationships". Also, he believed that "the authority to manage was exercised by the position a person held, not by the person" (Bovée et al, 1993). Overall, Weber's ideal bureaucracy offers many advantages to managers, "helping to define rational networks of authority and activity that help to achieve organizational goals" (Bovée et al, 1993). Similarly, other authors (Kreps, 1990) believe that "bureaucracy offers many advantages to large complex organizations such as universities" and his ideal type "still describes many contemporary organizations" (Robbins, 2001).
The classical approaches, especially the scientific approach, were well received by many organizations, and some of them still apply its principles to some extent. For instance: Ford, one of the most remarkable cases of application of the scientific approach, used its principles to design the assembly line for the car and improve its efficiency. Therefore, Fordism "involved the intensification of work and labour productivity through ever-greater job fragmentation and short task-cycle times" (â€¦) "greater control over workers performing their task" and "established the long term principle of the mass production of standardized commodities at a reduced cost" (Bratton, 2010).
On the not so bright side, Bratton (2010) adds that: "workers found the repetitive work boring and unchallenging, and their job dissatisfaction was expressed in high rates of absenteeism and turnover" but arguably most, "job design in vehicle and electrical engineering -the large-batch production industries- in the USA and Britain" became organized according to this system. The same can be said about the aircraft, train and ship building industries.
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Similarly, fast food restaurants have been able to efficiently offer a consistent product throughout thousands of branches all over the world thanks to the application of Scientific Management principles. The case of Mc Donald's is particularly famous and has been discussed endlessly by writers who both praise and criticise its methods. The philosophy behind this business model has been found in other fast food restaurants such as Burger King as well as other industries, creating a phenomenon called "Mcdonaldization". According to Ritzer (1993) this approach to managing organizations is based on "efficiency, calculability, predictability and control". Mc Donald's even nowadays has a detailed process to make food and serve customers. In this system, staff are not very important; their only role is to follow the steps.
As we have seen, the classical approach has its advantages, such us: using technology to mechanize the work process and therefore reduce the cost of production, as well as improving labour productivity by short, repetitive task-cycles. On the other hand, it has been criticized because of the repetitive tasks it cultivates and the fact that this system does not take into account the staff, or the personal dimension of the people who work for the company (how they feel, what motivates them, etc.) and as a consequence it might lead to job dissatisfaction. These "flaws" or "gaps" led to the development of an alternative approach, the Human Relations.
According to Kreps(1990) the Human Relation approach "recognized this limitation of classical theory and focused directly on the role of the individual in organizational phenomena".
The first author to discuss the role of the staff in the organizations was Elton Mayo. He carried out a very interesting research between 1924 and 1932 called "The Hawthorne experiments". These studies, that in a first phase, "only attempted to learn whether changes in illumination had any impact on employee productivity", (Bovée et al, 1993), stretched for almost eight years, and produced interesting findings. They "identified several significant human issues in organizational performance that had not been stressed previously" (Kreps 1990). Lawton and Rose (1991) claim that "the results of these experiments seemed to indicate that informal groups dynamics were important" (â€¦) and "individuals will interact in much more unpredictable and complex ways than the classical writers would have us believe".
A few years later, in 1943, Maslow introduced his model of the "Pyramid of Needs", according to which individuals have a hierarchy of physiological and psychological needs which they try to satisfy. Bovée et al (1993) state that "because Maslow clarified the importance of motivations other than pay, (â€¦) his contribution to the evolution of management theory was significant".
The next writer to contribute to this approach was Douglas McGregor, with his Theory X and Y. He favoured Theory Y Management, "saying that managers should rely on employee self-direction rather than external controls to achieve performance, and (â€¦) employees should be able to choose the methods they will use to attain organizational goals". (Bovée et al, 1993).
Industry examples of the Human Relations approach include Nationwide Building Society, who offer its employees a choice of benefits, to enable them to balance home and work lives, including a range of flexible working options (part-time, job share, term-time, homeworking, annualised hours, compressed working week) and leave policies that benefit men and women who may have different responsibilities at different life stages, such as enhanced maternity and paternity leave, employment break, extended holiday scheme, amongst others.
Looking at this example under Maslow's perspective, this company offers its employees the opportunity to satisfy their different needs included in the pyramid. The results are impressive: Since 1996, there has been a 14% increase in employee satisfaction.
Another interesting example of how a particular company can successfully apply the human relations principles is Virgin Atlantic. Its manager/leader Sir Richard Branson believes that staff motivation is key for the success of the company. He believes the right pecking order is employees first, customers next and then shareholders. So he listens to the staff, takes notes and acts upon them. He and other people believe this is the reason why Virgin Atlantic's employees always try to give their best. Results: They work for a bit less, but always give the extra mile.
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Some of the positive contributions of the Human relations approach is that it included the staff and how to motivate them in the management equation. On the not so bright side, some people think that it only focuses on part of the reality, and claim that the organizational context should be analysed using both approaches, introducing what is known as "Systems Approach".
To conclude with, according to Kreps (1990), while "Classical theory empathizes formal, hierarchical channels and organization to provide members with directions and job instructions", "the human relations perspective emphasizes the development of informal social communication in organization to help satisfy the needs of organization members".
Both approaches have had great influence on the development of management theory. Kreps adds that "Principles of both have been widely translated into management strategies and techniques used by many business and professional organizations". Hence, "Managers must constantly evaluate theories and techniques to see which one suits their particular organization or situation". (Bovée et al 1993). This might be supported by Hutchinson (1997), who claims that "Since 1966, when the Manchester Business School was first opened, Management thinking has evolved to enable the manager to create the most efficient organization." He also adds that: "It is possible to draw upon elements from each theory to meet the requirements of a particular organization". This seems to be the case of Tesco, who openly confess the use of both Taylor's and Maslow's theories to motivate their staff.
After the human relations approach, a myriad of theories emerged, explaining different aspects from different points of views, creating what Koontz called "The Management Jungle".