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Management is a wide discipline (Drucker, 1987), with numerous branches, which, according to George (1972) have been undergoing study for several years. According to Drejer et al (1987) operations management draws its influences from both the technical and human aspect of management and this affects the way in which it has been researched.
According to Martin (2005), the study of organisational behaviour and management is interdisciplinary and includes, but is not restricted to several aspects of Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy and Economics. He further maintains that this study is dependent on a solid understanding of social sciences. Burrell and Morgan (2005) maintain that one must take on one of the following assumptions in order to understand the social sciences: ontology (the concept of reality - nominalism or realism), epistemology (ways of knowing - positivist or anti-positivist), methodology (qualitative or quantitative) and the human nature (the concept of freewill). These assumptions make up the social paradigms, which are 'universally recognised scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners.' (Kuhn, 1970). Some of the major paradigms are: positivism, interpretivism, and critical (Chua, 1986).
Therefore, a proper discussion of the validity of the assumptions inferred from the quotation cannot be initiated without a brief study of the various thoughts that have shaped the theory of management over the years. Mullins (2007) finds this a simplistic yet appropriate approach because the focus is on the historical progression of ideas for increased productivity.
The development of management theory began around the nineteenth century, following the industrial revolution and its accompanying challenges. Since that era, several scholars have propounded various approaches to the subject of management. Skipton (1983) identifies eleven different classifications of management theory and Mullins (2007) groups these into four major approaches: classical, human relations, systems and contingency.
THE CLASSICAL APPROACH
Taylor and Fayol are some of the prominent writers associated with this approach and they argued that the theory of management could be broken down into principles based on an organisation's structure and objectives (Mullins, 2007). Their focus was on technical aspect of management, and the approach was more rational, logical and systematic in nature.
The two main classifications under this approach are scientific management and bureaucracy (Mullins, 2007). According to Martin, scientific management is the 'application of work study techniques to the design and organisation of work in order to maximise output.' Lavender (1996) identifies F.W. Taylor as the father of scientific management, pointing out that this school of thought was borne out of a need for increased efficiency and productivity in organisations. Taylor (1947) argued that there was a best working method by which manual labour could be undertaken, under the premise that people operated like machines, thus earning the name 'Machine Theory Model' (Mullins, 2007). He put forward four principles, which surround the premise that there was 'one best way' to carry out a task and training workers to follow the prescribed model (Martin, 2005).
Taylor's work was however unsuccessful in the long run as workers protested the workers found the work boring, requiring little skill, and this even led to a strike action at the American Watertown Arsenal in 1912 (Mullins, 2007). Further, scientific management has received countless criticism, a major point being that Taylor only treated workers like machines and matters relating to human resource productivity are better examined from the social point of view (Rose, 1978). On the other hand, Drucker (1976) maintains that Taylor's work was driven by the need to motivate the workforce by the removal of physical strain from work and higher wages. Scientific management is considered reductionist in nature and provides a conservative, systematic and objectivist approach to management (Holling, 1995).
Bureaucracy is the other aspect to the classical perspective and considers management as being made up of tasks related to the running of an organisation which is found in many organisations today, hence the term administrative management (Martin, 2007). One of the major contributors was Weber, a German sociologist, who pointed out that a definition of various roles and tasks based on the organisational structure of management led to better administration of work procedures and gave room for standardisation of offices, irrespective of the holders.
Martin (2005) discusses the contributions of Fayol, who also identified various functions such as planning, organising and controlling the management process and this led him to the establishment of fourteen principles surrounding the theory of management.
Bureaucracy is characterised by specialisation, hierarchy of authority, system of rules and impersonality (Stewart, 1999). However some of the criticisms include the over-emphasis of rules, overly detailed record keeping and an impersonal approach to management roles and obligations (Mullins, 2007).
THE HUMAN RELATIONS APPROACH
This approach emerged from the 1920s after the Great Depression as management began to pay more attention to the behaviour of employees within their organisations.
A leading research in this field was that of the Hawthorne experiments and Elton Mayo is considered a leader of the researchers (Mullins, 2007). Martin (2005) points out that the experiments began in 1924 and were based on the effect of illumination on workers and their productivity. Furthermore, it was concluded that productivity was increased when workers were shown more interest by management and the importance of group behaviour on individuals in relation to their activities at work.
Closely related to this was the neo-human relations, which is made up of a lot of the authors on motivation theory like Maslow, McClelland, Hertzberg and McGregor. Mullins (2007) recognises that this approach was an attempt to correct the gaps in the human relations approach and heralded new ideas on management, where a lot of emphasis was placed on the adjustment of the individual within the work organisation and the effect of various leadership styles.
The human relations technique recognised that the importance of informal organisations within the formal structure but was criticised by Mullins (2007) for its functionalist paradigm (management viewpoint), over-simplified theories and ignorance of technical issues surrounding the functioning of an organisation. However, significant contributions were made to the study of motivation of human resources and the advent of soft skills (Martin, 2005).
THE SYSTEMS AND CONTINGENCY APPROACH
These two perspectives are similar in that they reconcile the contrasting paradigms of scientific management and human relations (Mullins, 2007). They are both considered post-1945 approaches and Lavender (1996) suggests that while the other views are one-dimensional, the systems and contingency approach take on a multi-dimensional standpoint.
The systems approach, which is based on the premise that management is a sociotechnical system (Mullins, 2007), which examines the interaction between social factors (the human part of the organisation) and structural and technological criteria. Lane et al (2000) show this relationship by pointing out that technological change leads to changes in workers behaviour and requirements. Lavender (1996) considers the two types of organisations that exist under this viewpoint: open systems interact with the environment while closed systems, permit little or no interaction with the external environment. The business organisation is an example of an open system (Mullins, 2007).
The contingency approach is more concerned with adapting to change and flexibility. In this view, there is no optimum state, but success depends on the nature of the task and the nature of environmental influence on existing goals (Mullins, 2007). Lavender (1996) postulates that based on this approach, the more faster changing an environment is, the more flexible an organisation should be.
In general, one can further categorise the above stated approaches under the modernism and post-modernism eras. Modernism is based on an understanding of the world through the application of reason and science objective while post-modernism is based on reality made up of different version and various human expressions of them - subjective (Martin, 2005).
Based on the analysis presented above, it could be argued that scientific management is a modernist approach, while post-modernism embodies the human relations approach. These are extreme sides of the stick, and the contingency and systems approach seem to lie somewhere in between, although they were propounded in the post-Fordism era (Martins, 2005). However, Mullins (2007) states that there is no easy and clear way in presenting post modernism, as it is more of a sociological concept than specific to management.
Based on earlier discussions, it can be inferred that while mathematical models are effective in generating models for the effective running of operations management, when subject to the social aspect of management, they are not as effective. This is especially true for the given case study. However, this is not to say that the other extreme is a preferred option. Martins (2005) maintains that opinions vary as to which is relevant in the twenty-first century, and in agreeing with the contingency approach, the chosen approach may depend on the environmental factors and the nature of the project. According to Benjamin (2003), there is no end to the management trends and new ways of managing projects would constantly emerge.