The Evolution Of Management Theory Commerce Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Management has existed throughout the time of man. Management throughout the passing of time has evolved and segregated into different theories however the end game, remains the same that is to achieve a certain goal while working together as a team. There are various definitions to the term management. Lawrence Appely defines management as 'Management is the development of people and not the direction of things…management is personnel; administration' (Agarwal, 2010, p.4). Whereas William Spreigel terms it as 'Management is that function of an enterprise which concerns itself with the direction and control of the various activities to attain the business objectives. Management is essentially an executive function; it deals particularly with the active direction of the human effort.' (Agarwal, 2010, p.4). Management is the integrating force in all organized activity.

The verb manage comes from the Italian 'maneggiare' (to handle - especially tools), which in turn derives from the Latin 'manus' (hand). The French word 'mesnagement' (later ménagement) influenced the development in meaning of the English word management in the 17th and 18th centuries. ( 2012. Management. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 December 12].)

Management has been put to use throughout the history of mankind. Management like thought has been seen right from the building of the pyramids to emperor Ashoka conquering all of India or 'bharat' as it was and still is known. Management is extremely important in the functioning of any task, or organisation in order for it to be successful. If there is a fault in the management it can lead to failure of the task or improper functioning of the company. It is difficult to trace the exact origins of management but one can see its evolution throughout time. In chronological order the very first piece of evidence of management theory can be seen in Chanakya's 'Arthashashtra', followed by Sun Tzu's The Art of War, followed by Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince, followed by Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. The 19th century later gave rise to classical economists such as and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873 Adam Smith (1723-1790). These economists provided an academic background on resource-allocation, production and pricing issues. Alternatively, visionaries like James Watt (1736-1819), Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) Eli Whitney (1765-1825), and developed fundamentals of procedural assembly such as standardization, quality-control procedures, cost-accounting, inter-changeability of parts, and work-planning. The first complete principles of management appeared around the year 1920.

The 'Concept of Corporation' (published in 1949) a well-known book that was written by 'Peter Drucker' (1909-2005) was one of the earliest books on applied management. 'Science of management' written by Henry R Towne was published in the 1890s, 'The Principles of Scientific Management' conceptualized by Frederick Winslow Taylor was published in the year 1911, 'Applied motion study' was published in the year 1917, which was written by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.J. Duncan wrote the first college management textbook in 1911. Yoichi Ueno was the first person to introduce 'taylorism' to Japan in 1912 and he became the first management consultant of the "Japanese-management style". Ichiro Ueno, his son pioneered Japanese quality assurance.

As one can see from the above examples we know that management has been influenced by various disciplines such as economics, political science, psychology, anthropology and even literature. Earlier management theories aimed at 
newcomers of the


The oldest form of the school of management of thought is the classical school. It dates, back to the twentieth century. The classical or universal thought deals with how to manage work organisations more effectively. There are three areas of management that can be classified under the classical school or universal school of thought. They are as follows-

1. Scientific management

2. Bureaucratic management

3. Administrative management

The beliefs of the classical or universal school of thought-

Fredrick Taylor was the founder of the classical school of thought. Earlier, the body of the classical school of thought implied that employees, have only psychical and economical needs, and that the concept of 'job-satisfaction' was in fact alien to it. This school advocates high specialization of labour, centralized decision making, and profit maximization.

The basic components compounded by Taylor for the scientific management school are as follows-

Determination of standards of performance.

Functional foremanship

Responsibilities of management.

Differential piecework of system of wage payment

Mental revolution.

Henri Fayol, and Max Weber are exceptional contributors of Classical School of management thought who made great contribution and laid the grounds for contemporary management.


The Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Company conducted experiments by Mayo,Roethlisberger and others for the first time on the human aspects of organizations in the 1930's. This approach had previously been ignored by the classical theorists. This school is dubbed as 'neo-classical' as it follows the academic form of classical theory and emphasises the human element of management as a counterpoint in contrast to the impersonality of classical theory. These experiments led to the development of new premises. These premises were the motivation to work; morale and productivity are related to the social conditions among the workers and the supervisor, and not to the psychical conditions at work.

Considerable contributions made by Kurt Lewin, Chris Argyris,Rensis Likert ,and Douglas McGregor have helped shaped this school for being whatever it is today.

Abraham Maslow a renowned psychologist developed a very widely recognised hierarchy of needs. This is now known as 'Maslow's hierarchy of needs'. This is a concept of motivation based on the needs of every human being. His concept had three assumptions. They are-

The needs of a human being are never truly satisfied.

Human behaviour is purposeful and is motivated by the need for satisfaction.

The needs of a human being can be classified according to a hierarchical structure of importance, from the lowest to highest.

The above three premises prove that human beings need a motivation in order to get the job done. This theory has been highly useful for managers in order to help motivate their employees. ( Behavioral Management Theory. 13 Dec 2012

<, articleId-8852.html>.)


Mathematicians, physicists, and scientists came together in order to solve the problems caused by World War II. The key feature of this school is its use of mathematics and statistics to help in determining production and operation problems. This approach helps in solving technical rather than human behaviour problems. It comprises a diverse team of experts from whatever fields the problem being attacked calls for. The team members then analyse the problem and then make a mathematical representation of it. Therefore they would change some aspects of the equation to see what would happen in the real world.

The most important contributions of management science are in the areas of operations management and production management.

(Duening, 2003)


The contingency school was birthed in the 1970's. As the very name suggests this school of thought is based on possibility. In this approach managers' deal with each problem differently based on the situation and its belief lies in evaluating many options to solve one problem. This theory recognises that there is no 'one' best way to design organisations and manage them. It weighs down the variables and then decides based on the varying factors as to what would be the best solution. This approach is highly dependent on the judgement of the manager in any given situation. 'It focuses on the inter-relationships within and among the subsystems as well as between the organisation and its environment.' (Agarwal, 2010)

For example-when taco bell asked itself what would ensure its success, they revamped their business based on the simple philosophies of 'customers
aesthetic appeal of
restaurant.' Taco bell then hired new managers who would ensure that their philosophies were put into action thereby ensuring their success. (Anon., n.d.)


The system school of thought sees the organization as one whole purposeful and united body rather than seeing it in its different parts and pieces. Its early contributors include Lawerence J.Henderson,W.G.Scott, Daniel Katz, J.D Thompson, etc. This approach helps the managers to look at the broader picture. This school conveys to us that every single action done by any section of the company affects the other segments of the company in varying degrees. In this school managers make their decisions only after they have weighed down each and every single option as to if that decision has been taken, how it will affect the company. The managers cannot function based on their department alone; they must take the whole company into account. In order for them to run smoothly they must be in constant touch with the other departments of the company as well, so that they can base their decisions accordingly.


Management as one has seen above is under constant development. It always has more room for change for its own betterment. It has existed since time immemorial. The schools of thought are simply the different approaches that are used by any person, or organisation in order for it to achieve its goals. In this document there are 5 schools of thought that have been explained. They are - the classical school, the human relations school, , the management science school, the contingency theory school. They are summarized as follows-

The classical school- the classical school consist of three theories, namely. Scientific management, Bureaucratic management and Administrative management. The major purposes of the school were to develop the basic principles that could guide the design, creation and maintenance of large organisations and to identify the basic functions of managing organizations. (Duening, 2003)

The behavioural school or human relation school- this school takes on a managerial approach as to how the role of people affects the success of the organisation. It also emphasises the structure of the organisation and work environment affects their behaviour and simply states that if the employees are kept in a good working environment then their productivity will increase, which in turn will lead to successful operations of the company. (Duening, 2003)

The management science or quantitative school- this school gives us a mathematical representation of the problems that are faced. Therefore when one changes one of the factors in the equation one can anticipate what the result would be in the real world. Important contributions that were made were in the areas of production management and operations management.

The contingency /situational or all depends school- this theory implies that every situation that a management faces is unique therefore it is left up to the managers discretion as to how h/she chooses to deal with it. This requires the manager to have a great deal of experience and good judgement. It also states that there is 'no one best way to deal with a problem'. Instead it asserts the need to understand different problems and how to deal with them differently.

The system school- the system school saw the organisation as a whole instead of dividing it into bits and pieces. This helped keep in mind the larger picture and that was the achievement of the company's goals rather than those of the individual departments.