The success of organizations requires an in-depth understanding and application of philosophies of management to improve organizational processes. Many theorists have postulated management theories in a bid to explain how managers can enhance productivity of organizations. It is worthy to pinpoint that each theory is an improvement of the previous one. This paper seeks to develop a timeline of five principal management theories. It will focus on identifying the theorist behind each principle, the significance of the period in which the principle was postulated, and the benefits and limitations of each management theory.
1856-1915: Scientific Management Theory
Fredrick Winslow Taylor postulated this theory. According to Aitken (2014), Taylor conceptualized new ideas such as standardized best practices and employee training tailored towards improving the productivity of organizations. It is imperative to note that mass production characterized the world market after the commencement of the industrial revolution. This implies that the products or services were produced in large numbers without paying attention to the quality of these goods. During this period, managers had a lot of difficulties tackling problems related to management. Thus, they were in constant search of new and advanced techniques that they could use to avert management challenges that were detrimental to their daily operations. This particular method brought friction between managers and employees. This made workers distressed, a situation that resulted into a lack of cooperation between managers and employees who are answerable to them. This management theory enables managers to focus on an individual job to determine the best strategies that can be used to do the job. In addition, it enables managers to hire the right employees for the job as well as employee training for maximum efficiency realization. Also, the theory enables work performance monitoring as well as provision of instructions when required. However, this theory has received criticism due to its individualistic approach, narrow applications, and wrong assumptions. Furthermore, its opponents have argued that this management theory exploits workers, a situation that leads to mistrust between employees and their bosses.
1841-1925: Administrative Management Theory
The main theorist credited for administrative management theory is Henri Fayol, a French international. Other theorists include Luther Gulick and James Mooney. It important to understand that the predecessor theory, scientific theory, led to increased efficiency of the organization while at the same time crippled the administrative aspect of the organization. To avert administrative problems that scientific management theory brought, Fayol developed 14 principles of administrative management that proved instrumental as far as enhancing the organization's administrative aspect are concerned (Witzel & Warner, 2015). These principles include division of work, the unity of direction, remuneration, discipline, individual interest subordination, centralization degree, authority and responsibility, a command unit, equity, order, scalar chain, initiative, the tenure of personnel stability, and Esprit de Corps. It is worthy to elucidate that these 14 principles act as tools for organization management, coordination and control, process management, planning, forecasting, and decision-making. The management theory has the strength of comprehensiveness as it deals with techniques in management and is the most widely used management theory. According to Witzel and Warner (2015), administrative management theory covers all the areas that managers need to focus on to ensure the success of an organization is guaranteed. Thus, it increases organizational structure efficiency and administrative effectiveness. On the other hand, this theory has one major limitation. It is a human-based theory hence it is prone to mistakes and errors that humans make.
1864-1920: Behavioral Management Theory
Mary Parker Follett is credited for this theory. It is worthy to note that with intensive research during the 20th century, scholars began asking questions regarding employee motivation and interaction within organizations. Notably, management principles formulated prior to the 20th century failed to explain individual employee's behavior and motivation. Child (2013) elucidates that it is in this regard that Mary Parker Follett postulated this theory in a bid to counter the shortcomings of the previous theories. Essentially, behavioral management theory emphasizes on managers' attitude that motivate employees. Moreover, this theory focuses on the worker productivity as well as recognition of the employees' contributions. This theory has had an immense impact on postulation of motivational theories. It serves as a framework for organizational workers' motivation. This theory has desirable effects as far as the productivity of the organization is concerned. It has the advantage of utmost consideration of the well-being of employees through establishment of a trustworthy working relationship between employers and their workers. Despite these advantages, this theory has limitations that make it ineffective. For instance, it has oversimplified human behavior and the strategies used are principally based on observed and predicted behavior (Kwok, 2014).
1940-1990: Management Science Theory
This is a theory that takes a quantitative approach in handling organizational resources. The theorists who developed this management theory are Herbert Simon, James March, and Richard Cyert. Cardoso and Ferrer (2013) explain that this theory is considered as an extension of scientific management that Taylor developed. Management science theory focuses on efficient utilization of organizational resources. Additionally, it is an important tool that managers use to enhance quality in services and processes of the firm. Importantly, this theory has four main branches with each branch dealing with a specific concern. The first branch is quantitative management that uses mathematical techniques that include modeling, queuing theory, nonlinear programming, chaos theory, and linear programming. These tools are pivotal in guiding managers on the best way to invest the financial capital of the organization. The next branch is the operations research which the managers use to assess and increase the efficiency of production systems of organizations. The third branch is the total quality management which emphasizes on the input and output activities of an organization so as to increase productivity. The forth branch, Management information system is vital in information systems design to provide information regarding the occurrence of events within the organization for better decision-making. It is imperative to pinpoint that this theory increases product quality, aid managers in making informed business decisions, and increases effectiveness of production systems and processes. However, this theory exhibits limitations that make inhibits its applicability in business management. It excludes human element and it is based on inaccurate calculations and assumptions.
1945-2000: Organizational Environment Theory
Daniel Katz, James Thompson, and Robert Kahn are considered as the theorists that developed the organization environment theory (Shafritz, Ott, & Jang, 2015). There was a need to look beyond how managers influence the behavior of employees and focus on the ability of managers to establish and control organizational relationship with the organizational environment. As a matter of fact, external forces which are beyond the boundaries of an organization affect the ability of managers to utilize or even acquire resources. Thus, organizational theory seeks to explain how to empower managers to better utilize organizational resources such as people, raw materials, and so on. Essentially, this management theory elucidates that optimal decision-making in an organization is dependent on both internal and external conditions. The environment outside the organization is dynamic in terms of technological changes, increased competition, unstable economic conditions, and so on. These changes have a negative ramification on the organizational operation. These changes necessitate managers to make regular adjustments which deter their decision-making ability regarding the organizational process. This theory has the advantage of helping people to maximize their potential. The organizational behavior theory is supportive towards efficient utilization of human resources. However, this theory has disadvantages that make its application questionable. The first limitation of organizational behavior theory is behavioral bias. Managers may have a narrowed viewpoint that focuses on employee motivation and satisfaction and overlooks how the organization relates to the external environment. The other limitation is the use of organizational behavior ideas to unethically manipulate individuals. The manipulators usually lack dignity for human life and use ideologies of this theory for selfish gains.
Management theories provide frameworks or principles that enable managers to increase organizational productivity. Since Taylor postulated the first key management theory, there have been improvements in the principles of management over the years. These principles are tailored towards ensuring efficient management of organizational resources and processes. Even though management theories have benefits to organizations, they also have disadvantages that limit their applications. Future theorists need to develop a management principle that averts the shortcomings of the already existing management theories.
Aitken, H. G. (2014). Scientific Management in Action: Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal, 1908-1915. Princeton University Press.
Cardoso, M., & Ferrer, R. (2013). The integral management meta-model: A management model for second-tier organizations. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 8(1/2), 119.
Child, J. (2013). Mary Parker Follett. In The Oxford Handbook of Management Theorists.Kwok, A. C. (2014). The evolution of management theories: A literature review. Nang Yan Business Journal, 3(1), 28-40.
Shafritz, J. M., Ott, J. S., & Jang, Y. S. (2015). Classics of organization theory. Cengage Learning.
Witzel, M., & Warner, M. (2015). Taylorism revisited: culture, management theory, and paradigm shift. Journal of General Management, 40(3), 55-70.
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