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Management Theories Over Time

Management as discussed earlier is a widely used term used to define something that directs/narrows down group efforts towards the intention of fulfilling or efficiently accomplishing pre-set goals by working with and/or through others.

There have been multiple theories that have been known to influence the conceptualisation of management, but most of them had been introduced many years ago and still are in practice. Executives seem to have an idea or a vision but no theories as such, making not only them but also the management academics flustered in the constant doubt of when any new theory would be developed if at all.

There are eleven management theories considered essential by the world, of which seven are considered important while four are considered essential out of those.

Types of management theories

1. Principles of Administrative Management

Henri Fayol developed a top-down approach to examining a business by putting himself in the shoes of managers and imagining the potential scenarios they might face while dealing with their team.

He concluded that there were 6 responsibilities of a manager while managing his/her employees. The six responsibilities were to organize, command, control, coordinate, plan and forecast. These six further were used as a foundation to develop the 14 principles of administration (initiative, equity, scalar chain, unity of direction, discipline, remuneration of personnel, division of work, unity of command, centralization, order, stability of tenure, authority & responsibility, spirit de corps and subordination of individual interest to generate interests) which today prove to be a key contributor to many incredibly successful businesses.

2. Bureaucratic Management

Revolving around the significance of structuring business hierarchically with the establishment of clear roles and rules, Weber took a sociological approach to his ideal business structure. The bureaucratic management idea includes a chain of command, strict and consistent rules and regulations, separation of personal and organizational assets of the owner, proper recordkeeping/documentation and lastly selection/promotion of employees based on not just qualifications but also performance.

This theory played a vital part in establishing standards, structures and procedures which are the core of most organizations today. Despite that, many today see Bureaucratic Management as an impersonal style bound to the possibility of getting overwhelmed by rules and formalities.

3. Systems Theory

Systems theory (also known as The Systems Approach) is based on a biological concept. It is more of a perspective than a fully formed practice. The Systems Theory proposes that the business consists of multiple components that work in harmony to aid in the optimal functioning of a larger system, just like in the human body. It contributes success to factors like synergy, inter-relation and interdependence of all components on/with one another. This theory highlights employees as the most important component.

4. Human Relations Theory

Developed by E. Mayo, this theory states that personal attention and being part of a group (a sense of belongingness and being valued) is a bigger motivation for employees than money or even working conditions.

5. Scientific management

Developed by F. Taylor based on experiments designed to test his worker’s productivity, Scientific Management promotes standardization, specialization, assignment based ability and extensive training as practices that can help organizations achieve efficiency and productivity.

The theory isn’t practised much anymore but aspects of it such as cooperation, workplace efficiency and training are still considered as the foundation of some of the successful businesses.

6. Theories X and Y

Douglas McGregor published his book ‘The Human Side Of Enterprise’ where he outlined two contrasting styles of management (theories X and Y), each guided by manager’s perceptions of their employee’s motivations- whether they work out of the satisfaction of the job or perceive it as a burden that pays their bills.

Theory X presents a pessimistic point of view claiming that employees cannot work without incentives i.e employees are apathetic and dislike their work. In this case, managers tend to micromanage everything because they don’t trust their employees (also termed as authoritarian managers). It was concluded that Theory X was also used in bigger organisations to ensure organisational goals were accomplished and to keep everyone focused, irrespective of their personal employee’s take.

Theory Y holds an optimistic opinion of employees in the sense that the employees are responsible and self-motivated enough to be willing to take ownership of their work. Managers that stick to this Theory Y and consider taking their employees into the loop while making decisions and encourage creativity in all forms at all levels.

7. Contingency Management Theory

F .Fiedler developed this theory which suggests that the effectiveness with which a leader leads their team directly influences the traits they possess as a leader. He believed that leaders need to be flexible enough to adapt to changing environments to lead well. His theory emphasised how no one management approach was a guarantee for success for every organisation and how there are several factors (internal and external factors) that need to be contemplated upon before selecting a management approach.

The size of an organisation, the employed technology as well as the leadership style was identified as the three variables which influence the structure of an organisation (as per this theory).

8. Classical Management Theory

This theory is predicted over the assumption that employees only have physical needs i.e it ignores personal and social needs and solely on the economics of organising workers. The Classical Management Theory as a result focuses on 7 key principles which are supposed to create the “ideal” workspace- labour specialisation, profit maximization, centralized leadership, single-person decision making, priority to the bottom line, streamlined operation and emphasis on productivity.

It is considered in this theory that the bigger and better the incentives, the more motivation it would bring out in the employees overall levels.

9. Modern Management

It came to be developed as a response to Classical Management Theory where technology is concerned to be both the cause and the answer for this dilemma of keeping up with the rapid changes and complexities.

This theory emphasises two things- first that employees don’t just work for money but also satisfaction and the desired lifestyle. The second topic is that the interrelationship between managers and employees can be analysed using mathematical techniques.

Modern Management sheds light on the complex nature of people and their ever-changing needs with time while also suggesting mathematical techniques (such as statistical, cost, revenue and return-on-investment analysis) to make rational emotion-free decisions.

10. Quantitative Management Theory

Developed during World War II, this theory is an offshoot of the Modern Management Theory and leans more towards a clear-cut, number-oriented approach to management to help calculate the pros and cons of actions better while also analysing the risks.

11. Organisation As Learning Systems

Organisations as Learning Systems Theory is fairly new was developed as a postmodern response to many of the older management theories that are still in use today. Also known as Integral or Holistic Management Theory, it highlights the role of managers as being responsible for coordinating the cooperation necessary to ensure the whole organisation to be functioning successfully. Learning and changing are the two vital components of this theory and emphasis are given to teamwork, participation and information sharing along with individual empowerment.

Having talked about all these theories, one can realise that implementing changes to any management style or theory can be difficult; but with a commitment to adapt the natural habits and attitude of employees, it tends to result in rewards both in the present and future. Understanding the team and managing it in a way that keeps not only the organisation’s goals but also the employee’s best interest in mind results in improved morale, better employee engagement and motivation and decreased turnover rates.

One needs truly human management…one that makes room for not just our skills and intellect but also our bodies and spirits. Management that cares for what work feels, means and does for the employees at all levels as much as possible would be a change that has much been needed but not yet implemented.

By learning from the mistakes or shortcomings from our past we can improve the quality of our future and all that we have to offer. Comment down below about the theories you know of and your opinions on it- the pros and the cons of it and whether there is anything you would suggest to change it for the better!


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