The History of Management Thought The Beginning of Management

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The History of Management Thought
The Beginning of Management

It is highly probable that the management process first began in the family organization, later expand to the tribe, and finally pervaded the formalized political units such as those found in early Babylonia. In these organization, a type of financial control and record keeping was invented which usually took the form of clay tablets with inscriptions.

The recognition of the concept of managerial responsibility was clearly evidenced through the Code of Hammurabi. Later the Egyptians provided us with one of the first examples of a dispersed, decentralized organization with little or no control, with its consequent poor end results. This system of organization is, in fact, the first recorded instance.

Instance of the utilization of a decentralized form of organization to manage an empire, and illustrates the inherent weaknesses of this system which eventually led to its demise. The Egyptian skill in planning and organizing the construction of public edifices, however, is evident in their pyramids and buildings. The Hebrews, too, made their contribution to organization theory and first illustrated the use of the exception principle.

The ancient Chinese philosophers were the first to recognize the need for methodological means of employee selection and staffing, which they supplied through their civil service system. Throughout these early civilization we see evidences time and again of the early recognition of the principle of specialization, noting especially in the writing of Mencius, its the application in such areas as divisions of a trade, and hereditary trades.

Perhaps the Greeks more than any other people provide us with the most extensive documentation of management principles in Xenophon’s writing about the universality of management, specialization, management as an art, employee selection, delegation of authority, and motion study. In fact, these and other instances from early history point clearly to the “originality” of our “modern” managerial practices!

The Romans, as we have seen, made the same mistake that the Egyptians made in the organization of their empire on a decentralized basis with little or no control. But civilizations never seem to learn from others’ mistakes, and during the Middle Ages the principle of decentralization was again violated in the feudal system of management, with the same ultimate demise.

Looking at the entire continuum of management thought during this early period of history, we can conclude that management was strictly on a trial and error basis, with little or no theory and virtually no exchange of ideas and practices. Perhaps inadequate records, poor communication, and failure to analyze the reason for nonsuccess lay behind this lack of profiting from the earlier experiences of others. Evidences of managerial practices clearly indicate, however, that some principles of management were recognized in these early times and communicated at least locally on a “how-to-do-it” basis.

In general, it appears that the managerial principles employed were born out of the necessity of having to accomplish goals, and these principles were “discovered” over and over again by numerous individuals in history as they went attempting to reach needed objectives.

Thus, in these early times, management thought existed, but only in a some what nebulous and unsophisticated state. Management as a separate process was not verbalized until Plato and Socrates. Even then, however, the principles were not united in a scheme of management thought, nor is there evidence of any chronological building of various managerial techniques upon previously conceived ones.

Management During The Medieval Period

The medieval period serves as a bridge between antiquity and the age of awakening known as the Renaissance. Although organized in a feudal structure, man began to take significant steps in his thinking about organization and management.

Alfarabi in the 900’s in effect set forth a job description for a state ruler. In 1100, Ghazali counseled the king on how he should act and the traits he should develop in order to be a good manager.

Venice, the caldron of economic exchange, developed early forms of business enterprise, and her arsenal in particular gives us an excellent picture of the state of managerial awareness, thinking, and practices of the period.

Sir Thomas More contributed utopian ideas for the management of an ideal society. Machiavelli, on the other hand, gave us a clear insight into the machinations of young prince-mangers, and distilled the thinking of the time into four managerial principles:(1) reliance on managerial consent, (2) cohesiveness, (3) leadership, and (4) will to survive.

From the view point of management thought, the period is not especially noteworthy, but it is of interest to the management scholar because it affords insight into the first real system of managerial practice and into the thinking of the early management elite.

A Managerial Awakening

In retrospect, the 1700’s were ripe for the introduction of an improvement in manufacturing techniques and the development of a new approach to management. The industrial revolution brought with it a breakdown in the provincialism of management concepts, and with these broadened horizons, managers began to look for ways to improve both manufacturing and management.

Two prime examples of this new approach to management are found in the Bolton and Watt’s Soho Foundry and Robert Owen’s New Lanark Mill. Here for all to see was the embodiment of all the new concepts of the time. And most important-the ideas were sound, the companies were successful, and profits accrued. With this genesis of bold ideas, it is no wonder that even greater strides were taken by subsequent leaders and writers who applied their own inventive genius to move from these early attempts into an era presaging the advent of true scientific management.

Emergence of Management Literature

In reviewing these early writings about management, we note one feature common to most of them: they were firm oriented. Adam Smith and his successors centered their comments around the firm, the manager's job in meeting demand, the role of planning to achieve economical operations as well as supply customer demand, and so on. This, of course, is not unexpected in an emerging industrial economy. As we shall see, however, the emphasis shifts as the economy matures.

Early nineteenth century writers dealt pricipally with fundamentals. No unified theory of management was developed, but they did recognize and understand the functions of management, and often discussed many of management's interesting and little-recognized aspects. The important fact about these writers, is not what they said, but the fact that they made a beginning. They started thinking and writing about management and managers from many approaches. And their writings along with those of the economists served to reinforce the growing idea of management's importance to the developing firm, while at the same time encouraged other scholars to analyze further this emerging concept.

A Prelude to Scientific Management

The latter part of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of scientific management-even the first use of the term itself. As business continued to grow both in size and in number, multiple problems not previously faced by managers were encountered. Concern was expressed over these problems of bigness, and emphasis in thinking moved from the area of the firm to the area of things within the firm: processes, equipment location, layout, production techniques, incentive systems, and the like. Management was becoming "things" oriented instead of firm oriented as it had been in the past. People amassed in large groups pointed up problems of organization and efficiency, and these concerns, too, appeared in the literature.

Concern was also being expressed over the promulgation and exchange of ideas, with the need recognized for societies, publications, and meetings to exchange views. The ground swell of management as a separate entity was gathering momentum. And the shining light of this era was the recognition of management as a teachable curriculum in a leading university.

In just a few short years, the concept of management had moved successively from one of casual detachment to partial analysis to a concept, still somewhat nebulous, of a total body of knowledge affecting man's economic endeavors. A manager was recognized as a person of some esteem, and the subject matter of managerial principles had spread from industry to the classroom. Management as a separate field had finally come into being.

Early Twentieth Century Concepts

Below we will see five men and their significant contributions to the embryonic science of management:

Henry L. Gantt : Gantt Chart.

Humanitarianism in employee treatment and pay.

Teaching and training employees.

Service as an objective.

Hugo Munsterberg : Created field of industrial psychology.

Initiated system of tests and measurements of psychological differences between employees.

Harrington Emerson : Broader focus on the organization structure and its importance.

Emphasis on the objectives of a firm and their relation to organization.

Emphasis on use of experts: staff, consultants, and the like.

Twelve principles of efficiency.

Harlow S. Person : Gave academic recognition to scientific management.

Emphasized total scope of management, lifting it from a movement dedicated to the stopwatch and speedup.

Henry Fayol : Concept of universality of mangement.

First comprehensive theory of management.

Need for teaching management in schools and colleges.

Each of these men lived during the formative years of mangement and made a significant impact on the developing thoughts of the time. Modern management thought is further indepted to these men for the creation of a healthy managerial image and an environment for its growth. In fact, management's subsequent growth and position is due in no small part to the vision and efforts of these men to promote its dissemination, and to the prestige that each lent to the developing science and study of the function of management.

Minor Writers and Critics

John Duncan wrote in one of the first texts on management, moving it foursquare into the classroom. Louis D. Brandeis popularized the scientific management idea and put the word "efficiency" on almost every tongue.

Ordway Tead reinforced the application of the behavioral aspects of human nature to the scientific study of individuals in industry. In addition, he probed out the reason behind industrial behavior, in light of the known psychological factors.

Alexander Hamilton Church collected many of the dissociate concepts of mangement and molded them into a set of regulative principles. Without providing a theory, his principles did broaden the horizon of management thought by pointing out possible relations between the parts and the whole.

Robert F.Hoxie, the first great critic of scientific mangement, challenged the proponents of the new science of mangement to reexamine their new-found concepts. Withstanding the test of critical evaluation, the advocates became strenghtened in their beliefs and the science of management became more firmly and securely founded. Horace B. Drury, too, was a critic of scientific management, though much of his criticism was of a favorable nature.

Carl C. Parsons' writings pointed out the possibility of moving scientific mangement from the shop to clerical operations, the heart of the office. It remained, however, for William H. Leffingwell to demonstrate that scientific management could be applied in the office with the same success that it had found in the plant.

Although by no means the stature of Taylor or Fayol, these men played a needed role in the evolution and application of management thought. They expanded in minor ways. They explored new applications. They popularized it. They nationalized it. And they nurtured it through its infancy by breathing into the young science the life-giving stamp of theorethical soundness and practical applicability.

The Managerial Phiolosophers

More important than who should be included is the fact that management has come of age as a philosophy of thought and action. Management theory has now matured to a point where managers may be conceived of as the new "proletariat"-come the managerial revolution!

Management thought has indeed been enlarged on by Sheldon, Mayo, Follett, Mooney, Burnham, and Barnard. And Urwick has solidified their concepts by pointing out the independence of their thinking, the interrelation of their analyses, and the similarity of their conclusions.

A Classification of Managerial Concepts

Classification is perforce arbitrary, since few writers express all facets of one school to the exclusion of the others. Many of the early proponents' writings place them in two or more schools. In some instances a writer might just as surely be classified as a behaviorist as a member of the process school. Nevertheless, we have identified the various schools of management thought by essential concepts and leading contributors.

An exception has been made of the management science school because of its relative newness. In view of its collective and electic nature, the mangement science school might logically encompass virtually all management scholars.

Quantitative techniques


  • Decision theory (including organization theory, learning theory, cybernetics and suboptimization). Contributors: R.M.Thrall, W.Edwards, C.I.Barnard, C.Hitch, K.J.Arrow, C.W.Churchman, H.A.Simon, N.Weiner. Area of application: determination of objectives of firm, assessement of group conflicts and interactions, job performance estimates, organization analysis.

  • Experimental design. Contributors: R.A.Fisher, W.G.Cochran, G.M.Fox, M.G.Kendall. Area of application: the application of experimental design techniques is basic to the construction of any predictive model.

  • Game theory. Contributors: J.von Neumann, O.Morgenstern, M.Shubik. Area of application: timing and pricing in a competitive market, military strategy.

  • Information theory. Contributors: C.Shannon, S.Goldman, W.Weaver. Area of application: data processing system design, organization analysis, advertising effectiveness in market research.

  • Inventory control. Contributors: F.W.Harris, T.W.Whitin, J.F.Magee, K.Arrow, T.Harris, J.Marschak. Area of application: economic lot size and inventory control.

  • Linear programming. Contributors: L.V.Kantorovich, T.C.Koopmans, W.Leontieff, G.B.Dantzig, R.Dorfman, P.A.Samuelson.

Area of application: assignment of equipment and personnel, scheduling, input-output analysis, transportation routing, product mix, allocation processes.

  • Probability theory. Contributors: R.A.Fisher, T.C.Fry, W.Feller, H.Cramer. Area of application: probability theory enters almost all areas of application.

  • Queuing theory. Contributors: A.K.Erlang, L.C.Edie, P.M.Morse, M.G.Kendall. Area of application: inventory control, traffic control, telephone trunking systems, scheduling of patients at clinics, radio communications, etc.

  • Replacement theory. Contributors: G.Terborgh, J.Dean. Area of application: replacement of equipment through failure and deterioration.

  • Sampling theory: W.E.Deming, H.F.Dodge, H.G.Romig. Area of application: quality control, simplified accounting and auditing, consumer surveys and product preferences in marketing research.

  • Simulation theory. Contributors: C.J.Thomas, W.L.Deemer, R.E.Zimmerman, N.H.Jennings. Area of application: system reliability evaluation, profit planning, logistic-system studies, inventory control, and manpower requirements.

  • Statistical decision theory. Contributors: A.Wald, E.C.Molina, O.L.Davies, W.A.Shewhart, R.Schlaifer. Area of application: estimation of model parameters in probabilistic models.

  • Symbolic logic. Contributors: G.Boole, A.N.Whitehead, B.Russell, P.F.Strawson, W.E.Cushen. Area of application: circuit design, legal interference, e.g., checking contract consistencies.

The techniques listed serve to show the kind of tools found in the quantitative school of management thought. Probability theory finds a use in nearly every quantitative study that is at all realistic. It is, of course, the branch of mathematics most useful in operations research.

The school has progressed from a war baby stage to rapid maturity, with its national and international societies and publications, its acceptance in learned circles and university curricula, and its adoption by business and government alike. It has provided the academician the opportunity to contribute something to the solution of real problems, and simultaneously has pointed out to the populace the resources which lie behind the walls of the ivory tower.

The management science school of thought is now well entrenched, and its followers are firmly convinced that any phase of managerial organizing, decision making, or planning can be expressed in quantitative terms for a more exacting analysis. It is so eclectic in nature that virtually every contributor might be included in this school which offers almost unlimited promise in the development of the science of management.

A General Theory of Management

The job of a manger, is to create an environment conducive to the performance of acts by other individuals in order to accomplish personal as well as corporate goals. In building this environment, the manger must first recognize what he is trying to accomplish (the goals involved), so that he can build an environment in which individuals will contribute their efforts. This environment has a physical and a conceptual aspect, and its effective development depends on contributions from various schools or streams of management thought as well as from the physical and behavioral sciences.

In developing this environment managers perform a composite managerial function consisting of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling activities-all of which are interwoven into the whole cloth of management. Finally, we indicated that the acts of managers, like the environment which they build, are both physical and conceptual.

None of this is intended conceptually to place the contemporary manager on any new plane. It is not intended in any manner to minimize the contributions of the various schools of management thought or individual contributors of managerial concepts. It is no way attempts to alter the basic theory or practice of management. It is, rather, an attempt to conceptualize and explain the manager's job and how he performs it.

That concept, it is hoped, will serve to link the various schools or streams of management thought together into an understandable and meaningful whole.

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