Today, individuals are sometimes naïve to believe that modern management is a result of recent practices, theories, and ideas. Some believe the general structure of management and how human resources are carefully planned is the direct result of today’s contributors. They are erroneous to believe such. This commentary will explore the histories of management while cultivating the reader concerning the development of modern management and supervision as it is the result of the evolution of management that began in the nineteenth century involving slavery, railroads, and legal issues.
Assignment 1.2 – Development of Modern Management
Modern management has a distinctive composition consisting of managers, administrative practices, personnel, and capital. Many individuals are naïve in their perception of today’s management believing it is a direct result of recent practices, theories, and concepts; however, historians argue differently. Historians have taken readers on a journey through the history of management, while educating people concerning the management of slaves, railroads, and legal issues – the pillars of modern-day management. Slavery
“American slavery has been wrongfully excluded from histories of management. By 1860, when the historical orthodoxy has modern management emerging on the railroads, 38,000 managers were managing the 4 million slaves working in the US economy.” (Cooke, 2003) Slave trade greatly influenced the management era. Slaves were responsible for farming, construction, irrigation, housekeeping, child-care, cooking, and much more. This surplus of human resources and capital required managers which eventually led divisions of management. Slave owners hired managers to supervise the slaves while wives oftentimes supervised slaves who worked as housekeepers and cooks. Managers were responsible for setting the expectations of the slaves and theirrespective daily duties. Slave owners oftentimes delegated authority and responsibilities to the manager who in-turn commanded the workers. Although slave management contributed to modern management practices, it has not been viewed by many historians to be a form of management. “Throughout the era of slavery the Negro was treated in a very inhuman fashion.
He was considered a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine.” (Cooke, 2003) The treatment of slaves and the criticism of such behavior as seen today have led many individuals to overlook slave management as a contribution to modern principles and ideas. Many historians prefer to give more credit to the railroads. “Of course, such a history would equally challenge any version of the history of management which explicitly or otherwise excludes slavery.” (Cooke, 2003) Slavery brought about new and innovative ideas regarding human resources. Slaves worked the plantations, which sometimes were hundreds of acres, and they were managed by individuals designated by the owner. Managing slaves required a great deal of time management, conflict resolution, capital expenditures, and even slave trading. “The chain of command went upwards from drivers to overseers to masters. Always there was obedience.” (Cooke, 2003) The management of slaves required a chain of command to be operational. Slaves answered to their overseer and overseers answered to their masters. This form of organizational structure allowed for delegation, communication, and duties to flow smoothly.
In comparison, modern management structure is quite similar in nature. For example, McDonalds franchise has such a structure. For example, crew members are tasked with the job of handling customer orders, cooking, and cleaning and they answer to a shift leader. The shift leader is responsible for ensuring the crew works diligently and effectively. The shift leader answers to the assistant manager or store manager who is responsible for the overall mission of the store. The store manager would report to the owner or in the case of slavery – master. “The slaveowner urges the slave to ‘be a man’ and commands the slaves to put things to rights. They gathered around him in their helplessness, trusting implicitly in his judgment, receiving his rapid comprehensive orders” (Cooke, 2003). Likewise, modern management structure delegate managers to encourage and motivate employees to work more effectively and sometimes harder. Although there are compelling reasons whyhistorians choose not to regard the management of slaves as a contribution to modern management, the fact remains that slave owners contributed to the body of knowledge concerning management.
Yes, many would agree that slavery was cruel and involved unusual punishment and treatment, but it helped shaped today’s management. …it is shown slavery is included within capitalism by many historians; we also see plantations as a site of the emergence of industrial discipline. Second, ante-bellum slavery is demonstrated to have been managed according to classical management and Taylorian principles. Third, those doing the managing are shown to have been employed at the time as ‘managers’. In the idea of the manger, and of scientific and classical management slavery has therefore left an ongoing imprint in management practice and thought. A strong argument is made for not just for postcolonisalist accounts of management, but for management histories in which anti-African-American racism is a continuing strand. The fundamental significance of the article however is its identification of slavery as of intrinsic, but hitherto denied, relevance to management studies. (Cooke, 2003) There are many compelling reasons why historians choose to ignore the management of slaves as a contribution to the evolution of management. Some think it will stir up some sort of controversy. Slavery was not the only major contributor to the evolution of management.
Railroads Like slavery, the railroads played a significant role in the evolution of management. “The railroads had to be innovators in many of the ways of modern corporate management…railroad managers were forced to work out the basic methods of communication and control essential to the operations of the modern business corporation.” (Chandler, 1965) Unlike many other industries during 1850’s, the railroads were faced with new challenges that required innovative management and administrative ideas. In an effort to sustain business, the railroads had to devise ways to resolve issues efficiently and effectively. “The railroaders were innovators not because they were necessarily more perceptive, energetic, or imaginative than other contemporary businessmen, but rather because they were the first to face the challenge of handling efficiently large amounts of men, money, and materials within a single business unit.” (Chandler, 1965) The size and complexity of the railroads forced the managers of railroads to be pioneers of management.
The railroads required more operating expenses and start-up costs than any other industry during that time. Size was only one dimension of the unique challenges facing managers of the new, large railroads in the 1850’s. Their day-to-day operations called for far many more and far more complex decisions than did the working of a mill, canal, or a steamship line. Unlike a textile company, whose group of mills could be viewed within half an hour, a railroad was spread over hundreds of miles and included a wide variety of activities and facilities such as shops, terminals, stations, warehouses, office buildings…and so forth…So every day railroad managers had to make decisions controlling the activities of many men to whom they rarely talked or even ever saw. (Chandler, 1965) The railroad managers pioneered corporate management through their skillful use of time, communication, transportation, capital, and human resources. Many new positions within the organization were created to aid management. For example, chief clerks, senior financial officers, and secretaries were just a few positions crafted to help sustain the organization. The chief clerks and financial officers helped the organization use time and finances effectively. In comparison to slavery, the railroads had an unparallel influence on modern management through the use of innovation. Legal Construction
Similar to the contributions of slavery and railroad management, legal construction played a role in the evolution of management. During the 1830’s, many industrial plants were ‘on the rise’, which led to the creation of many new employment opportunities. The industrial revolution offered jobs to the working-class, while also offering dangerous work environments. Many individuals were employed in factories with large mechanical machines. Although these machines helped the company with productivity and efficiency, they posed a tremendous amount of safety and health risks. Many companies were faced with unprecedented lawsuits as a result of employee injuries. The suit mounted by Gilham Banes was the first of a flood of suits alleging that employers were legally obliged to compensate employees for injuries arising in the course of their employment that came before American courts in the quarter century prior to the Civil War. This new phenomenon of employer liability suits marked a decisive moment in American labor and legal history, for it confronted courts with a demand that they impose on
employers a clear legal obligation to safeguard their employees’ present and future earning capacity commensurate with the employer’s claim to the employees’ obedience on the job. (Tomlins, 1988) Conclusion
Although many historians disagree, the management of slavery made many important contributions to modern management. Through the use of many positions such as overseers and masters, slave owners were able to manage thousands of slaves in different capacities. Many individuals choose to disregard the management of slavery on the basis of racism and the bad criticism surround it; however, the management of slavery has shaped management as many know it today. The railroads also made huge contributions to modern management. Positions such as clerks and financial officers are still widely used today to sustain business operations. The managers of railroads were able to communicate over long distances and keep business operational. Legal construction, like railroads and slavery, helped shaped the management structure. Employers now abide by laws that protect workers against harm on the job. Many historians rate different industries as contributing the most to modern management, but slavery, railroads, and legal construction has shaped management in an unparallel way.
Chandler, A. D. (1965). The railroads: Pioneers in modern corporate management. The Business History Review, 39(1), 16-40.
Cooke, B. (2003). The denial of slavery in management studies. Journal of Management Studies, 40(8), 1895-1918.
Tomlins, C. L. (1988). The mysterious power: Industrial accidents and the legal construction of employment relations in Massachusetts, 1800-1850. Law and History Review, 6(2), 375-438.