Usefulness of Classical Management Theory in a Modern Organisation

Scholars of management from as early as the 19th century touted the need for managers to find that formula, that modus operandi, that would deliver positive results, on a sustainable basis, in the most efficient manner. In the process they sought to define the role(s) of a manager and although these have been altered by influences such as technology, the key underlying principles remain unchanged. Management today, like it was 100 years ago, is still very much about planning, organising, controlling, influencing.

Classical Management theorists sought to connect these functions to growing an organisation’s efficiency and productivity. The most notable contributors to classical management thinking, namely Fredrick Taylor, Henri Fayol and Max Weber might have cloaked their ideas in different language and applied diverse nomenclature, but they were by all means taking different buses to a similar destination. Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory, Fayol’s Theory of Management and Weber’s Bureaucracy Theory all sought, as a basic, to tackle one key aspect: increased efficiency for increased productivity.

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That the goal of management in contemporary organisations does not depart any significantly from the views these scholars espoused provides the early evidence that classical management theory still has a place in a modern organisation—but only to a point. How much relevance classical management theory might enjoy today will, without doubt, depend on the component under examination. The degree to which Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management approach applies to management of an organisation in the 21st century varies from that to which Henri Fayol’s Theory of Management or Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory apply.

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The need to retain a sizeable prospect of accuracy while assessing these three key approaches to management situations today therefore informs the need to separate and individually examine each theory’s merits. Fredrick W. Taylor’s primary goal was to increase worker efficiency by scientifically designing jobs, with the basic premise that there was “one best way” and that this way should be discovered and put in operation. Taylor propounded a scientific approach where scientific methods for performing given tasks were used in order to maximise efficiency/productivity.

His philosophy was informed by his experiences at Bethlehem Steel where productivity had been improved through observation and experimentation with workers based on factors such as their size and the kind of tools they were provided. These experiments led Taylor to propose the following principles of scientific management: •Work methods based on a scientific study of the tasks carried out should be adopted.

•Employees should be scientifically selected and trained by the management and not left to their own devices. Managers should train workers and audit the workers’ performance to ensure that the adopted scientific methods are being properly performed. •Work should be divided between managers and workers so that managers can apply the established scientific methods and processes of production, whereas the workers can perform the job according to the established procedures. The principles outlined above encapsulate Taylor’s proposition. They provide the basis for an appraisal of his views on management and their applicability to a modern organisation.

On the basis of the principles Taylor put forward, it is clear that his views to management remain relevant today. Organisations in the modern age continue to validate Taylor’s principle that work methods should be based on a scientific study of the tasks involved. Factory processes, to name one example, involve scientific determination of the amount of labour a given task requires and assigning what is sufficient to meeting that need. Similarly, Taylor’s view that employees should be scientifically selected and trained by management relates to any organisation today, be it public or private.

Modern organisations employ elaborate selection procedures, relying on oral and written interviews among others, personality and aptitude tests, and the results of these are judged against pre-defined standards to determine suitability. In other words, selection of the most suitable employee is not a matter of guess work or a product of someone’s gut feeling. It is measured, it is scientific. Furthermore, Taylor’s views remain applicable today in the sense that organisation will conduct training for new employees, possibly to equip with advanced skills to do a job, or to enable them do a job in the style of a given organisation.

A caveat, however, comes in handy at this point: the principle examined above also suggests that workers should not be left to their own devices. That workers that have been scientifically selected and trained should be still be micromanaged so to speak, to ensure they do not “deviate” from an organisation’s chosen way. Now that has no place in any organisation that purports to be modern. Modern organisations, if anything, are constantly seeking employees that thrive with minimal supervision.

A modern organisation is expected to find the kind of worker with sufficient knowledge, confidence and drive to determine their own course within the organisation’s broad goals/objectives. As such, Taylor’s proposal in this regard falls flat in as far as applicability to our times is concerned. Perhaps what holds most true for a modern organisation for all of Taylor’s principles is one that recommends that managers train workers and then audit their performance to ensure the scientific methods adopted are being utilised. Any organisation that claims to be modern cannot exist without regular conduct of performance review exercises.

These have been adopted by modern organisations as standard features of human resource development programs and they do indeed provide useful insights into staff training needs. Furthermore, Taylor’s contention that “Work should be divided between managers and workers so that managers can apply the established scientific methods and processes of production, whereas the workers can perform the job according to the established procedures” speaks to the traditional essence of management, that is, managers/management concentrating on planning, organising, controlling and influencing, while the lower level cadre is tasked with execution.

Work indeed is divided, with managers mostly concerned with the thinking for organisation and staff at lower levels left to doing. However, the usefulness of this principle in a modern organisation is particularly open to debate because it promotes the view that the flow of ideas is a one-way street, with managers laying down rules and procedures that can hardly be questioned. That, of course, has no place in a modern organisation. In summary, Taylor’s proposition that any worker’s job could be reduced to a science is as contestable as the suggestion that there is such as thing as “one best way” to get a job done.

Management in a modern organisation involves employing various devices—human or otherwise—to achieve efficiency and increase production. Nevertheless, the key principles he identified as drivers of his philosophy of management still retain a great deal of relevance to a modern organisation today. Henri Fayol took the view that management constitutes more than just science. His philosophy, while paying heed to the importance of rules and procedures, added a new dimension to management thinking which was that the “human factor” was just as crucial a constituent factor in the management question.

The elements he outlined—planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and control—are still considered worthwhile divisions under which to study, analyse, and effect the management process. His core principles, of which he identified 14 in his book (General and Industrial Management), spoke to enhancing organisational efficiency, handling of people and appropriate management action. His ideas, perhaps more than any other scholar’s remain particularly applicable in modern organisations, as the following examination will reveal: Division of labour: Fayol postulated that the division of labour assists employees to become specialised in their field, leading to improvement in skills and efficiency. He advocated dividing work among individuals and/or groups to allow them focus on specific tasks.

Nearly 100 years later, organisations still recognise the need to allocate labour to specific task in order to ensure efficiency. It is a credit to Fayol that modern organisations are divided into departments, for example, where employees specialised in given areas can have their skills utilised most optimally. Authority: Fayol defined authority as the power to give orders and exact obedience. He advocated authority in an organization and the right to give orders to subordinates. Even if modern organisations have become significantly more liberal today than they were in the last century, the need to have employees vested with authority over others need not be overemphasised. That modern organisations vest this authority in their managers therefore confirms that it is an idea that is still very useful.

Discipline: This principle states that employees are expected to respect the organisation’s rules and code of conduct and the organisation needs them to conform in order for it to be successful. Again, many modern organisations have clear and often documented rules, regulations and related guidelines on staff conduct because managers recognise the centrality of discipline to organisational success. This view might have its roots in classical management theory but there is no denying that it remains applicable today. Unity of command: This principle suggests that an organisation’s hierarchy should be clear and each employee receives orders from only one manager. In a modern organisation, however, this idea is severely tested. With several employers regularly hiring multi-talented individuals that are expected to multi-task, this principle constantly finds itself out of place.

This is owed to the fact that with the growing importance of teams in the workplace and the cross-cutting nature of jobs it has become less practical to assign an employee to report to a single boss. Unity of direction: This principle advocates an entire organisation moving towards a common objective, with employees guided by a single plan and working to attain a shared goal. Modern organisations show themselves over and over again to be in agreement with this view as proposed by Fayol. The evidence of their acquiescence is in the vision and mission statements that most organisations design and make it a point for their employees to appreciate.

The motivation for that is to have everyone pulling in the same direction. Subordination of the individual interest to the organisation interest: This view promotes employees subjugating their interests to the organisation’s interest when at work. Modern organisations have not only bought in to this principle, some have gone to great lengths to enforce it, putting in place mechanisms to ensure that tasks performed are always work related. There can therefore be no greater validation that the idea is useful in our times. •Remuneration: This recommends that employees receive payment for their services that is fair to both the individual and the organisation.

This idea as floated by Fayol retains relevance for modern organisations today as they seek to compensate their workers based on variables such a worker’s qualifications and how well the business is doing at a particular time. •Centralisation: Fayol defined centralisation as lowering the role of the subordinate role. The principle of centralisation promotes the idea that management functions and decisions taken should be performed from the top of the hierarchy, and delegating tasks must not fragment the organisation’s hierarchy. Modern organisations have consistently shown themselves to be moving in this direction.

A good case in point is an organisation like a bank that run operations in more than one town, country, or continent. The practice today is to have as little fragmentation as possible, with the organisation running a uniform IT system that is centrally managed, for example. •Scalar chain: This states that an organisation should have a hierarchical line of authority from the top to the bottom of an organisation, with the amount afforded at every level increasing from the first-line supervisor to the top. Modern organisations have not been shown to deviate from this line of thinking and that is inspired by the view that it works.

For an organisation to be successful, it makes sense for its chief executive to possess the greatest amount of authority, with this authority reducing proportionately down the ladder. •Order: This principle advocates that a right place should be assigned for everything and everyone. In other words, that specific work should be assigned to a similar location. A modern organisation would do well to tap into this thinking, and most modern organisations do. There is great benefit that derives from workers performing a certain task being located in the same environment.

For one, it improves efficiency, as interaction is not constrained by geographical barriers. However, it is important to note that technological advancements that have given birth to notions such as virtual and home offices have to an extent negated the necessity to have resources located in the same space, and today employees performing similar tasks for one organisation may even be situated in different countries. That said however, it is not disputable that the principle of “order” as proposed by Fayol still has a positive bearing on most modern organisations.

Equity: Fayol advocated reasonable treatment and justice being accorded to all employees. Modern organisations take great care to ensure employees at all levels are treated with dignity and respect, with perks that befit their level in the organisation’s hierarchy. It is an affirmation that the views on equity as propounded by Fayol remain significant today. •Stability of tenure: The principle holds that employees should be given sufficient time to become proficient at their job and improve their skills and turnover minimised.

The practice in the modern organisation however is at variance with regard to this idea. Managers continually find themselves under considerable pressure to deliver, and this pressure is often passed down to subordinates. As such, with little room to err, the idea of stability of tenure remains unwelcome at many a modern organisation. •Initiative: Fayol proposed that employees should be encouraged to take initiative as long as they adhere to the bounds of authority and discipline.

Modern organisations show themselves willing to allow their employees a degree of self-direction, with most in fact putting in place attractive reward schemes to encourage such initiative. •Esprit de corps: This principle advocates the benefits of working as a team to ensure high morale amongst employees. Modern organisations continually show they are favourably disposed to this idea by encouraging team work (through statements on core values) and actively ensure such cultures are engendered by organising team building sessions as well as social activities like retreats and parties.

Following the examination of Fayol’s 14 principles of management, it is clear he was a philosopher ahead of his time. The fact that nearly all the proposals he made retain great significance for an organisation today places his theory on a unique pedestal in as far as management discourse is concerned. That said, however, some of the views he expressed might have applied 80 years back, but would struggle to find application in present times.

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Usefulness of Classical Management Theory in a Modern Organisation. (2017, Jan 24). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/usefulness-of-classical-management-theory-in-a-modern-organisation-essay

Usefulness of Classical Management Theory in a Modern Organisation

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