Evolution of Management Theories

Evolution is usually defined as slow stages of growth and development, starting from simple forms to more complex forms. This, too, could be applied to management theories which have evolved from simple improvement of work methods to more complex ones that focus not only on work method improvement but also on customer satisfaction and the conduct of people at work. 

Studying the evolution of management theories will help you understand the beginnings of present-day management practices; why some are still popular and why others are no longer in use; and why the expansion and development of these theories are necessary in order to adapt to the changing times. Management theories include the following:

Scientific Management Theory

Frederick W. Taylor

This management theory makes use of the step-by-step, scientific meth-ods for finding the single best way for doing a job. Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915) is known as the Father of Scientific Management. While working in a steel company in Pennsylvania in the United States (US) as a mechanical engineer, he could not help but notice the workers’ mistakes and inefficiencies in doing their routine jobs, their lack of enthusiasm, and the discrepancy between their abilities and aptitudes and their job assignments; thus resulting in low output. Because of these observations, he tried to identify clear guidelines for the improvement of their productivity.

Taylor’s Scientific Management Principles (Robbins and Coulter 2009) are as follows:

  1. Develop a science for each element of an individual’s work to replace the old rule of thumb method.
  2. Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the worker.
  3. Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed.
  4. Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers.

General Administrative Theory

The General Administrative Theory concentrates on the manager’s functions and what makes up good management practice or implementation. Henri Fayol (1841-1925) and Max Weber (1864-1920) are the personalities most commonly associated with it. Fayol’s 19th-century writings were concerned with managerial activities which he based on his actual experience as a managing director in a big coal mining company. He believed that management is an activity that all organizations must prac-tice and viewed it as separate from all other organizational activities such as marketing, finance, research and development, and others. Weber, a German sociologist wrote in the early 1900s that ideal organizations, especially large ones, must have authority structures and coordination with others based on what he referred to as bureaucracy. Present-day organizations still make use of Weber’s structural design. 

Table 1: Fayol’s nad Weber’s Contributions to General Administrative Theory

Fayol's nad Weber's Contributions to General Administrative Theory
Fayol’s nad Weber’s Contributions to General Administrative Theory

Total Quality Management (TQM)

W. Edwards DemingTotal Quality Management is a management philosophy that focuses on the satisfaction of customers, their needs, and expectations. Quality experts W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) and Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008) introduced this customer-oriented idea in the 1950s; however, the concept had few supporters. The Americans did not immediately take to the idea since the US was enjoying supremacy in the global market at the time. Japanese manufacturers, on the other hand, took notice of it and enthusiastically experimented on its application. Joseph M. JuranWhen Japanese firms began to be recognized for their quality products, Western managers were forced to give a more serious consideration of Deming’s and Juran’s modern management philosophy that eventually became the foundation of today’s quality management practices. 

Table 2: TQM Pointers from Deming and Juran (Ramasamy 2009)

TABLE 2: TQM Pointers from Deming and Juran (Ramasamy 2009)

Organizational Behavior (OB) Approach

The Organizational Behavior (OB) approach involves the study of the conduct, demeanor, or action of people at work. Research on behavior helps managers carry out their functions—leading, team building, resolving conflict, and others. Robert Owen, Mary Parker Follett, Hugo Munsterberg, and Chester Barnard were the early supporters of the OB approach. During the late 1700s, Owen noticed lamentable conditions in workplaces and proposed ideal ways to improve the said conditions. Follett, in the early 1900s, introduced the idea that individual or group behavior must be considered in organizational management. Likewise, in the early 1900s, Munsterberg proposed the administering of psychological tests for the selection of would-be employees in companies. Barnard, in the 1930s, suggested that cooperation is required in organizations since it is, mainly, a social system.