Management theories may not be directly applicable to the business environments but it is seen that such theories can be used to draw inferences, which can be induced into the operational procedures of the organization. There has been a wide and diverse change in the theories that have been presented with respect to the management of the business and as identified by, Shafritz, Ot and Jang (2015) it is seen that the theories which have been presented have evolved and changed with time. The primary driver for change has been the changing business processes and environments owing to which the development and implementation of theories have also changed.
Based on the time period when the theories were presented, the theories are classified as contemporary and classical and it is seen that there lies a stringent difference between the approaches of the two theories. This is largely due to the difference in the beliefs, observations and conceptual inferences as drawn between the different theorists. This essay aims to explore three early management theorists while it examines the relevance of these three theories in present-day organizations. Theories presented by Taylor, Follet and Weber have been selected and a critical analysis of the theories in context with present times has been presented.
As studied by Waring (2015) Taylor was an American inventor and engineer who was able to use his engineering competence and scientific knowledge to management and hence developed a theory which has been named the “Scientific Management Theory”. It was this theory which is also called the classical management theory and entered into the mainstream business management in the 1900s with an aim of increasing the productivity of the workers. It was highly accepted as at that time, this theory referred to the study of processes, tasks and workers in order to identify the manner in which the processes and performance of the individuals would be enhanced. A further study of the theory as presented by March (2013) reveals the fact that, using scientific and engineering principles in order to create a system that can enhance the performance by reducing the waste and increase the ability of the production has been considered to be a contribution to the business management processes. Through this theory, the emphasis is laid on making the improvements that are able to serve the benefits to the employers and employees as a whole.
One of the key strengths of this theory remains the ontological and factual considerations that are made (Hill, Jones and Schilling 2015). The theory insists that information and data should be effectively gathered in order to analyse the situation such that the laws and regulations can be complied with while the information is being assessed. It also insists on the development of the trained workforce as compared with other theories which insisted on removing the non-productive manpower. On the other hand, the benefits of the application of this theory can also be identified from the fact that it refers to the use of scientific methods while describing the targets to be attained and the processes to be applied. Also, as per this theory, it is seen that the work distribution between the workers and managers should be equal and all plans should be logically pursued. Hence an overview of the theory states that each process within an organization should be broken down into smaller components, and then analysed for effectiveness and efficiency (Armstrong and Taylor 2014).
The primary influence which contributed to the development of this theory was the fact that Taylor was an engineer and deeply inclined towards the engineering processes. Owing to this factor of experience and academic inclinations, the theory developed is completely based on scientific principles which can be applied. Another contributing factor was that this was the period of industrialisation which meant that the use of machinery, equipment and processes was high. This leads to the fact that use of scientific measures was greatly appreciated as machinery and processes were clearly important at this stage.
Another early management theorist who has made a valuable contribution to the management theories is Weber. The Bureaucratic theory developed by Weber was based on two essential factors, were in the first element was the manner in which the organization can be structured along with the second element which refers to the presence of clearly defined roles and rules which can be placed to help the organizational resources including the employees (March 2013). Weber was a German Sociologist and hence described a theory that would be implemented to effectively run an organization that defines the importance of bureaucracy and power allocation within the organization. And it is rightly pointed out by Beetham (2013) that Weber’s work is basically considered as an intention of displacing the earlier organizational structures which were prominent in the period of industrialisation.
As per Seidman (2016), Weber’s Bureaucratic theory may be considered to be an extension of Scientific management theory as discussed earlier. Similar to Taylor, Weber also presented a system which would be able to standardise the procedures and presented a clear chain of command. The only difference which can be identified between this theory and Scientific Management Theory is the fact that Weber’s bureaucratic theory identifies the disadvantages of using scientific methods in relation to emotion. Weber basically outlined the principles of Ideal bureaucracy and also pointed out the limitations of the Scientific management theory.
As per this theory, it is seen that clearly defined job roles and a hierarchy of authority have been stressed upon in addition to the presence of procedures that are standardised. It is also seen that organised record keeping as per this theory is considered to be the key to effective communication along with the fact that Weber insists that employees should be hired only when the specifications for the job can be met.
While analysing the influences which may have contributed to the development of Weber’s bureaucratic theory, the first factor which can be identified is the changing scenario of business at the time when the theory was presented. In addition to this, as criticised by Alexander (2014) the fact that Weber was a sociologist itself contributed to the attention which was paid to the employees in the organization. Along with this, the factor of recognising the importance of employees was also gaining fast momentum during this time. In this regard, according to La Palombara (2015), the presence of manpower as a resource to the organization was not idealised in the era of scientific management theory and hence the importance of employees in the earlier theories is completely lacking.
Jones and George (2015) were of the opinion that there lies a difference between the earlier concepts of management and contemporary businesses. Hence while the two theories which have been presented above, refer to the recognition which is allotted to the resources, both tangible and non-tangible in nature, it is also seen that Follet, as a management thinker was able to identify a new perspective as compared with the two theories presented above. Being a social worker, Mary Parker Follet is also referred to as the Mother of Modern management
Despite the strong criticism which has been offered by scholars such as Pirson (2014) and Brunsson (2017a) it is seen that Follet was firm on the belief that management is essentially a philosophy and refers to the art of having the ability to complete the work done through collaborated efforts. As per this theory which has been evaluated by Carraher (2013) it is seen that each element of the organization was allotted equal importance. This means that Conflict resolution was mainly proposed through integration and meeting the needs of each other. Power as per this theory has not been defined as coercive and refers to a state where the power can be used to benefit the organization as a whole.
Therefore, the crux of this theory remains that managers and leaders should be able to create a power to enable the group rather than practising individual power. In this case, it is seen that individual power refers to the use of the power of the leaders through personal medium and for personal gains.
As contrasted by Williams (2013) this theory does not contain an emphasis on the machinery, equipment and scientific methods or does not include the importance of employees only. However, this theory focuses on the importance of power distribution and the manner in which the leaders are able to exhibit and use the power which has been allotted to them. Hence this theory basically aimed to control the power of the leaders such that the common good could be attained. The first factor which influenced the development of this theory remains the fact that at the time when Follet was working as a social worker, she was able to come across various instances where the misuse of power was clearly evident. Furthermore, this was also a time period in business management wherein decision making and resource utilisation was gaining higher importance as compared to other aspects belonging to an organization (Follet 2016).
After developing an understanding of the theories, it is important to identify the use and application of the theories in present-day organizations. There are certain factors that need to be considered while the application of these theories to the present organizations is considered. As argued by Ritson et al. (2016) the Scientific management theory can be identified in almost all present-day manufacturing firms and other types of equipment and machinery based businesses. In fact, processes such as Planning the Production, controlling the production, accounting and audits and ergonomics depict a trait of this theory in one element of the other. Hence in order to understand the mechanical and manufacturing processes, an understanding of scientific management is required. However, at the same time, as suggested by Brunsson (2017 b) there also remains a need to ensure that better management practices are applied. This is largely due to the exploitation of workers which can occur through the theoretical implications of the Scientific management theory. This was clearly shown in the case of Levi’s where outsourced manufacturing processes were exploiting the employees owing to the production and performance which was to be managed.
Based on the fact that Taylor used Functional foremanship, each organization applying this model would not have a uniform command of control which basically means that lack of command and decision making is seen. This may not be applicable to all business types prevalent in present organizations. Another limitation to the widespread use of this theory was the unethical employment case of 7 Eleven which is a convenience store chain in, Australia. In this case, the theory stresses upon the importance of process and mechanical elements for increasing the efficiency of the organization. However, at the same time, reference to human resources is not made and manpower is mainly considered to be a support function that is not relevant to the growth and development of the organization. Hence based on this discussion, it can be concluded that Taylor’s Scientific management theory is mainly a narrowly applied concept wherein it can be applied only is cases where the performance is to be measured quantitatively. Thus, the limited application of this theory in manufacturing industries and factories can be evidenced.
On the other hand, as evaluated by Phillips (2017) when the practical application of Weber’s theory is identified, it is seen that his views on Bureaucracy have been largely misunderstood. It remains an evident fact that Weber wanted to stress Hierarchy and allocation of power and decision-making authority within the organizations (McCorkle and Reese 2015). But despite this, most of the theorists have not understood the real meaning and refer to allocation and distribution of power on the top level only thereby neglecting the existence of the lower employees. Hence the application of this theory is also suited to a select number of organizations as this theory fits organizations that have routine tasks. While on one hand it is argued that this style of leadership helps in conflict resolution, and creates a factor of trust amongst the employees and their management, it is also argued by Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) that unequal distribution of power may be misused. A case evaluation of Enron reveals that the fraudulent revenue generation which finally led to the closure of the organization was due to the power vested in the management only.
Owing to the increase in present-day competition, it is seen that the management and leaders are vulnerable to the feeling of misusing the power to retain the market shares and hence may be able to use tactics that are not acceptable to the employees who have little say in the matter. Again, the use of this theory has to be coupled with high-end regulatory control on power distribution where decision making can be highly monitored and controlled.
Lastly, while evaluating the use of Mary Parker Follet’s contribution to the contemporary business scenarios, it is seen that this theory was highly appreciated as belonging to the pre-war era it was able to criticise the actions of the management, a step which no other theory had accomplished. This theory has been largely applied to retain and maintain ethical conduct within organizations (Brunsson 2017c). The prime benefit of this theory remains that fact that based on the theory the boundaries of power allocation and most importantly the use of power has been segregated. In fact, it was through this theory that the ethical considerations made towards safeguarding the rights of the employees have been derived (Carraher 2012). Also owing to the fact that this theory stresses the need for group power as compared with the development of leader power, this theory finds application in most of the human resource management policies and procedures that are being applied today.
With an increase in the awareness of the employees and the fact that the employees are being urged to recognise their contribution to the organizations, this theory has been able to present the guidelines which can be used to define the power being used.
Through the discussion which has been presented above, it is seen that the use of the management theories belonging to the classical period in modern-day organizations, lends a difference to the perspectives which can be applied to ineffective management. Apart from the criticisms to the management theories presented by Taylor, Weber and Follet, this paper has also determined the level to which the classical management theories are being applied in modern-day businesses.
Overall, it may be concluded that with an increase in the complexity of the business, the application of a single theory of management to control and retain the business is not suggested. It is a derived combination of the management practices which can help the organization is succeeding owing to the difference in the nature of business and the factors which impact the business as a whole.
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