A central part of the study of organisational behaviour is the development of management thinking and what might be termed management theory. (See also Chapter 1.) Managers reading the work of leading writers on the subject might see in their thoughts, ideas and conclusions a message about how they should behave. This will influence their attitudes towards management practice and bring about change in behaviour.
Writing on organisation and management, in some form or another, can be traced back thousands of years.1 Also, Shafritz makes an interesting observation about the contribution of William Shakespeare (1564−1616):
While William Shakespeare’s contribution to literature and the development of the English language have long been acknowledged and thoroughly documented, his contribution to the theory of management and administration have been all but ignored. This is a surprising oversight when you consider that many of his plays deal with issues of personnel management and organizational behavior.
However, the systematic development of management thinking is viewed, generally, as dating from the end of the nineteenth century with the emergence of large industrial organisations and the ensuing problems associated with their structure and management.
The study of management theory is important for the following reasons:
• It helps to view the interrelationships between the development of theory, behaviour in organisations and management practice.
• An understanding of the development of management thinking helps in understanding principles underlying the actual process of management and reasons for the attention given to main topic areas.
• Management theories are interpretive and evolve in line with changes in the organisational environment.
• Many of the earlier ideas are of continuing importance to the manager and later ideas on management tend to incorporate earlier ideas and conclusions.
However, if action is to be effective, the theory must be adequate and appropriate to the task and to improved organisational performance. It must be a ‘good’ theory. To be of any help to the practising manager, theory has to be appropriate. For example, Lee refers to: the danger of adopting theories because they are teachable, rather than because they are effective . . . [however,] without appropriate theory, there would be very little communication of the insights of scientific theory to practising managers.4
Crainer points out that although management is active, not theoretical, it is nothing without ideas.
Nothing is so practical as a good theory. Ideas drive management as surely as the immediate problems which land on managers’ desks or which arrive via their e-mail. Decisions have to be based on ideas as well as instinct. Without ideas managers flit desperately from crisis to crisis. They cannot know where they are going, why they are doing something or what they will achieve, without the vital fuel of ideas.
Framework of analysis
In order to help identify the main trends in the development of organisational behaviour and management theory, it is helpful to categorise the ideas and work of writers into various ‘approaches’, based on their views of organisations, their structure and management.
Management theory is a complex area of study in which it is possible to identify a large number of writers and a wide range of comparative and/or conflicting points of view.
There are, therefore, many ways of categorising the various approaches. For example, Skipton attempts a classification of eleven main schools of management theory.6 Whatever form of categorisation is adopted, it is possible to identify a number of other approaches, or at least sub-divisions of approaches, and cross-grouping among the various approaches. The choice of a particular categorisation is therefore largely at the discretion of the observer and the demands of the reader.
For convenience, the following analysis revolves around a framework based on four main approaches, shown in Figure 2.1. Although a simplistic process, it provides a useful framework in which to direct study and focus attention on the progression of ideas concerned with improving organisational performance:
• classical − including scientific management and bureaucracy;
• human relations − including neo-human relations;
• systems; • contingency
Attention is also drawn to other ‘approaches’ or ideas, including technology, decision-making, social action and postmodernism.
The classical writers thought of the organisation in terms of its purpose and formal structure. Emphasis is on planning of work, technical requirements of the organisation, principles of management, and the assumption of rational and logical behaviour. The analysis of organisation in this manner is associated with work carried out initially in the early part of the last century, by such writers as Taylor, Fayol, Urwick and Brech. Such writers were laying the foundation for a comprehensive theory of management.
A clear understanding of the purpose of an organisation is seen as essential to understanding how the organisation works and how its methods of working can be improved. Identification of general objectives would lead to the clarification of purpose and responsibilities at all levels of the organisation and to the most effective structure. Attention is given to division of work, clear definition of duties and responsibilities, and maintaining specialisation and co–ordination. Emphasis is on a hierarchy of management and formal organisational relationships.
The classical writers (also variously known as the formal or scientific management writers − although scientific management is really only a part of the classical approach) were concerned with improving the organisation structure as a means of increasing efficiency. They emphasised the importance of principles for the design of a logical structure of organisation. Their writings were in a normative style and they saw these principles as a set of ‘rules’ offering general solutions to common problems of organisation and management. Most classical writers had their own set of principles but among the most publicised are those of Fayol and Urwick.
Fayol identified five managerial activities: planning, organising, command, co-ordination and control, together with a set of principles of management. Fayol recognised that there was no limit to the principles of management but in his writing advocated fourteen.
Urwick originally specified eight principles of the requirements of the formal organisation, but these were revised to ten in his later writing.
Brech attempts to provide a practical approach to organisation structure based on tried general principles as opposed to concentration on specific cases or complex generalisations of little value to the practising manager. He sets out the various functions in the organisation and the definition of formal organisational relationships.9 Although clearly a strong supporter of the formal approach in some of his views such as, for example, on the principle of span of control, Brech is less definite than other classical writers and recognises a degree of flexibility according to the particular situation.
Brech does place great emphasis, however, on the need for the written definition of responsibilities and the value of job descriptions as an aid to effective organisation and delegation. This work builds on the ideas of earlier writers, such as Urwick, and therefore provides a comprehensive view of the classical approach to organisation and management.
The classical writers have been criticised generally for not taking sufficient account of social factors and for creating an organisation structure in which people can exercise only limited control over their work environment. The idea of sets of principles to guide managerial action has also been subject to much criticism. For example, Simon writes:
Organisational design is not unlike architectural design. It involves creating large, complex systems having multiple goals. It is illusory to suppose that good designs can be created by using the so-called principles of classical organisation theory.
Research studies have also expressed doubt about the effectiveness of these principles when applied in practice.
However, the classical approach prompted the start of a more systematic view of management and attempted to provide some common principles applicable to all organisations. These principles are still of relevance in that they offer a useful starting point in attempting to analyse the effectiveness of the design of organisation structure. However, the application of these principles must take full account of the particular situational variables of each individual organisation and the psychological and social factors relating to members of the organisation.
Two major ‘sub-groupings’ of the classical approach are scientific management and bureaucracy.
Many of the classical writers were concerned with the improvement of management as a means of increasing productivity. Emphasis was on the problem of obtaining increased productivity from individual workers through the technical structuring of the work organisation and the provision of monetary incentives as the motivator for higher levels of output. A major contributor to this approach was F. W. Taylor (1856−1917), the ‘father’ of scientific management.12 Taylor believed that in the same way that there is a best machine for each job, so there is a best working method by which people should undertake their jobs. All work processes could be analysed into discrete tasks and that by scientific method it was possible to find the ‘one best way’ to perform each task. Each job was broken down into component parts, each part timed and the parts rearranged into the most efficient method of working.
Taylor was concerned with finding more efficient methods and procedures for co-ordination and control of work, and a believer in the rational−economic needs concept of motivation. If management acted on his ideas, work would become more satisfying and profitable for all concerned. Workers would be motivated by obtaining the highest possible wages through working in the most efficient and productive way. He set out a number of principles to guide management. These principles are usually summarised as:
• the development of a true science for each person’s work;
• the scientific selection, training and development of workers;
• co-operation with workers to ensure work is carried out in the prescribed way;
• hierarchical structures of authority and close supervision;
• clear division of tasks and responsibility between management and workers.
In his famous studies at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Taylor applied his ideas on scientific management to a group of seventy-five men loading pig iron. Taylor selected a Dutch labourer, Schmidt, whom he reported as a ‘high-priced’ man with a reputation for placing a high value on money, and of limited mental ability. By following detailed instructions on when to pick up the pig iron and walk, and when to sit and rest, and with no back talk, Schmidt increased his output from 12½ tons to 47½ tons per day. He maintained this level of output throughout the three years of the study. In return Schmidt received a 60 per cent increase in wages compared with what was paid to the other men. One by one other workers were selected and trained to handle pig iron at the rate of 47½ tons per day and in return they received 60 per cent more wages. Taylor drew attention to the need for the scientific selection of the workers. When the other labourers in the group were trained in the same method, only one in eight was physically capable of the effort of loading 47½ tons per day, although there was a noticeable increase in their level of output.
There were strong criticisms of, and reaction against, scientific management methods from the workers who found the work boring and requiring little skill. Despite these criticisms, Taylor attempted to expand the implementation of his ideas in the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. However, fears of mass redundancies persuaded the management to request Taylor to moderate his activities. Yet Taylor’s belief in his methods was so strong that he would not accept management’s interference and eventually they dispensed with his services. Continued resentment and hostility against scientific management led to an investigation of Taylor’s methods by a House of Representatives Committee, which reported in 1912. The conclusion of the committee was that scientific management did provide some useful techniques and offered valuable organisational suggestions, but gave production managers a dangerously high level of uncontrolled power.
Taylor placed emphasis on the content of a ‘fair day’s work’ and optimising the level of workers’ productivity. A major obstacle to this objective was ‘systematic soldiering’ and what Taylor saw as the deliberate attempt by workers to promote their best interests and to keep employers ignorant of how fast work, especially piece-rate work, could be carried out.
According to Braverman, scientific management starts from the capitalist point of view and method of production, and the adaptation of labour to the needs of capital. Taylor’s work was more concerned with the organisation of labour than with the development of technology. A distinctive feature of Taylor’s thought was the concept of management control.13 Braverman suggests Taylor’s conclusion was that workers should be controlled not only by the giving of orders and maintenance of discipline, but also by removing from them any decisions about the manner in which their work was to be carried out. By division of labour, and by dictating precise stages and methods for every aspect of work performance, management could gain control of the actual process of work. The rationalisation of production processes and division of labour tends to result in the de-skilling of work and this may be a main strategy of the employer.
Cloke and Goldsmith also suggest that Taylor was the leading promoter of the idea that managers should design and control the work process scientifically in order to guarantee maximum efficiency. He believed in multiple layers of management to supervise the work process and in rigid, detailed control of the workforce.
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