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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How Modern approaches to Management compare with the traditional approaches of the Scientific Management and Human Relations thought

How Modern approaches to Management compare with the traditional approaches of the Scientific Management and Human Relations thought

The concept of management has evolved over time through various distinct stages to the modern day approaches to management. These modern practices have evolved in order to meet the needs of the organizations operating in the increasingly volatile global environment. The concept of management is increasingly gaining prominence at the corporate strategy level of organizations with the executives seeking to find ways of remaining competitive and where possible gain a strategic advantage over other market players (Head, 2005). Management is therefore no longer viewed as a separate function of the organizations but as a pillar that can ensure the success of the organization. One of the earliest schools of management was the classical school of management which dominated societal thinking between the 1880s and the 1940s (Wren, 1987). This school consisted of scientific management (1880s), bureaucratic management (1940s), and administrative management (1940s) (Wren, 1987). This school was succeeded by the behavioral school which was very popular in the period between the 1930s and the 1950s (Wren, 1987). This school could be summed into two distinct approaches to management namely the human relations (1930s) and the behavioral science (1950s) (Wren, 1987). The behavioral school gave way to the quantitative school which was dominant between the 1940s and the 1970s through the theories of management science and operations management in the 1940s, and management information systems between the 1950s and the 1970s (Wren, 1987). The remaining two schools remain dominant to date and form what can arguably be referred to as the modern approaches to management when put together with the contemporary schools of management. These schools include the Systems School which was developed in the 1950s and the contingency theory which developed in the 1960s (Wren, 1987). The systems school views the organizations as systems that are used to create outputs using inputs while constantly interacting with the environment. On the other hand, the contingency theory advocates for application of management principles based on the unique circumstances of the organizations at any given time.

The traditional schools of management include some of the earliest forms of management thoughts that dominated the work environments between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century. The earliest schools of management include the classical school of management and the behavioral school of management which have been represented by the scientific management theory and the human relations management thought respectively (Beissinger, 1988). While scientific management emphasizes process, efficiency and principles, the human relations theory emphasizes the significance of human behavior in the organization and the importance of positive attitudes in fostering higher levels of job satisfaction which in turn translate to higher productivity. These two theories essentially cover the most crucial aspects of management in any organization.

Scientific management is part of the classical school of management alongside the bureaucratic management and the administrative management (Aitken, 1985). The scientific management model was developed to meet the needs that were persistent in the typical work place in the late 19th century. Management decisions were often arbitrary and the productivity of workers was significantly low characterized by their slow pace when working. The conflicts between the workers and the management were also rampant. The main proponents of the scientific management model were Fredrick Taylor, Lillian Gilbreth, Frank Gilbreth and Henry Gantt (Drury, 1915). This system was introduced to bring about a revolution of though in the typical work place and aimed at improving efficiency through the systematic study of the work under observation (Drury, 1915). The system proposed a number of principles to be applied in management. These included the study and application of scientific methods to the tasks contained in various roles with the aim of improving the efficiency of the workers. The system also proposed a reform of recruitment processes that ensured recruits were scientifically selected to ensure that the employees employed were fit for the job. It advocated for candid cooperation between the management and the workers in a meaningful symbiotic relationship and proposed that the managers be fully responsible for job design and planning while the workers concentrate on implementation (Locke, 1982). The system also introduced the concept of performance based financial incentives as well as the setting of achievable but challenging targets for the workers. In a nutshell, scientific management emphasized on a tripartite approach while comprised; process, efficiency and principles (Locke, 1982). This early contribution to the management theory would later serve as the pillar from which subsequent schools of management would emanate.

Human relations thought is part of the behavioral school of management which was developed to cover for the weaknesses of the classical school of management by placing a special emphasis on human behavior (Wren, 1987). The theory, which was developed as a result of extensive experiments, concluded that human attitudes could affect their productivity either positively or negatively (Mitcham, 2005). A second conclusion was that the workplace could be equated to a social system consisting of informal groups which bear great influence over the attitude and behavior of the employees. This theoretical framework also laid emphasis on the style of management and supervision stating that the styles embraced had a direct impact on the level of job satisfaction of the employees (Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson, 2001).  This system further advocated for organizations to take steps to enable the employees to adjust to the organization while fostering collaboration between the workers and the management. The managers were therefore required to possess excellent interpersonal skills that would enable them discern the causes for certain behaviors by employees and motivate them to achieve the organization’s goals (Donnelly, 2000). The focus was to ensure the highest levels of employee satisfaction which would in turn translate into enhanced productivity. Unlike the scientific management thought, the human relations thought focused on communication, leadership, group behavior and motivation. One of the main contributors to this thought was Fredrick Herzberg and Abraham Maslow who developed the infamous needs hierarchy for explaining employee behavior. Maslow came up with a theory that categorized the needs that employees needed to satisfy in a hierarchy (Maslow, 1954). According to Maslow, the employees would seek the satisfaction of the needs on the lower side before seeking the satisfaction of the higher placed needs. For instance, an employee who can barely feed would prioritize the need to earn a basic wage that would enable him feed before he can seek to have his employment secured and attend to other needs. The hierarchy progresses from the most basis needs to as follows: physiological needs (food, shelter, and clothing), safety and security needs (job security, insurance, health), love and belonging (need for family, intimacy and need to be loved), self esteem (need for self respect and to be valued by others), and self actualization (attainment of full potential)(Maslow, 1954). Fredrick Herzberg in his part developed a two-factor theory of motivation (Mullins, 2004). This theory came up with two factors namely the motivating factors and the hygiene factors. Motivating factors are those that when introduced motivates employees to work harder. Hygiene factors do not motivate but their absence would de-motivate the workers (Mullins, 2004). Unlike the scientific management approach which views wages as a motivating factor, this theory categorizes wages as a hygiene factor. It argues that once the job is acquired, the pay stops being a motivator. In its absence, the employee would be de-motivated but it cannot in itself motivate the employee (Mullins, 2004). The two-factor theory identifies the motivating factors as recognition, promotion, job enlargement, job enrichment, and job empowerment among others.

The modern approaches to management comprise the collection of management theories that dominate organizational management in current times. Some of these approaches bear their roots in the 1950s and the 1960s and continue to be dominant in the management circles to date (Wren, 1987). The systems school views the organization as a collection of systems whose key function is to transform inputs into outputs while in constant interactions with the external environment. It brings focus on the organization’s various functions and the importance of ensuring that the different components function in a synergy that ensures that the overall outcome of the organization is up to expectations (Lewis, Stephen and Patricia, 1998). The system comprises four major components namely the inputs, the transformation process, the output and the feedback. The thinking behind strategic thinking in modern practice is dominated by the principal focus of this theory which emphasizes the importance of the organization functioning as a unit with all the components functioning in a synergy that enables them to create a competitive advantage over other market players.

The contingency theory refers to the variability of situations that require managers to embrace different management techniques for the varying circumstances (Mullins, 2004). This theory reckons that there is no management blue print that can be applicable to all scenarios in an organization. The managers are therefore required to carry out a situation analysis and formulate systems that would enable them to handle such situations in the best way possible. The factors to be considered may include the nature of products needed, the level of expertise of the workers, the level of competition and other environmental factors, the level of resources at the organization’s disposal, and the prevailing organizational challenges among others (Mullins, 2004). 

Several theories explaining the existence of organizations have also played a major role in influencing the management thought in modern times. One such theory is the resource-based theory which visualizes the organization as a collection of resources which must be pooled together in order to realize the organizational goals (Raduan, et al, 2009). This view describes the resources as both human and non-human assets that the organization possesses and is able to exercise control over. These resources need to be coordinated in a manner that enhances some level of synergy that enables the highest possible output from these resources. The increasing volatility of the business environment has also raised concerns among executives on their ability to ensure profitability through the application of more efficient exploitation of their resources (Raduan, et al, 2009). This has focused attention on internal processes and the importance of minimization of waste in order to ensure profitability. This approach is necessitated by the fact that the increasing competition limits the organization’s ability to ensure profitability through pricing.

The application of corporate strategy and strategic management also plays a crucial role in determining the management approach taken by the business executives and managers (Sheldrake, 2003). The standard approach to strategic management involves the analysis of the business position in the environment before embarking on a strategic management process that distinguishes the organization from other organizations. The most common evaluation models involve the porter’s five forces model which evaluates the organization’s relative strength in relation to competitors, customers, and suppliers (Raduan, et al, 2009). The PESTEL analysis model is important in evaluating the external environment in which the organization operates. It considers the political factors, economic factors, social factors, technological factors, environmental factors, and legal factors (Raduan, et al, 2009). The micro and macro analysis of the environment therefore becomes the backbone on which other strategic management processes are hinged. For instance, the organization may need to decide on whether or not to differentiate their products. The competitive advantage can also be created using innovative business processes and office layout. This is evident in the UK fashion industry where market players seek to outdo each other in developing the most convenient and attractive office layouts while ensuring that the purchasing process is as simple as possible (Sheldrake, 2003). The simplicity of the process tends to be a point of attraction for clients in the service industry on a global scale.

The approach to strategic management in most organization also focuses on the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics involved in the production process (Raduan, et al, 2009). The popularity of the concept of total quality management (TQM) underscores this point. This approach aims to ensure that the resources are utilized to the optimum and at the highest efficiency levels. TQM has been known to greatly contribute to the good performance of the organizations where properly implemented (Raduan, et al, 2009). This concept has been modified by organizations engaging in retail business which aim to control their retail logistics with the aim of minimizing unnecessary losses and thereby boost the profitability of the organizations.

With the realization that human resources can potentially be a source of competitive advantage for organizations, considerable emphasis has been placed in developing a highly competent and motivated workforce that understands their role in delivering the strategic objectives of the organizations (Raduan, et al, 2009). Motivating factors such as performance-based financial incentives, transparent promotion regulations, job enrichment, job empowerment and other measures are continuously taking center stage in the human resource practices. The human element in any organization is perhaps the most crucial element. This explains the recent popularity of the concept of ‘fit’ in human resource management where the human resources are part and parcel of the organizational strategy (Warner, 1994). The involvement of workers in the strategy formation and implementation process has been known to yield superior results as the workers feel obligated to honor the commitments made during the strategy formulation process.
The constant and fast evolution of technology puts the organizations in danger of losing their competitive edge where such technological advancements render their products obsolete (Raduan, et al, 2009). Organizations are therefore increasing embracing the culture of the Learning organization where all members of the organization are involved in identifying emerging trends and sharing the same with their colleagues with the aim of ensuring that prompt and quick adjustments are made. This approach lays profound responsibility of the employees who are tasked to remain abreast with the developments in the industries and global changes. Accordingly, organizations are giving these peer groups the lead in spearheading the proposed amendments and are able to keep the employees’ morale at soaring levels using these peer groups (Warner, 1994). This management perspective has proven to be revolutionary especially in organizations that are technology based.

How modern management approaches compare to the traditional approaches
Modern approaches tend to reinforce rather than weaken the traditional approaches to management (Mullins, 2005). For instance, the scientific method focuses on efficiency of production processes, the motivation of the employees through the offering of performance based pay and the observance of strict principles. This view is reinforced by the modern approach to strategic management which emphasizes the importance of focusing on internal processes in order to remain competitive in the increasingly competitive business environment (Sheldrake, 2003). The concepts of Total Quality Management run in consonance with the aims of the scientific model when it singles out the production processes and the importance of ensuring effectiveness and efficiency of production during all the stages of the process (Donnelly, 2000). This internal approach of the scientific management model has been extrapolated to include various other processes business functions. For instance, business organizations conduct cautious marketing campaigns while remaining keen to ensure that the process is as economical as possible. The effect of such campaigns is also weighed to ensure that the organizations realize value for money at the end of such endeavors. The resource based view of the organization and the systems theory further reinforce the scientific by emphasizing the importance of processes and their coordination in the organization (Raduan, et al, 2009). This is however done with an improvement on the traditional model where the organization is visualized as a collection of systems that must be synchronized for the organization to run efficiently. The traditional model had initially concentrated on production processes while the modern view visualizes all the functions of the organization as an essential part of the system. The emphasis on proper recruitment also resonates with the modern day practices where organizations are keen to recruit persons that are qualified and highly talented in order to execute their duties with a rare brilliance (Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson, 2001). The development of scientific personality tests in addition to oral interviews further enriches this requirement of the scientific management outlook.

The human relations thought has been the backbone of the employee motivational approaches in modern times (Warner, 1994). The insight from the Maslow’s hierarchy and the Herzberg’s two fact theory continue to form the basis for the motivational schemes across the organization. The enrichment provided by modern management practices is the benefit of incorporation of the staff into the strategy implementation of the organization. In addition to remuneration systems that recognize performance most organizations engage in job enrichment and development exercises that are aimed at making the jobs more fulfilling and challenging for the employees (Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson, 2001). The focus on employee motivation is in recognition of their strategic importance in ensuring high performance in organizations.

The ancient approaches to management namely the scientific approach and the human relations thought can be described as the sources of the modern day management thought. While the scientific management theory focus on the efficiency of the production process and the motivation of the worker, the human relations thought emphasizes on the importance of behavioral elements in employee satisfaction and consequently the levels of satisfaction. The combination of these two traditional models therefore covers the most important aspects of management albeit in a retracted form. The modern approaches to management tend to build onto these provisions by providing meaningful insights that enable management practices to be relevant and more effective in the modern day. A good illustration is the comparison between the human relations thought and the modern day approach to human resource management as illustrated above. The conveyor belt production which is still common can also be traced to the scientific model. It therefore must be concluded that modern approaches to management reinforce rather than repudiate the traditional approaches to management.

For more theory and case studies on:

Aitken, H. J., 1985. Scientific Management in Action: Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal, 1908-1915, Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press
Beissinger, M. R., 1988. Scientific Management, Socialist Discipline, and Soviet Power, London, UK: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd
Donnelly, R., 2000. Schools of Management Thought, Scotland: Pitman Publishing
Drury, H. B., 1915. Scientific management: a history and criticism. New York, NY, USA: Columbia University
Head, S., 2005. The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
Hersey. P., Blanchard. K., and Johnson. D., 2001. Management of Organizational Behavior. 8th Ed. Singapore: Pearson Education
Lewis, P. S., Stephen H. G., and Patricia M. F., 1998. Management. 2nd Ed. Cincinnati: South-Western College Publishing
Locke, E. A., 1982. The Ideas of Frederick W. Taylor: An Evaluation. Academy of Management Review,  7 (1), pp. 14–24
Maslow, A., 1954. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper
Mitcham, C., 2005. Management. Encyclopedia of science, technology, and ethics, 3, Macmillan Reference USA
Mullins, L. J., 2004. Management and Organizational Behavior. 7th Ed. Prentice Hall: Pearson Education Ltd
Raduan, C.R., et al, 2009. Management, Strategic Management Theories and the Linkage with Organizational Competitive Advantage from the Resource Based View. (Online) Available at: (Accessed 22 January 2011)
Sheldrake, J., 2003. Management Theory, Second Edition. United Kingdom: Thomson Learning Institute
Warner, M., 1994. Organizational Behavior Revisited. Human Relations, 47 (10), pp. 1151–1164

Wren, D., 1987. The Evolution of Management Thought. 3rd Ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons


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  3. Bureaucratic management approach developed by Max Weber is not suitable for business organizations but may be suitable for government organizations.

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