Discuss the Applicability of the classical theories of management to the Management of Modern Organizations.
Let’s begin by knowing what management and organisation actually mean in this context. According to (Stoner ; Others, 1996), Management is the process of planning, organizing, leading and controlling the efforts of organizational members and using all other organizational resources to achieve stated goals. In this definition Stoner believes that management is a systematic way of doing things.
Management in the modern setting is looked at making use of organisational resources by employees to achieve organisational objectives in a changing environment (Kreitner, 1999).
An organization on the other hand is an association of persons or people with a common purpose and objectives to achieve under authority and leadership (Onwuchekwa, 1993). Organisation is also looked at as a framework of the relationships, powers, roles, objectives, activities and communication that exists when people work together (Ile, 1999).
Scholars of management from as early as the 19th century tried to sell the need for managers to find that formula, that method, that would deliver positive results, on a sustainable basis, in the most efficient manner. In the process they sought to define the role(s) a manager should play and although these have been altered by technology, the key underlying principles remain unchanged. Management today is still very much about planning, organizing, controlling and influencing just as it was 100 years ago.
The three streams of classical theories namely; Scientific Management, Administrative theory and the Theory of Bureaucracy were founded on similar assumptions in that the practical effects of the three are essentially the same, in that they were developed about the same time, (1900-1950). However, each of them were developed by separate groups of writers working almost totally independent of each other;
a) The Scientific Management theory by Fredrick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915)
b) The Administrative Management theory by Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925) and
c) The Bureaucratic Management theory, propounded by Max Weber (1864-1920).
These new ideas, known as the Classical Approach to management became the essential building blocks of systems and techniques which help modern day managers effectively plan, organise and control their organisations in the most efficient manner possible.
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 today varies from that to which Henri Fayol’s Theory of Management or Max Weber’s Bureaucratic theory apply.
I work for a research consultancy firm called Forcier consulting, Juba office. Forcier Consulting was founded in response to the overwhelming demand for data, research and information in some of the most challenging environments in Africa. We have offices in South Sudan, Sudan, DRC, USA, Egypt, Somalia Mozambique and Middle East. While Forcier aim to produce reliable and high-quality research in these complex settings, Forcier also make long-term investments in building the capacity of national staff to serve as researchers and consultants.
It was the believe of the Scientific Management Developers like Henry L. Gant (1861-1919), Frank B. and Lillian M. Gilbreth (1868-1924) and (1878-1972) respectively, that the only way to increase productivity was to increase the efficiency of workers.
Scientific management is a theory of management that analyses and synthesizes workflows, with the objective of improving labour productivity.
Taylor believed that decisions based upon tradition and rules of thumb should be replaced by precise procedures developed after careful study of an individual at work. Its application is contingent on a high level of managerial control over employee work practices.
His approach is also often referred to as Taylor’s Principle. Taylor’s scientific management consisted of four principles;
1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
3. Provide detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker’s discrete task.
4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks (Taylor, 1911) as cited by (Nhema, 2015).
The research organisation I work for today employs Scientific Management considering the general approach of; Shift in decision making from employees to managers, Develop a standard method for performing each job, Select workers with appropriate abilities for each job, Train workers in the standard method previously developed, Support workers by planning their work and eliminating interruptions and provide wage incentives to workers for increased output. However, these incentives though given to Forcier staff have been looked at as not helpful because it’s inadequate and staff believe that they are being over exploited.
In line with Taylor’s principle of developing standard method, in my organisation before undertaking a project, we design an inception report (IR) that entail the methodology and procedures of executing the project. This inception report is shared with clients for approval before the final phase of contract signing. In Forcier, the IR acts a project handbook.
To ensure the best person is chosen to perform tasks for example in relation to data collection, people with enumeration or prior data collection experiences are selected to and provided training on how to collect data from the field. This training is both project based and generation research principles and procedures that will enable them administer data collection during project evaluation. This is just in line with Taylor’s teaching, he suggest employees be recruited based on their education, abilities and skills that matches the job requirements. Taylor believes upon hiring the correct candidate, training should be given to them to help them perform their tasks to the highest standard possible.
Taylor noted that by analysing every basic movement involved and timing each action in various different ways, you would soon find the quickest and easiest method. This “Time study” approach is very important in helping my organisation improve productivity by cutting out inefficient, outdated methods of data collection. Currently as a research firm, we use digital data collection platform instead of the traditional paper questionnaire version. All questionnaires are scripted and deployed in mobile devices for easy data collection and automated data entry. By doing all this, we save a lot of time administering a project and going to the next, hence improved productivity. However, giving break time only once in a day from 1:00 PM to 2:00PM seems inappropriate and not enough.
Taylor developed the “Exception Principle”, this principle is to be used as a quality control measure on performance of employees. This principle works by setting the standard of performance to be achieved or performance threshold for employees, this helps identify exceptional cases within an organisation. In my organisation, performance of staff is monitored every after 3 months. Staff members who do not meet the standard set are identified and efforts can be put to improve the quality of their work in what is known as capacity building. As part of the exception principle, we at the management level identify and appreciate employees who outperformed the set standard. Taylor recommends that any increase in productivity of an employee should be rewarded financially too to encourage them (employees) to work harder. This Exception principle in my organisation lately is applied only for the international staff in the organisation who receive salary increments and acknowledgement whereas the local stuff feel left out and not appreciated.
Let’s turn around and look at Gantt who operated in between 1861 – 1919, a colleague of Taylor who had some similar approaches to Taylor’s.
According to Gantt, it is the obligation of the management to provide proper training to its staff. He pointed that clearly defined goals and tasks would motivate employees to perform well. He developed a chart commonly known as Gantt chart for measuring the performance of projects in an organisation. Forcier (where I work) uses this to track project progress and estimated time of delivery. Thus chart gives a quick overview of a project progress in relation to the specified timeframe and targets. Yes the Gantt chart has been so effective but training of staff is something that still leaves a lot to be desired, in some cases project staff are undertrained before going to the field for data collection.
A Project Evaluation Review Technique (P.E.R.T) analysis is another project control method that we use in our organisation which was derived from Gantts bar chart. P.E.R.T offers possible outcomes of how each task will be undertaken and gives project managers information that enables them prepare for all contingencies in a project cycle.
From the above discussion it is clear that the application of the scientific management fails sometimes to account for certain basic difficulties, for instance in ignores individual differences yet the most efficient way of working for one person may be inefficient for another.
The Administrative Management Theory, developed by Henri Fayol (1841-1925). He concentrated on authority and its implementation in work place. Fayol developed five functions of management, which includes; Plan, Organise, Command, Co-ordinate and Control (Fayol, 1949). As part of his administrative management, Fayol developed 14 principles of management that he saw as common to all organisations, one of which was “the stability of tenure”. These 14 principles were Division of labour, Authority, Unity of command, Unity of direction, Equity, Discipline, Order, Scalar chain of command, Stability of tenure, Remuneration, Centralization, Initiative, Subordination of individual interests to the common good and Morale (Gulick & Urwick, 1937)
To begin with, Fayol in his principles recognises the importance of low staff turnover to organisation’s effectiveness. In my organisation, management works hard to ensure staff retention strategies are in place but also acknowledges the need to bring fresh ideas and approaches from new staff to balance experienced workers with the enthusiastic new employees .To achieve this, we had MoU with Catholic University of Juba, we provided guest lectures to the final year students with the motive of having them do their internship with us.
One of the 14 principles evidenced in Forcier is that of the “initiative”. Fayol believes that employees should be allowed to make use of their ideas and should be encouraged to feel free to perform their task in ways they see best fits. This brings about a conducive work environment where employees feel their ideas are worthy and are considered in the organisational business plan. In my organisation we have monthly general meeting, in which employees are asked to put forward their own ideas and suggest way forward for the firm. However, lately these meetings are no longer taking place, the top managers believe that the local staff always complain in these meetings and do not provide tangible contribution.
Having said all the above, there is certainly an acknowledgment of Fayol’s principle of the needs of the employees as described above, the need for proper remuneration; equity; stability of tenure; initiative and team spirit being recognised as important coming from a ‘top down’ direction (Cole & Kelly, 2011).
The criticism Fayol has attracted in recent years is likely to be as a result of the context and the types of organisation that existed at the time his principles were written compared to the flatter organisations in existence today. Add to this the demand by employees that they are included more in decision making processes, which one could argue is totally justified considering the pace of the modern organisation, means that yes there are certainly aspects of Fayol’s work that are less applicable in some more modern work environments today (McGrath ; Bates, 2013).
As a final note I would agree his fourteen principles represent a first real and usable management theory that could be passed onto other managers and organisations as a successful basis to build efficient management, if he wasn’t still relevant he wouldn’t have been in the first chapter of many of the management texts on the market today!
Theory of Bureaucracy
Having discussed all the above, one can certainly recognise these ideas are still evident today. Much of the work here represents what Max Weber termed ‘bureaucracy’ to ensure that the fundamental structures and processes of the organisation are carried out and indeed carried out efficiently.
The theory of Bureaucracy developed by Max Weber (1864-1920), focused on position in an organization, which he believed should follow the principle of hierarchy (each lower office being subject to the control of a higher one) i.e. organisations must strictly define its hierarchy, governed by clearly defined regulations and lines of authority (Stoner, Freeman, ; Gilbert, 1992).
Unlike Taylor and Fayol who concentrated on processes, Weber’s focus is on administrative structure. From the longer roster of characteristics, provided by Weber, six deserve special mention (Weber, 1947):
Hierarchy of authority: the locus of decision making is pre-structured with decisions of various types being made at different levels of the organization. In the organisation I work, each lower office is under the control and supervision of a higher one, the higher offices are in the US that the Juba office reports to and within Juba we have various levels decision making offices. Every official in that administrative hierarchy is accountable to his/her superior for his subordinates, which means that he/she has the right to issue directives that are relevant for official operations.
Division of labour: The clear cut division of labour makes it possible to employ only specialised experts in each particular position. Being a research firm, not everybody manages him or herself, somebody has to take care of administration, while others do the technical research work and thus there is a division of work between workers and administrators. One of the tasks of administration in my organisation is to take care of all government related approvals and logistics.
Impersonality: We have rational standards that govern operations without interference from personal considerations. The exclusion of personal considerations from official business is a prerequisite for impartiality as well as for efficiency.
Technical qualifications: Employment in my organization is based on technical qualifications and is protected against arbitrary dismissal. Selection and promotion decisions are based on technical qualifications, competence, and performance of the candidates. Promotions are based on achievement and seniority. Contracts lengths varies from an employee to the other based on their competence and seniority.
Procedural Specifications: we have defined rules and regulations that we follow, this rules includes dos and do not dos in the organisation. As a research firm, confidentiality is a key in my organisation and to ensure this, there’s need to have a well-defined rule signed by employees as part of the service contract with the firm.
Continuity: Members are expected to pursue a career in the organization. The office constitutes of a full-time salaried occupation with a career structure that offers the prospect of regular advancement and those project based staff who as well have higher change of becoming permanent staff in future. However, sometimes staff are laid off without proper reason given to them, this therefore violates the principle of continuity.
The classical thinkers came out with various valuable contribution to the theories of management and its practices. However the theories of the classical thinkers did not achieve much result in the early developing twentieth century made many valuable contributions to the theories and practices of management. However, their theories did not always achieve desirable results in the situations that were developing in the early twentieth century.
Organisations today are mostly influenced by the external environment (continuous technology change, globalisation, fierce market share competition, hiring and retaining front line workers and executives) that often fluctuate with time. Yet Classical Management Theories only portrays the image of an organisation that is not shaped by the external influences. In today’s world of Classical Management Theories are gradually fading and the principal reason behind this is that people and their needs are considered as secondary to the needs of an organisation by Classical theorists.
Based on the foregoing, we therefore conclude that given the present performances of the modern Organisations, more need to be done in the way the classical management theories were applied, such that workers will be more motivated to perform in a conducive work environment. This will go a long way to increase the business efficiency of labour and happy working environment
Organizations should reduce waste and labour turnover by introducing some other motivational tools in their work environment, and should recognize the individual motivation, group behaviour and interpersonal relationship within and outside the work environment. These will create understanding on the part of workers and will encourage the workers, to work for the achievement of the entire organizational objectives, from where they will achieve their individual objectives.
Organizations should maintain their labour force and increase growth and development by reducing the management’s undue pressure on workers, encourage workers use of initiatives, and allow innovations and workers participation to management through emphasis on cultural/political differences in the organizations. Joint management about participation in decision making, will increase productivity more than what obtained through the practice.
Discuss the Applicability of the classical theories of management to the Management of Modern Organizations.