Evolution of Management Theory | Essay

Keywords: management theory history, management theory evolution

The basic objective of management is handling people or a situation for achievement of certain goals. As a Noun, the word management refer to the person who perform the act (s) of management. But, from a functional or implementation perspective, management is a process that involves planning organising, resourcing, directing and controlling different activities for the accomplishment of desired goals. Management is also approached as a mechanism of creative problem solving. The creative problem solving is accomplished through four functions of management: planning, organising , leading and controlling (Higgins1,1994).

In early twentieth century, Mark Parker Follett 2 defined management in simple words as the art of getting thing done through people. According to Koontz and Weihrich3 (2008),’Management is the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals, working together in groups, efficiently accomplish selected aims.”

Q Why should we study Management Theory?

Theories are perspectives with which people make sense of their world experiences. Formally, a theory is a coherent group of assumptions put forth to explain the relationship between two or more observable facts. John Clancy calls such perspectives “invisible powers” to emphasize several crucial uses of theories ,the “unseen” ways in which we approach our world.

First, theories provide a staple focus for understanding what we experience. A theory provides criteria for determining what is relevant. To Henry Ford ,a large and compliant work force was one relevant factor as he theorised about his business. In other words ,his theory of management included, among other thing, this assumption about the supply of labour.

Second, theories enable us to communicate efficiently and thus move into more and more complex relationships with other people. Imagine the frustration you would encounter if, in dealing with other people, you always had to define even the most basic assumptions you make about the world in which you live; Because ford and his managers fully understood Ford’s theory about manufacturing automobiles, they could interact easily as they faced day-to-day challenges.

Third, theories make it possible indeed, challenge us to keep learning about our world. By definition, theories have boundaries; there is only so much that can be covered by any one theory. Once we are aware of this, we are better able to ask ourselves if there are alternative way of looking at the world(especially when our theories no longer seem to “fit” our experience) and to consider the consequences of adopting alternative beliefs.

The Evolution of Management Theory


The first know management idea were recorded in 500B.C When Sumerian traders develop written records for government and commercial use. The application of management is also evident in the Egyptian civilization as early as 4000-3000 B.C. The pyramid of Egypt built with millions of stone blocks by utilising the services of people are the testimonials of a coordinated effort on an extremely large scale .Creation of such huge structure would have certainly required extensive planning ,decision-making, organising men and materials and supervision.

Roman also made significant contribution to management, which is reflected in western military hierarchy and public administration systems. It would not possible to manage the large roman empire without application of sound management principle. Techniques were developed by army commander to motivate their army and slaves to perform the assigned task in accordance with their actual potential.

Management and organization are products of their historical and social times and places. Thus, we can understand the evolution of Management theory in terms of how people have wrestled with matters of relationships at particular times in history.

Early management theory consisted of numerous attempts at getting to know these newcomer’s to industrial life at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and the United States.

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Early Writings on Management

People have been change shaping and reshaping organization for many centuries. Works of several writers in the area of governance of kingdoms and man management created a literature that assisted in the development of modern management theories. The writers was writing about how to make organisation effective and efficient. The early leadership and management models were provided by military, political, mythological and religious organisations. some early writing that subsequently influenced the development of managerial thought are described below.

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: This book on military strategy was written by Chinese general Sun Tzu in the 16th century BC .But, the writings in the book very well been used for managerial purposes. The book recommends that success can be archived by being aware of utilising the organisation’s strength and utilising them to exploit the weaknesses of the rival or enemy. It emphasises the importance of discipline in order to get the thing done through a coordinated group effort.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra : This treatise, developed around third century BC, deal with the governance of kingdom by a king or a leader while making the policies of governance and people management. It highlights the importance of creation of department, development of detailed job profiles and qualifications of administrations who had to manage these departments a director. Arthashastra considerably affected the administrative philosophy of different ruler of India for centuries.

Machiavelli’s The Prince: This book written by Niccilo Machiavelli in 1531 as a counsel for the leadership of Florence, Italy. Machiavelli recommended in this classic that the end justify the mean and that a leader should use fear, not hatred, to maintain control.

Although Sun Tzu ,Chanakya and Machiavelli was trying to development a theory of management, insights teach us an important lesson about Management. And its help to think about management of organization.

Effect of the Industrial Revolution on Management

The industrial Revolution made a significant contribution to the development of management thought before the 20th century. The substitution of human power with machine power made it possible to manufacture goods in large numbers in factories more economically. Consequently, there emerged large-scale business which required managerial skills to produce goods in an efficient and profitable manner. The growing size and complexity of business organisation led to the requirement of managers to various business-related task, like assessing the demand of goods, ensuring the availability of raw materials, assigning the task to factory workers, supervising the production and sales of goods, maintaining quality standard etc.

The first textbook of management was written by J. Duncan in 1911 and the early comprehensive theories on management appeared around 1920.The discipline of management got a strong foundation. When Harvard University became one of the first American universities to offered graduate degree in business management in 1908.The curriculum for teaching management was based on the analysis of relevant real situations in the business world.

Different school of management thought

Early Management Theory include Scientific management theory school, classical organisation theory school , the behavioural school, and management science school. Keep one important fact in mind: The managers and Theorists who developed these assumption about human relationship.

The scientific Management school

Scientific Management theory arose in part of from the need to increase productivity. In the united states especially ,skilled labour was short supply at the beginning of the twentieth century. To increase the productivity was to increase efficiency of workers. There for ,Frederick W.Tylor, Henry L.Gantt, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth devised the body of principle know as scientific management theory .

Frederick w. Tylor (1856-1915)

Taylor’s famous work principle of scientific Management was published in 1911.The fundamental principles that Taylor saw underlying the scientific approach to management are as follows:

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  • Replacing rules of thumb with science (organised knowledge)
  • Obtaining the harmony, rather than discord, in group action .
  • Achieving cooperation of human being, rather than restricted output.
  • Working for maximum output, rather than restricted output.
  • Developing all workers to the fullest extent possible for their own and their company’s highest prosperity.
  • His philosophy on four basic principal:
  • The development of a true science of management, so that the best method for performing each task could be determined.
  • The scientific selection of workers, so that each workers would be given responsibility for the task for his or her was best suited.
  • The scientific education and development of the worker.
  • Intimate, friendly cooperation between management and labour.

Taylor believed that a high division of labour was needed to produce more output, and he was introduced a differential rate system(this meant that the workers received more an amount of wages per ‘piece’ that encourage employer to pay more productive workers at the higher rate than others that would profit both company and workers. This method of management paid close attention to ‘time and motion ‘studies. (e.g. if it took a worker 2 minutes to perform a task, then this could be done 30 times per hour, and 240 times in an 8 -hour day).

Henry l. Gannt (1816-1919)

Henry L.Gantt worked with Taylor on several project. He believed that every workers who finished a day’s assigned work load would win a 50-cent bonus .After he added a second motivation. The supervisor would earn a extra bonus for each worker who reach the daily task, plus an extra bonus if all workers reached it .He was made individual bar chart which show workers performance that rated and publicly and recorded on chart.

The Gilbreths

Frank B and Lillian M Gilbreths (1868-1924 and 1878-1972) made their contribution to the scientific management movement as husband and wife team .Lillian and frank collaborated on fatigue and motion studies and focused on ways of promoting individual worker’s welfare. After using the camera, they tried to find the most economical motion of each task in order to upgrade performance and reduce fatigue.

Classical organization theory school

Scientific management was concerned with increasing the productivity of the shop and the individual worker. Classical organization theory grew out of the need to find guideline’s for managing such complex organisation as factories.

Henery Fayol (1841-1925)

He is generally hailed as the founder of the classical management school. And he was not the first to investigate managerial behaviour because he was the first to systematize it. Fayol that sound management practice fallen into certain pattern that can be easily identified and analysed .he was also interested in the total organization and focused on management ,which he felt had been the most neglected of business operation.Fayol made principles which “most frequently had to apply “before he believed that managers are born ,not made ” .

It emphasised to following factor as being essential to an effective management process.

  • The division of labour.
  • A tall organisational structure.
  • A wide span of control
  • An authoritarian style of management.

Source ;Henri Royal Industries and General Administration,J.A.Caubrough,trans.(Geneva International Management institute ,1930)

Max weber (1864-1920)

Max weber developed a theory of bureaucratic management that stressed the need for a strictly defined hierarchy governed by clearly defined regulation and lines of authority. He considered the ideal organization to be a bureaucracy whose activities and objectives were explicitly spelled out. He was also believed that technical competence should be emphasized and that performance evaluation should be made entirely on the basis on merit .

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Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933)

Mary parker Follett was among those who built on the basic framework of the classical school .However she introduced new element, especially in the area of the human relations and organization structure. In this, she initiated trends that would be future developed by the emerging behavioural and management science schools.

Follett convinced that no one could become a whole person expect as a member of a group, a person grew through their relationships with other in organisation .She belived that the artificial distinction between managers (order givers) and subordinates(order takers)obscured this natural patership. she was a great belived in the power of group ,where individuals could combine their diverse talents into something bigger.

The Behavioral School:

The Behavioral school emerged partly because the classical approach did not achieve sufficient production efficiency and workplace harmony. To manager’s frustration, people did not always follow predicted or expected patterns of behaviour. Thus there was increased interest in helping managers deal more effectively with the “people side” of their organizations. The behavioural school of management thought began late in the scientific management, but a achieve large scale recognition in 1930’s

The Human Relations Movement

Human relations management emerged in the 1920’s and deal with the human aspects of organization .It is frequently used as a general term to describe the way in which managers interact with their employees. When “employee management” stimulates more and better work, organisation has effective human relationship; When morale and efficiency deteriorate, its human relation are said to be ineffective.

From Human Relations To The Behavioral Science Approach

Mayo and his colleagues pioneered the use of the scientific method in their studies of people in the work environment. Later researchers, more rigorously trained in the social science (psychology, sociology and anthropology) ,used more sophisticated research method and became known as “behavioural scientists” rather then “human relation theorist’s.”

The behavioural scientists brought two dimensions to the study of management and organizations.

Self -actualizing people, Their work spawned new thinking about how relationships can be beneficial arranged in organizations. They also determined that people wanted more than “instantaneous” pleasure or rewards.

Behavioural scientists applied the methods of scientific investigation to the study of how people behaved in organization as whole entities.

The Management science school

At the beginning of world War II ,Great Britain desperately needed to solve number of new ,complex problem in warfare. With survival at the sake ,the british were able to achieve significant technological and tactical breakthroughs. When American entered the war ,they formed what they called operational research teams, based on the successful British model, to solve similar problems.

New Industrial technologies were being put into use and transportation and communication were becoming more complicated. These development brought with them a host of problem that could not be solved easily by conventional mean. Over the years, OR procedures were formalized into what is now more generally called The Management Science School.

The management science school gained popularity through post war phenomena are as follows-

First ,The development of high -speed computers and of communications among computers provided the means for trackling complex and large -scale organizational problems

Second, Robert M.C. Namara implemented a management science approach at Ford Motor Company in the 1950s and 1960s.


To conclude a detailed report on management evolution and its various functions, how they help an organisation to progress in their operations. The first part shows the evolution of management, how and when it started. The second part tells us about the functions of management giving a detailed explanation about how these functions differ from each other and their importance in an organisation.

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