Classical Theory Of Management
The classical theory of management is a type of management theory that believes employees have only two kinds of needs:…
January 7, 2022 | 7 mins read
The classical theory of management is a type of management theory that believes employees have only two kinds of needs: economic and physical. The theory came into existence in the late 19th century during the industrialization boom. The reason for the birth of this theory was that managers desired certain scientific methods for increasing the productivity of workers.
The classical approach to management neglects the social needs of an employee and also their job satisfaction. It promotes centralized leadership, profit maximization, specialization of labor and decision-making.
As mentioned before, the classical management theory is designed to streamline operations and increase productivity, which gained popularity in the first half of the 20th century. The theory does not have a large following in modern times, but some of its principles are still in practice, especially in the manufacturing section of small businesses.
There are different views surrounding the classical theory of organizational behavior, and in this article, we will explain the classical theory of management by exploring the views in detail.
Classical management theory is shaped by different views from various managers. Some of those views are scientific management, bureaucratic management and administrative management.
Scientific management means the application of scientific tools, methods and trained personnel for enhancement of the output. This view of the classical approach to management states that there can be multiple ways to carry out a single task. The major objective of scientific management is to carry out a task to consider all those ways and choose the best one possible.
Known as the father of scientific management, F.W. Taylor is the first management thinker who carried out various experiments to derive scientific methods for optimal productivity.
Taylor’s experiments are famous, particularly the one involving Bethlehem Steel companies, which is named ‘pig iron’. The aim of his experiments was to foster better understanding between managers and workers by improving their efficiency and productivity.
Due to Taylor’s efforts and contribution to the classical theory of organizational behavior, “Taylorism” is another term used for the scientific view of classical management. Taylor outlined the particular functions of managers in planning and controlling the work activities of employees.
It’s claimed that Taylor’s suggested methods helped in pushing the productivity as well as efficiency of organizations to 200%. Taylor provided the solution to the issue of labour, where employees performed to their full capacity.
In his solution, he advised reducing the expendable fundamentals in the process for understanding the time-and-motion method. This solution helps in breaking a single task into various motions and determines the predicted interlude between two motions, improving productivity and efficiency.
Here are the four principles of this classical thought of management given by Taylor for reaching optimum levels of productivity:
Frank and his wife Lillian Gilbreth also explained the classical theory of management scientifically by following in the footsteps of Frederick W. Taylor. They emphasized cutting nonessential components for increasing productivity and decreasing tiredness in each section of a task. They are also credited for improving the time-and-motion study given by F.W. Taylor.
The duo created the term ‘Therbligs’, which means motions of the arm, hand and body when at work. Lillian Gilbert published a book titled The Psychology of Management that contained various results of psychological studies in any place of work. On the other hand, Frank Gilbert proved through a study that we can increase the productivity of employees threefold, thanks to motion studies.
Henry L. Gantt is another scientist who contributed to the scientific management view of the classical approach of organizational behavior. He introduced the ‘Gantt Chart’ to help managers oversee and plan each section of any certain task. The Gantt Chart is famous and is still used by managers and employees all over the world. The Gantt Chart can also be attributed to the development of business procedure management.
Scientific management is widely popular in modern-day organizations and various principles of this view are utilized for increasing workers’ productivity and efficiency.
The second classical theory of organization we are going to discuss is the bureaucratic management view. This view is popular in both private and public organizations and institutions. Bureaucratic management emphasizes a hierarchy of job roles for the smooth functioning of an organization.
We know that firms have a hierarchy of staff. They have presidents, chairman, managers, assistant managers, and other positions that are under a certain higher authority. This is a result of the classical approach of organizational behavior and specifically the bureaucratic management view.
In the bureaucratic view of the classical thought of management, each group of employees is working under a higher power that, in turn, has to report to the president of the organization. Max Weber and Henri Fayol are the primary contributors to this view.
Fayol is responsible for defining the characteristic functions of management and how it is distinctive from other positions in an organization. German sociologist Max Weber, on the other hand, provided descriptions of the workings of authorities and how dividing authorities can operate an organization effectively. His published research papers detailed his bureaucratic management view at the beginning of the 20th century.
Max Weber is also responsible for providing the ideal structure of an organization and naming it ‘bureaucracy’. He is the first person to put forth the division of tasks in a definite hierarchy. According to him, an organization must be operated through precise regulations and by encouraging impersonal and indifferent relationships among employees.
Prior to this, employees expected the owner to divide the task among them and decide how they’d be remunerated. There were many cases where remunerations were given as per favoritism, not according to the employees’ performance.
Weber asserted in his view of the classical theory of administration that organization rationality is only possible through a division of labor and a hierarchy of job roles. Furthermore, he stated that the job responsibilities, as well as the rules and regulations of the organization, must be explicitly defined in the initial stages.
Another one of the views of the classical theory of management is administrative management. It proposes a way to operate an organization systematically. The systematic manner means the division of tasks and responsibilities, hierarchy of positions and clearly defined tasks for each employee.
In the administrative classical approach to management, the focus is on the improvement of performance and general operation of a business. Henri Fayol is a distinguishable contributor in the field of classical approach of organizational behavior as well.
Fayol stated that planning, commanding, organizing, controlling and coordinating are the primary functions of the administration of an organization. The administrative management method persists even now in numerous businesses, with some alterations and updates in the functions.
The content in modern management books is derived from the administrative functions given by Fayol, and they fulfill the same objective as they did in his time.
While most of the principles of classical theory are outdated, it does make some strong and valid statements that are still used in present-day businesses. Here are some advantages of the theory that are said to increase productivity and efficiency, considering today’s business scenario:
There are some obvious flaws in the classical management theory that cannot be ignored. Let’s take a look at some of the flaws.
The classical theory of organization can help in the smooth running of manufacturing operations where optimal productivity of workers is necessary. However, the theory is no longer relevant as workers are no longer seen as machines but as humans who need to maintain physical and mental well-being.
So, it is safe to say that while some of its principles are still useful, the classical theory of management generally is not an appropriate management model to follow for modern businesses.
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