An organization without proper management is like a boat without a rudder. For decades, organizations—big and small—have relied on effective management policies and procedures to increase employee productivity, improve operational efficiency, optimize use of resources, achieve organizational goals and stay ahead of the competition.
Let’s explore one such management approach in detail—the classical theory of management in organization.
What Is Classical Theory Of Management?
During the industrial revolution, a number of large-scale organizations came into being with widespread factory production. These organizations began looking for ways to drive employee productivity and increase profits. This led to a spike in management ideas to streamline operations and motivate employees to function better. The classical theory of management in organization, or the classical organizational theory, was one such approach to management that emerged in the late 19th century and gradually gained ground over the first half of the 20th century.
The classical organizational theory views an organization as a machine and employees as the various parts of that machine. The classical approach to management focuses on centralized authority, labor specialization and incentives to optimize productivity in an organization and, in turn, drive profits. Workplaces are segregated into three levels of authority: business leaders or top-level management, middle management and supervisors. Work is divided among individual workers who specialize in their own distinctive fields.
The classical theory prioritizes employees’ physical and economical requirements over job satisfaction and social needs. It advocates financial rewards, wage hikes and incentives to encourage employees to be more productive. When employees work hard and function to their full potential, organizational efficiency increases.
Branches Of Classical Theory
Frederick W. Taylor, Henri Fayol and Max Weber were the three primary proponents of the classical theory of management. Each of them highlighted specific principles and methods of organizational management, based on which three major branches of the classical theory are commonly identified. Let’s look at these in detail:
1. Scientific Management
Frederick W. Taylor is known as the father of scientific management. This branch of classical theory focuses on scientific methods and empirical research to examine the most effective methods to accomplish specific tasks. It aims to extract the best out of every employee by assigning jobs based on employee skill set and competency. Workflow is divided between managers and employees. Managers strategize, train and monitor employees; employees perform their assigned roles.
2. Administrative Management
The main proponent of the administrative management branch of classical theory was Henri Fayol, a French industrialist. Administrative management aims to improve organizational productivity by focusing on methods that managers can use to synchronize internal processes. Fayol believed managerial practices are key to driving efficiency in organizations. Therefore, this branch seeks to heighten managerial performance instead of individual worker efficiency.
3. Bureaucratic Management
The father of modern sociology, Max Weber, developed the branch called bureaucratic management. According to this branch of classical theory, an ideal organization, or bureaucracy, has a hierarchical structure of management with clearly defined rules and regulations. Labor is divided and relationships are impersonal. This ensures order and uniformity throughout an organization, producing a specialized workforce.
Although the classical theory of management is not prevalent in the modern age, certain principles and branches of the classical theory still find use in today’s organizations, especially Weber’s principles of bureaucratic management.
Advantages Of Classical Theory
The classical theory of management has benefited organizations over the decades in terms of increased production, heightened efficiency and streamlined workflow. Let’s explore a few advantages of the classical theory:
- Division of labor allows employees to focus on a specialized field of operation within their expertise
- A hierarchical structure accounts for clearly defined roles and responsibilities within an organization
- Better wages and regular incentives make employees feel appreciated and they’re likely to work harder at their jobs
- Centralized leadership facilitates quick decision-making, accelerating workflow
Despite its advantages, the classical approach to management is considered to be more suited to static, unidimensional organizations instead of the multilayered and dynamic workplaces of the modern age.
Be At Your Best
The classical theory of management has often been criticized for disregarding human relations, employees’ social needs and teamwork. Teamwork is essential for an organization to function to its full potential and the lack of it can significantly impact an organization’s bottom line, limiting creativity and communication in the workplace. However, team development comes with its own set of challenges. It’s not always easy to work together seamlessly with people of diverse mindsets.
Harappa’s Managing Teamwork course can help you sail through the stages of team development. Equipped with the tools to imbibe team culture, you’ll learn to calibrate your work to your team’s expectations and collaborate with people with different working styles using emotional intelligence.
This team development course will teach you to handle workplace conflicts with empathy, maturity and sensitivity. With frameworks such as the Bruce Tuckman Model, the Social Styles Model and the Skill-Will Matrix, you’ll master the art of giving and receiving feedback and meet your goals by harnessing the diverse skill sets of your team members.
Want to be at your best? Sign up for Harappa’s Managing Teamwork course and become the person everyone wants on their team!
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