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Management Thought Smorgasbord

Things turned for the worse with the advent of the Great Depression in the late 1920s. Wren (2005) articulated the American nation as an economic, political, social, and psychological watershed during this period. It was in this age of confusion, trauma, and diversity that the modern era in management was about to begin. One that will bring a new dimension the interpretation of the role of government in economics, from production managers began to focus on people. That era arrived with the entry of behavioral scientists in the realm of management.

They began to take center stage when Mary Parker Follet questioned the wisdom of scientific management. Her action opened an intellectual door leading to the realization that knowledge of the psychological and social processes of human behavior can result in improvements in productivity and work satisfaction. Management study broadened with the arrival of different perspectives research tools, and ideas to reshape human relations into organizational behavior. It was during this time that focus was shifted from technology to people.

The objective of the studies that followed was to help managers motivate employees and encourage them to perform at high levels and be committed to the achievement of organizational goals. Wren (2005) described the two new dimensions were introduced during the age of Human Relations. First, the advancement of an even more sophisticated view of the workers as human beings and their drives from Elton Mayo and his contemporaries. They showed that people are were complex in the way they lived their lives and that organizational relationships were needed to support such.

Second, behavioral scientists applied the methods of scientific investigation to study how people in organizations as whole entities. Management is a practice as old as time itself, the pharaohs of Egypt as well as Greek leaders used it in building civilizations. Sun Tzu applied it in strategizing for battles. Niccolo Machiavelli used its as wisdom for political leaders. Adam Smith saw it as a tool to increase productivity. But while philosophers theorized, management thought was given flesh and operationalized during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Scientists and behaviorists attempted to apply logic and the scientific method to the practice of management. Two schools of thought in the realm of management thought are scientific management and human relations. The pioneering scientific management established by Frederick W. Taylor focused on experts to teach workers the best methods and techniques to do their jobs. Smith’s division of labor was amplified with the differentiation of the roles managerial and physical labor in an organization. The human relations movement provided the next wave of management thought.

This perspective focused on understanding how to manage human factors to improve productivity in organizations. The studies concluded that managers can positively influence employee motivation and productivity by showing concern for employee relationships. As we look back we see management as a study providing alternative solutions problems not only confined the four corners of an organization but also those affecting it – political, sociological and technological. The good news is that the evolution of management thought continues as it is provoked by the never-ending search not only for organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Wren (2005) puts it as “a never ending search worthy of intellectual and practical exercise”. What it aims to do is adapt to the assumptions during its time of inception. Modern management thinkers may have deviated from the tenets of Taylor but what they provide us are paradigms that build on one another with the same objective of organizational efficiency and effectiveness. We still see some of the handprints of Taylor’s and his contemporaries, such as Fayol, Weber, and Gantt still having influence in most theories in our time.

A proof of this is Henry Gantt’s charting system which eventually led to the development of the Criticap Path Method of Du Pont and Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) of the US Navy and was eventually the basis for the Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel programs. The proliferation of information in the information superhighway has also become a force affecting management thought. Political and geographical borders has dimmed, employees are now empowered with the availability of knowledge and organizations, competing organizations are now aligning.

From mere production tools, the worker is now an employee and has become a stakeholder. After its reawakening, the study of management has become more complex adapting to the diversification and growth or organizations. From the search for solution theorists now look for ways to foresee the future, to solve the problem prior to its occurrence. From the battlefields we now see strategists in boardrooms. From geographical maps, we now see generals holding statistics and spreadsheets. Managers have ceased to be victims of circumstance and have now become the master of his environment