Key theories in the progression of management study

No subject in business has been more widely studied in the 20th century than management and leadership, and current thinking has its roots in management and psychological theories proposed through the century. Four of the most influential theories are outlined below:

1) Frederick W. Taylor - Scientific Management (1911)

Stated that the principal object of management is to secure maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with maximum prosperity for the employee. Saw management and work-force as inter-dependent and workmen as inherently capable of hard work, good will and ingenuity but under `even the best of the older type of management' show these qualities only `spasmodically and somewhat irregularly'

Taylor proposed four `great underlying principles of scientific management':

  • A need to develop a `science of work' to replace old rule-of-thumb methods. Pay and other rewards were linked to the achievement of `optimum goals' (measures of work performance and output). Failure to achieve these goals would, in contrast, result in loss of earnings;
  • Workers to be scientifically selected and developed: Each worker selected would be trained to be `first-class' at some specific task;
  • The science of work to be brought together with scientifically selected and trained staff to achieve the best results;
  • Work and responsibility to be divided equally between workers and management, co-operating together in close interdependence.
Taylor's theories were the basis for 'Time and Motion' activities in business throughout the 20th century.

2) Abraham Maslow - Hierarchy of Needs (1943)

Set out two major groups of human needs: basic needs and meta needs. Basic needs are physiological, such as food, water, and sleep; and psychological, such as affection, security, and self esteem. These basic needs are also called deficiency needs because if they are not met then a person will strive to make up the deficiency. The higher needs are called meta needs or growth needs. These include justice, goodness, beauty, order, unity, etc. Basic needs take priority over these growth needs. People who lack food or water cannot attend to justice or beauty.

These needs are in hierarchical order. The needs on the bottom of pyramid must be met before the needs above it can be met.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been used to analyse the factors which motivate workers and to determine appropriate rewards and incentives.

According to Maslow, the hierarchy of needs is:

/\
/---\
/------\
/----------\
/-The need-\
/to fulfil one's\
/unique potential\
/-------------------------\
/--Esteem needs: to--\
/achieve, be competent\
/gain approval and recog-\
/---------------nition---------------\
/-----------------------------------------\
/Belongingness and love needs:\
/----to affiliate with others, to be----\
/----------accepted and belong---------\
/---------------------------------------------------\
/Safety needs: to feel secure and out of \
/-----------------------danger-----------------------\
/----------------------------------------------------------\
/-Physiolgical needs: to satisfy hunger, thirst-\
/-----------------------and sex drive----------------------\
------------------------------------------------------------------

3) Douglas McGregor - Theory X & Theory Y (1960)

Behind every managerial decision or action are assumptions about human nature and human behaviour;

"Theory X": is a negative view of human behaviour and management especially evident in the Scientific Management theories of Taylor ( 'Taylorism'). Theory X assumes most people are basically immature, need direction and control, and are incapable of taking responsibility. They are viewed as lazy, dislike work needing a mixture of financial inducements and threat of loss of their job to make them work (`carrot and stick' mentality) ยท

"Theory Y": is the opposite of Theory X - people want to fulfil themselves: seek self-respect, self-development and self-fulfilment at work and in life in general.

Theory Y has six 'basic assumptions:

  • The average human being does not inherently dislike work: whether work is a source of pleasure or a punishment depends on the nature of the work and its management Effort at work need not depend on threat of punishment: if committed to objectives then self-direction and self-control take the place of external controls.
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement: satisfaction of ego and fulfilment needs can be directed towards the objectives of the organisation
  • The average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility.
  • High degrees of imagination, ingenuity and creativity are not restricted to a narrow group but are widely distributed in the population
  • Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentials of the average human being are being only partly utilised'

Theory 'Y' management theory has been at the centre of the move to more self-directed, less autocratic organisations and away from Taylorism.

4) Blake and Mouton - Managerial Grid (1964)

Describes management in two dimensions, people and production. This grid is labelled from 1-10 along two axes. The x axis is concern for production, the y axis concern for people.Most people would fall somewhere near the middle of the two axis.

The extremes are:

  • Country Club 1,9: Uses predominantly reward power to maintain discipline and accomplish goals. Cannot employ more punitive coercive and legitimate powers. Fear that using such powers could jeopardise her relationships with the team members.
  • Team Management 9,9: Leads by positive example. Fosters a team environment in which all team members can reach their highest potential, both as team members and as people. They form and lead the most productive teams.
  • Impoverished Management 1,1: Uses a "delegate and disappear" management style. Not committed to task accomplishment or maintenance; allows the team as it wishes and detaches from the team process by allowing the team to suffer from a series of power struggles.
  • Authority Obedience 9,1: Autocratic, task focused, strong on schedules, assigns blame for mistakes rather than diagnosing causes, intolerant of dissent. Team members unable to develop.

The Management Grid was significant in that it sought to analyse the effect of leader behaviour on workers, rather than the behaviour and motivations of workers themselves.

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