Ask any veteran who has spent his entire career managing workers in a factory and he will tell you that the principles of management outlined by Taylor, Fayol prove indispensable to running an organization. These management theories and especially the classical management theory lasted for a few decades after inception.
History: In the medieval ages when the renaissance era was at its peak and there was a great interest in science and technology in the West, while the civilizations in the east plunged into the dark ages as they were bound by superstition regarding foreign travel and questioning the laws of nature. Scientists in Europe questioned the laws of nature and invented electricity, the light bulb, the radio, wireless communication, railroad, electricity, steam engine used for both railway and sea-based transport.
How the stage was set for management theories to grow!!!
These groundbreaking inventions helped increase productivity manifold and laid the seeds of the industrial revolution. Factories began mushrooming at a scorching pacing to convert raw materials into finished goods. These could be produced at really low costs and sold at a high mark up overseas to reap super profits as handmade goods could not match factory-made goods in price or quality. But soon factories owners were searching for cheaper sources of raw material to boost profits and compete aggressively as many players had entered each industry.
The pursuit of profits led to Western powers colonizing the less superior colonies and the clash of interests led to two World Wars. But after the World War and during the three hundred years before the end of world war 2 in 1945, the need for a codified set of principles to manage people working in factories was being felt and business owners were clueless regarding organizational design before management gurus familiar with shop floor operations stepped in.
Before the classical management theory was invented; many organizations had an informal organizational structure that was not very effective in producing optimal output. Conflicts were rampant and much energy was wasted in resolving conflicts, ego issues that pervade any unorganized system. The essence of the classical management theory was to give some structure to the human resource structure of the organizations and achieve the profitability and efficiency goals of the enterprise.
- By laying out a set code of principles for managers to follow, the classic management theory gave a tool for top managers to establish a unified chain of command and get work done by following a top-down approach.
Criticism of the classic management theory
- It follows an assembly line approach where the social and self-actualization needs of the employees are not taken into consideration. And employees are often not treated well with managers playing favorites and indulging in mind games to favor a select set of employees. Incentives and rewards are also cornered by this coterie and the others are often left alone to crib. Such highly authoritarian structures are prone to destruction as they do not democratize decision making and deliberately promote a ‘yes-boss’ culture.
- Creative thinking and innovation in the form of ‘out-of-box thinking’ will be stifled and not encouraged in this kind of a setup.
- Information flow is also from top to bottom and feedback from frontline staff is often not encouraged. Highly secretive patent-oriented organizations with an emphasis on high volume production and single-minded focus on worker productivity often followed this approach.
- What this theory recommends is a scientific study of tasks allocated to each employee and defining the job description precisely for each of them. The performance of each employee is measured against the targets and parameters defined at the outset.
- Organizations offering blue-collar meaning menial and pink collar symbolizing low skilled routine jobs usually ascribe themselves to the principles outlined in the classical management theory. Controlling employees becomes easy through the approaches outlined in this theory.
- Even schools, colleges, universities, and non-profits have discarded this model but factories where typically routine work happens still use the classical management theory to full effect in order to accomplish the goals and objectives of the organization.
Four building blocks of the classical management theory
- A standard operating procedure should be developed for each job using a scientific management approach. The reasonable time required for each job be defined so that workers with different skills and abilities can finish the job in that time frame. Once this standardization is achieved, then quality processes and enhancements can be unleashed to further refine the quality of the output.
- Ample care should be taken during the selection process so that workers with the right skillset and abilities can make the grade.
- Idle -time wages should be kept at the minimum and the entire infrastructure should be designed in such a way that there are minimum interruptions to work.
- Worker incentives should be given at regular intervals and verbal appreciation should be offered whenever necessary. This approach is known to lead companies to a higher trajectory of growth in a short span of time. America has seen it as young entrepreneurs in the previous century have been able to build big companies in a short span of time.
Examine your current management style
Before implementing the classical management theory in practice, you need to analyze whether your current management style is participative or corrective in nature. If highly authoritarian structures as seen in the military and food service industry do not exist in your company, then embracing the classical management theory and implementing the classical management theory in practice will be a problem.
Organizations with participative decision making have the higher tolerance for mistakes as compared to those with authoritarian decision making that have lower or zero tolerance for failure. Equal opportunity players having good gender ratios find it hard to implement the principles outlined in the classical management theory.
Such principles are best implemented in male-dominated setups in industries like automobile, cement, utilities, manufacturing cum production capacities.
Given its exemplary benefits, the classical management theory seems perfect for companies in the manufacturing, mining or production sector. Since this theory assumes that workers do not have social or self-actualization needs, it does not help the top management get a 360-degree view of the enterprise.
Workers need to be ready both in terms of skills as well as have a balanced state of mind in order to take the best possible care of the customer. The theory has been criticized for creating an assembly line atmosphere and new age organizations eager to rank high in employee satisfaction surveys are seeking new age solutions for their HR challenges discarded this theory.
A significant aspect of the classical management theory involves training the middle and senior level leadership for change. So that they can train the people below them and turn the organization into a future-ready enterprise. Good managerial training helps in resolving inter-departmental conflict, and people problems.
If managers are trained to view the business in its totality and keep the bigger picture in mind while taking decisions, then there are higher chances that you do things that are strategically right, than are immediately profitable. Doing so will help resolve the problems of slow growth, revenue visibility and all other problems which besiege an organization during recessionary times.