The Classical Scientific Approach to Management can be summarised as follows;
The overall approach of companies who utilise this management theory is to create specialised efficiency-oriented systems of management. The point being that tasks are specialised (think of Adam Smith’s “division of labour”) and that management is focused on efficiency. Remembering that efficiency is concerned with the relationship between achieving the businesses goals with the minimum amount of resources necessary.
This system of management dates from the late 1800′s well into the 1930s. It is considered a legacy of the Industrial Revolution and the social structure of the times. That is to say that at this point in time there was a large workforce of relatively uneducated, dis-empowered people. That is not to say that Classical/Scientific Management theory is not used by today’s businesses. It certainly is, but most businesses have also adopted ideas from theories developed later on such as Behavioural, Contingency and Political Management Theories.
- Hierarchical systems based on principles of specialisation, centralisation and formality.
- Specialised tasks exist in specialised departments, with responsibility formally designated.
- Span of control is narrow and a unitary line of command is in place (i.e.each person has one clear”boss” rather than several)
Great benefits from a consumer viewpoint, with the availability of a wide range of consumer goods. Henry Ford (of Ford Motor cars) was a strong proponent of the theory and his success in using production lines and specialisation of labour have been copied by many since he first introduced them.
Criticisms of the theory include the dehumanising, autocratic nature of the efficiency-driven system and the assumption that the needs of workers matched those of management.
See the following article from the Triangle Business Journal from 1997 that presents a solid argument against the hierarchical nature of management that many business still use. Even though this article is 10 years old this does not distract from the arguments being made, if anything the increasing prevalence of IT throughout our society makes a demanding case for businesses to develop alternatives to the traditional hierarchical structures.
Henry Ford Video
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/CWya7f_o1LA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Production Line Video
The following video (see below) is interesting as it shows how the production line method of manufacturing perfected by Henry Ford (which he based on the Scientific Management theories of Frederick Taylor) is still being used today. In this particular case it’s a factory manufacturing hairdryers in Shenzen in China.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/s3zJDJknZ6w" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Use the comments section below this post to provide your answers and to suggest additions to the answer of others.
- Outline ONE strength and ONE weakness of classical/scientific management theory.
- Explain why classical/scientific management theory is less widely used by businesses now than in the first half of the 20th century.
The original material that this post has been based on can be found at http://hsc.csu.edu.au/business_studies/mgt_change/mgt_theories/Managementtheories.html