Classical Organization Theory School

Scientific management was concerned with increasing the productivity of the shop and the individual worker. Classical organization theory grew out of the need to find guidelines for managing such complex organizations as factors.

Henri Fayol>

Henri Fayol (1841-1925) is generally hailed as the founder of the classical management school not because he was the first to investigate managerial behavior, but because he was the first to systematize it. Fayol believed that sound management falls into certain patterns that can be identified and analyzed. From this basic insight, he drew up a blueprint for a cohesive doctrine of management, one that retains much of its force to this day.

With his faith in scientific methods, Fayol was like Taylor, his contemporary. While Taylor was basically concerned with organizational functions, however, Fayol was interested in the total organization and focused on management which he felt had been the most neglected of business operations. Fayol listed 14 principles of management most frequently to be applied. Before Fayol, it was generally believed that managers are born, not made. Fayol insisted, however, that management was a skill like any other one that could be taught once its underlying principles were understood.

Max Weber>

Reasoning that any goal-oriented organization consisting of thousands of individuals would require the carefully controlled regulation of its activities, the German sociologists Max Weber (1864-1920) developed a theory of bureaucratic management that stressed the need for a strictly defined hierarchy governed by clearly defined regulations and lines of authority. He considered the ideal organization to be a bureaucracy whose activities and objectives were rationally thought out and whose divisions of labor were explicitly spelled out. Weber also believed that technical competence should be emphasized and that performance evaluations should be made entirely on the basis of merit.

Today we often think of bureaucracies as vast, impersonal organizations that put impersonal efficiency ahead of human needs. We should be careful, though, not to apply our negative connotations of the word bureaucracy to the term as Weber used it. Like the scientific management theorists, Weber sought to improve the performance of socially important organizations by making their operations predictable and productive. Although we now value innovation and flexibility as much as efficiency and predictability, Weber’s model of bureaucratic management clearly advanced the formation of huge corporations such as Ford. Bureaucracy was a particular pattern of relationships for which Weber saw great promise.

Although bureaucracy has been successful for many companies, in the competitive global market of the 1990s organizations such as General Electric and Xerox have become “bureaucracy busters”, throwing away the organization chart and replacing it with ever changing constellations of teams, projects and alliances with the goal of unleashing employee creativity.

Mary Parker Follett>

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was among those who built on the basic framework of the classical school. However, she introduced many new elements, especially trends that would be further developed by the emerging behavioral and management science schools.

Follett was convinced that no one could become a whole person except as a member of a group; human beings grew through their relationships with others in organizations. In fact, she called management “the art of getting things done through people”. She took for granted Taylor’s assertion that labor and management that the artificial distinction between managers (order givers) and subordinates (order takers) obscured this natural partnership. She was a great believer in the power of the group where individuals could combine their diverse talents into something bigger. Moreover, Follett’s holistic model of control took into account not just individuals and groups, but the effects of such environmental factors as politics, economics, and biology.

Follett’s model was an important forerunner of the idea that management meant more than just what was happening inside a particular organization. By explicitly adding the organizational environment to her theory, Follett paved the way for management theory to include a broader set of relationships, some inside the organization and some across the organization’s borders. A diverse set of modern management theories pays homage to Follett on this point.