Classical Perspective

Management perspectives that emerged during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries emphasized a rational scientific approach to the study of management and sought to make organizations efficient operating machines.

The practice of management can be traced to 3000 B C to the first government organizations developed by the Sumerians and Egyptians but the formal study of management is relatively recent. The early study of management as we know it today began with what is now called the classical perspective.

The classical perspective on management emerged during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The factory system that began to appear in the 1800s posed challenges that earlier organizations had not encountered problems arose in tooling the plants organizing managerial structure, employees (many of them non English speaking immigrants). Scheduling complex manufacturing operations, and dealing with increased labor satisfaction and resulting strikes.

These myriad new solutions and the development of large, complex organizations demanded a new approach to coordination and control and a new subspecies of economic man – the salaried manger – was born. Between 1880 and 1920 the number of professional managers in the United States grew from 161,000 to more than a million. These professional managers began developing and testing solutions to the mounting challenges of organizing, coordinating and controlling large number of people and increasing worker productivity . Thus began the evolution of modern management with the classical perspective.

This perspective contains three subfields each with a slightly different emphasis: Scientific management, bureaucratic organizations and administrative.

Scientific Management:

Organizations somewhat limited success in achieving improvements in labor productivity lead a young engineer to suggest that the problem lay more in poor management practices than in labor. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915) insisted that management itself would have to change and further, that the manner of change could be determined only by scientific study; hence the label scientific management emerged. Taylor suggested that decisions based on rules of thumb and tradition be replaced with precise procedures developed after careful study of individual situations.

Taylor’s philosophy is encapsulated in his statement in the past the man has been first. In the future the system must be first. The scientific management approach is illustrated by the unloading of iron from rail cars and reloading finished steel for the Bethlelem Steel plant in 1898. Taylor calculated that with correct movements tools, and sequencing each man was capable of loading 47.5 tons per day instead of the typical 12.5 tons. He also worked out an incentive system that paid each man $ 1.85 a day for meeting the new standard an increase from the previous rate of $1.15. Productivity at Bethlehem Steel shot up overnight.

Although known as the father of scientific management. Taylor was not alone in this area. Henry Gantt an associate of Taylor’s developed the Gantt chart – a bar graph that measures planned and completed work along each stage of production by time elapsed . Two other important pioneers in this area were the husband and wife team of Frank B and Lillian M Gilbreth and Frank B Gilbreth (1868 – 1924) pioneered time and motion study and arrived to many of hi management techniques independently of Taylor. He stressed efficiency and was known for his quest for the one best way to do work.

Although Gilbreth is known for his early work with bricklayers his work had great impact on medical surgery by drastically reducing the time patients spent on the operating table. Surgeons were able to save countless lives through the application of time and motion study Lillian M Gilberth (1878 – 1972) was more interested in the human aspect of work. When her husband died at the age of 56 she had 12 children ages 2 to 19. The undaunted first lady of management went right on with her work. She presented a paper in place of her late husband continued their seminars and consulting lectured and eventually became a professor at Purdue University. She pioneered in the field of industrial psychology and made substantial contributions to human resources management.

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