Management Ideas: Yesterday and Today


Management Ideas: Yesterday and Today

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that knowledge of management past history to shed light for a better understanding of current management theory and practice. The practice of management has always reflected historical times and societal conditions.

Several recent management concepts and practices can be traced back to the early management theories. The practice of management has consistently reflected the times and social conditions, thus many organizations are responding to technology breakthroughs and developing digitize operations. These new business models mirror the reality: information could be shared and exchanged instantaneously anywhere in the world.

Management’s Connection to Other Fields of Study

Management curriculums have a rich heritage from humanities and social science courses.

Anthropology—the study of societies, which helps us to understand about humans, their activities, and differences in fundamental values, attitudes, and behavior between people in different countries and within different organizations.

Economics—concerned with the allocation, distribution of scare resources, and understanding the changing economy, as well as the role of competition and free markets in a global context.

Philosophy—examines the nature of things, particularly values and ethics.

Political Science—studies the behavior of individuals and groups within a political environment, including structuring of conflict, allocating power in an economic system, and manipulating power for individual self-interest.

Psychology—science that seeks to measure, explain, and sometimes change the behavior of humans and other animals.

Sociology—the study of people in relation to their fellow human beings.

Historical Background of Management

There are several examples from history that illustrates how management has been practiced for thousands of years.

The Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China are great examples of projects of tremendous scope and magnitude that employed tens of thousands of individuals. How was it possible for these projects to be completed? The answer is management.

Additional examples of early management practices can be seen through assembly lines, accounting systems, and personnel functions as just a few of the processes and activities in organizations at that time that are also common to today’s organizations. Adam Smith, author of the classical economics doctrine, The Wealth of Nations, argued brilliantly about the economic advantages that division of labor (the breakdown of jobs into narrow, repetitive tasks) would bring to organizations and society. The Industrial Revolution can be considered of as possibly the most important pre-twentieth-century influence on management. The introduction of machine powers, combined with the division of labor, made large, efficient factories possible. Planning, organizing, leading, and controlling became necessary.

The Birth of Early Management Ideas

The Evolution of Management Theories, striving to achieve goals through the judicious use of people and resources, getting the others to work toward these goals, and keeping track of whether or not we are accomplishing what we set out to do has been around for centuries.

Expressed in other terms we could say that management is a very old concept. Generally, though, we think of “modern management” and the specific identification of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling being the functions of management as having begun at the end of the 1800s. Overwhelming majority of the contributors we recognize today have been twentieth century people.

Pre-classical Contributors presented their ideas before the late 1800s. Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a British factory owner who advocated concern for the working and living conditions of workers, many of them young children. Many of his contemporaries thought he was a radical for such ideas. Charles Babbage (1792-1871) is considered to be the “father of modern computing.” He foresaw the need for work specialization involving mental work. His management ideas also anticipated the concept of profit sharing to improve productivity. Henry E. Towne (1844-1924) called for the establishment of a science of management and the development of management principles that could be applied across management situations.

An assessment of the pre-classical contributors indicates that their efforts were fragmentary. By and large they applied their efforts towards developing specific techniques or solutions. They laid the groundwork for major management theories which came later

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