Classical Approach to Management Thought

The classical approach to management thought in the post-industrial revolution era got momentum in the first quarter of the 20th century under the untiring efforts of a bunch of scholars and practicing managers led by Taylor in the U.S.A. and Fayol in Europe.

The classical approach to management thoughts

Scientific Management and F.W. Taylor:

Scientific management, according to an early definition, refers to “that kind of management which conducts a business or affairs by standards established by facts or truths gained through systematic observation, experiment, or reasoning.” Promoters of this school of thought attempted to raise labor efficiency primarily by managing the work of employees on the shop floor.


Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) is generally acknowledged as “the father of scientific management.” Because of an eye problem, he could not attend Harvard University. As a result, he started working as a common laborer in a small machine shop in Philadelphia, USA.

Later on, he worked as an apprentice, a foreman, a master mechanic, and rose to the eminence of a chief engineer of a steel company after obtaining a degree in engineering through evening study.

This varied experience gave him ample opportunity to have firsthand knowledge and intimate insight into the problems and attitude of workers and to explore great possibilities for improving the qualities of management in the workplace.

Wherever he worked; he found a very ineffective use of employees, unsystematic methods of work, utterly poor co-operation between management and labor. He also observed gross inefficiency, waste, and widespread output restriction among workers which he termed “systematic soldering.”

Hence Taylor committed himself to the relentless pursuit of “finding a better way” and developing and practicing the “science” of work-the underlying laws or principles that govern various activities. He attempted to do it by using a systematic study of time, motion, and fatigue involved in work with a view to identifying the best way of doing a job.

Taylor used his firsthand experience to formulate his theory. The focus of his theory is to increase the efficiency of employees by moldings their thoughts and identifying the best way of doing a job.

Taylor’s major concern throughout his life was to increase efficiency which he considered the best recipe to serve the competing interests of both managers and workers for a larger share of a fixed economic pie.

To him, the solution lies in increasing the size of the pie by raising productivity through scientific management. He called for a “mental revolution” or a radical change of mind among workers and management in order to fuse the interests of both groups into a mutually rewarding one.

(a) Mental Revolution and Tylor’s Principles:

Mental revolution, propounded by Taylor, was based on five vital principles:

  • Replacing rules of thumb with science (organized knowledge)
  • Achieving cooperation on human beings, rather than chaotic individualism.

The essence of this school of thought is to make a constant endeavor to find better means of management using scientific methods. The essence of Taylor’s scientific method is to manage an enterprise with cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity.

The universal process or operational management theory and Henri Fayol:

As one of the oldest and most popular approaches to management thought, Henri Fayol’s theory holds then the administration of all organizations-whether “public or private” or “large or small” requires the same rational process or functions.

This school is based on two assumptions; first, although the objective of an organization may differ yet there is a core management process that remains the same for all institutions.

Classical Approach to Management Thought
Henri Fayol

It has rightly been said by some scholars that perhaps the real father of modern management theory is the French industrialist Henri Fayol.

Despite the be the late appearance of his classic work, Administration Industrially in general in the English speaking world, Fayol’s book has left a permanent mark on twentieth-century management thinking.

A successful industrialist, Fayol headed a steel and coal combine in France. He is now considered the father of the universal process or operational management theory because he made universal generalizations about management based on hid keen insight and practical management experience.

As opposed to Taylor, Fayol Endeavour’s to deal with “classical administration.” He focuses his attention on the enterprise as a whole than on a single segment of it. He pioneered the concept of viewing management as being made up of functions, and his work supplied a comprehensive framework from which management could be studied and developed.

He also repeatedly emphasized that his principles apply not only to business but also to political, religious, philanthropy, military, and other undertakings.

(a) Industrial Activities Identified by Fayol:

Fayol identifies the following six major activities of any industrial or business organization:

  1. Technical (production and manufacturing);
  2. Commercial (buying, selling and exchanging);
  3. Financial (search for optimum use of capital);
  4. Security (safeguarding property and people)
  5. Accounting (including statistics); and
  6. Managerial (planning, organization, command, coordination, and control)

While pointing out the existence of these activities in the business of any kind or size, Fayol particularly stresses the analysis of the sixth, devoting a substantial portion of his book (mentioned earlier) to this aspect of management. Weihrich and Koontz represent it in the following diagram.

(b) Fayol’s Principles of Management:

In addition to these six management activities, Fayol identifies fourteen universal principles of management which are aimed at showing managers how to carry out their functional duties. He himself followed them:

  1. Division of labor: this improves the efficiency of labor through specialization, reducing labor time, and increasing skill development.
  2. Authority: This is the right to give orders which always carry responsibility commensurate with its privileges.
  3. Discipline: It relies on respect for the rules, policies, and agreements that govern an organization. Fayol ordains that discipline requires good superiors at all levels.
  4. Unity of command: This means that subordinates should receive orders from one superior only, thus avoiding confusion and conflict.
  5. Unity of direction: This means that there should be unity in the directions given by a boss to his subordinates. There should not be any conflict in the directions given by a boss.
  6. Subordination of individual interest of common good: According to this principle, the needs of individuals and groups within an organization should not take precedence over the needs of the organization as a whole.
  7. Remuneration: Wages should be equitable and satisfactory to employees and superiors.
  8. Centralization: Levels at which decisions are to be made should depend on the specific situation, no level of centralization or decentralization is ideal for all situations.classical_approach_to_management
  9. Scalar chain: The relationship among all levels in the organizational hierarchy and exact lines of authority should be unmistakably clear and usually followed at all times, excepting special circumstances when some departure might be necessary.
  10. Order: Here Fayol means that there should be a place for everything and everyone, and everything and everyone should be in its place. This is essentially a principle of organization in the arrangement of things and people.
  11. Equity: Employees should be treated equitably in order to elicit loyalty and devotion from them.
  12. Stability of tenure: Viewing unnecessary turnover to be both the cause and the effect of bad management, Fayol points out its danger and costs.
  13. Initiative: Subordinates should be encouraged to conceive and carryout ideas.
  14. Esprit De Corps: Fayol was of the opinion that the application of these principles should be flexible enough to match each specific organizational situation. Subsequently, however, the rigid applications of these functions by managers come under criticism. But the fact remains that hid contention that management is a continuous process beginning with planning and ending with controlling also remains popular today and can be found in nearly all management texts.

Hope you find all the necessary information regarding the classical approach to management thought from this article, if you don’t please don’t hesitate to comment.

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