The Evolution of Management Thought Essay

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This paper is a summarization of theory notes and reflection about the importance of different management schools. Discover various management theories to make a conclusion of evolution of management thought.

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Management Thought Overview

Management is the act of coordinating resources and activities in an organization to achieve certain goals and objectives. Resources are limited; thus, no organization can have enough of them (Witzel & Warner 2013). Therefore, the few available resources have to be managed and aligned with the business activities to achieve the goals. There are some theories that explain management.

These theories have evolved over time and have kept on changing based on the changes that occur in the dynamic business world. Research on management has also influenced the evolution of management theories. Some of the economists and sociologists who have made major contributions to the field of management include Karl Marx, Frederick Taylor, Mary Parker Follet, and Max Weber. This paper will compare the management theories framed by Max Weber, Mary Follett, and Frederick Taylor.

Evolution of Management Thought

To understand the various theories of management, it is important to have a brief understanding of the management theories. Understanding the past theories will enable managers to compare the current practices in the organization with the past theories to understand where they go wrong and when they go wrong (Wren & Bedeian 2009). The past theories have consistently been improved as the economic environment changes to make them more applicable. Therefore, if managers understand these theories, they can avoid practices that coincide with the theories and execute their duties in ways that take the organization forward.

Understanding the history of management can add value to the curriculum of management, as well as the management practice. Understanding the history of management is like acquiring wisdom; it is only when one has wisdom that they can improve their knowledge. Therefore, only when one understands the history of management that they can improve their knowledge, learning and practice of management (Wren & Bedeian 2009). When one has the history, it provides the conduit through which they can expand their knowledge. Consequently, one can develop their judgment and decision-making ability significantly.

Fredrick Taylor Management Theory

Frederick Taylor is one of the greatest contributors to the history of management. As an engineer, Taylor sought to enhance the industry’s efficiency through his theory. Taylor observed that it was due to the lack of efficiency that most organizations were not able to produce the best services and products. When organizations are not efficient, they are not able to utilize their available resources to the maximum. As a result, they end up making losses and not achieving their objectives. In this regard, Taylor embarked on finding ways of improving the efficiency.

In 1911, Taylor authored “The Principles of Scientific Management” text. The principles have remained relevant. Taylor is today referred to as the father of modern management. He made his contributions in the early 20th century, but they have remained effective. Therefore, any manager or management student who does not understand the principles of management contributed by Taylor is likely to miss the idea of current management practices. According to Littler (1978), the ideas of Taylor have continued to dominate the management literature in the current management thought. Taylor had a clear understanding of how efficiency could be achieved in any organization.

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Taylor’s theory is currently what is referred to as the “principles of management”. The theory focuses on efficient production, whereby the managers of an organization should break down jobs and tasks into small and simple segments that can easily be comprehended. Normally, people can understand the smaller tasks in a better way compared to larger tasks. When one understands the task, they are expected to perform the task at their best (Littler 1978). Fragmenting of tasks has the benefit of helping the employees learn the job within a short period. It also helps the managers to create a distinction between the actual execution of work and planning. Managers can then use the plans to benchmark the work that is done. As per the theory, payment should be made based on the work that one performs.

There are four principles of scientific management that were developed by Taylor in his theory. First, he suggested that the scientific methods should be used to study and understand work and determine ways of performing certain tasks that are most effective and efficient. This was to replace the rule of thumb that was based on common sense, as well as simple understanding. Secondly, he suggested that workers should be given the jobs that they are good at and have the knowledge and skills to perform the duties. Also, assigning of work should be based on motivation and the ability of the individual to perform the specific task (Littler 1978).

Workers should be given training on how to work at their best and produce maximum efficiency. Third, the manager should monitor the employees to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties in the best ways possible and as per the given instructions. Workers should also use the most efficient working methods to ensure maximum production. Finally, work should be allocated to managers and employees to ensure that the employees focus on performing their work efficiently as managers, on the other hand, focus on planning and training.

According to Taylor’s theory, there is one right way of doing things, and this is the only way that should be followed by all managers and employees for them to achieve results. When managers follow this specific way of doing things, they can ensure efficiency in the organization. This theory formed the basis of the management theories as they are known today. Various modifications have, however, been made on the theory (Robinson 2005).

For instance, managers prefer not to use just one way in performing tasks. As a matter of fact, the way of doing things is dictated by the situation at hand. Different situations require different approaches to handling. The world of business is highly dynamic; thus, there are many changes and situations that managers face. These situations cannot be solved by just one way of doing things. However, the assignment of jobs as per workers’ motivation and capability as explained by the theory is still applicable today and has been used to achieve efficiency. People are only able to perform at their best when they are motivated and have knowledge and skills for performing their jobs.

Max Weber’s Theory of Management

Karl Emil Maximilian Weber was one of the greatest philosophers and economists who influenced some management and social theories. Weber is cited as one of the founders of sociology. In management, he made contributions on bureaucracies in the organization. His theory is referred to as the bureaucratic management theory, and its development was founded on the management principles of Frederick Taylor.

According to Weber, organizations should be built on a system that is standardized and has clear procedures that should be followed. There should also be a clear chain of command (Wren & Bedeian 2009). Therefore, Weber outlined the principles that should be followed in establishing a clear and ideal bureaucracy. As opposed to Taylor, Weber went ahead to explain the challenges that an organization is likely to face as a result of bureaucracies.

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Taylor did not explain the shortcomings of his theory. In this regard, the key elements that were included in Weber’s theory were a hierarchy of authority that should be followed by all the members of an organization, jobs should be well defined, and roles be explained clearly, good record keeping, the hiring of employees should be merit based, and there should be standardized procedures.

All members of the organization should know their roles and understand the positions they hold. This would avoid conflicts in the workplace. It would also avoid duplication of duties. This is a principle that is used in organizations to date.

Managers ensure that each employee knows the position they hold and the work they are supposed to do. Weber also maintained that hiring should be merit based. This principle is similar to the principle by Taylor, which stated that employees should be assigned jobs that they handle (Wren & Bedeian 2009). This is a principle that is applicable even in today’s management environment. Managers hire employees based on their skills. For them to be assigned certain tasks, employees are expected to meet specific basic qualifications. This is a factor that ensures efficiency in job performance.

The standardized procedures principle by Weber is similar to Taylor’s principle, which stated that scientific procedures should be followed in executing tasks. Science is said to be specific. Hence, scientific methods are standard. As per this principle, there is a specific way of doing things that should be followed. This is a principle that is not always efficient in all procedures, despite being applied due to the dynamic nature of the business world today.

The principle of hierarchy of authority was floated for the first time by Weber. The principle is used even in some organizations today. It ensures that communication is effective as people have clearly defined chains of communication. In the case of the principles of management, Taylor talked about the division of jobs such that managers focus on planning and training while employees focus on task execution. This, however, does not emphasize on the communication process.

Management Theory of Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker was a political theorist and a sociologist, who was also considered as one of the most significant people to have contributed to the management theory. She is referred to as the woman who invented management. As a matter of fact, Follett is one of the few women who have made significant contributions to the field of management and sociology (Tonn 2003). Despite not having managed any profit making organization, Follett was very interested in the field of management and was able to make major contributions. Her contributions were focused more on leadership and people in an organization. She gave insightful ideas on how conflicts in an organization should be solved. She also contributed to the ideas of power sharing and negotiating.

Follett developed three major principles. First, she explained how conflicts could be solved through integration. Under this principle, Follett explained that in solving conflicts, the organizational members should take into consideration the needs and interests of each member. All the compatible needs should be integrated. The aim, in this case, should be to come up with a win-win situation for each member.

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Secondly, Follett suggested that genuine power should be co-active rather than coercive (Tonn 2003). This means that the leader should not target on gaining power over the others, but should share power with them to ensure harmony and unity among all the members of the organization. Finally, Follett suggested that true leaders should not express personal power, but should create group power. This principle contributes to team work.

The principles suggested by Follett are different compared to those of Weber and Taylor. They are, however, some of the most applicable principles in the modern management world. Managers focus on motivating employees and empowering them. This is a move that enables employees to feel part of the organization, and they give the best of themselves in executing activities. This is reflected in the overall performance of the organization.

Conclusion of Evolution of Management Thought

Management theories have evolved for an extended period. The initial theories formed the basis of today’s theories, but they have been improved continuously. While some of the principles are still applied today, others have become obsolete. It is, however, important to note that the principles of management are applicable in different circumstances based on the situation in question. This is to mean that there are some principles that could be applicable in some situations and not appropriate in others. Frederick Taylor, Max Weber and Mary Parker Follett are some of the early contributors to management theory. Their theories are still relevant even in today’s business world. Other theorists have only built upon these early theories.


Littler, CR 1978, ‘Understanding Taylorism’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 185-203.

Robinson, D 2005, ‘Management theorists: Thinkers for the 21st Century’, Training Journal, vol 1, no. 1, pp. 30-38.

Tonn, JC 2003, Mary P. Follett: Creating democracy, transforming management, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Witzel, M & Warner, M 2013, The Oxford handbook of management theorists, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Wren, DA & Bedeian, AG 2009, The evolution of management thought, Wiley, Hoboken, N. J.

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