Classical Schools Of Thought

Management as a practice gained ground when the concept of working together in groups to achieve common objectives was realized by men. But the study of management as a systematic field of knowledge began at the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in a new era of serious thinking and theorizing on management.

To begin with, there is no single universally accepted theory of management. The wild array of management theories could even look like a jungle says Harold Koontz. However, to help put the different theories in perspective, we shall discuss them as representing different schools of thought.

Classical School of Management Thought

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. Advocators of this school of thought attempted to raise labor efficiency primarily by managing the work of employees on the shop floor.

Frederick Winslow Taylor, who is generally acknowledged as the father of scientific management believed that organizations should study tasks and prepare precise procedures. His 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 quality of management in the workplace.

Formulating his theory based on firsthand experience, Taylor’s theory focused on ways to increase the efficiency of employees by molding their thought and scientific management.

Henry Gnatt, an associate of Taylor, developed the Gnatt Chart, a bar graph that measures planned and completed work along with each stage of production. This visual display chart has been a widely used control and planning tool since its development in 1910. Following is a sample of Gnatt Chart.

Multi-Colour Gantt Chart

Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian Moller Gilbreth further improvised on Taylor’s time studies, devising motion studies by photographing the individual movements of each worker. They carefully analyzed the motions and eliminated unnecessary ones. These motion studies were preceded by timing each task, so the studies were called time and motion studies.

Applying time and motion studies to bricklaying, the Gilbreths devised a way for workers to lay bricks that eliminated wasted motion and raised their productivity from 1,000 bricks per day to 2,700 bricks per day.

The Basic Principles of Scientific Management

  • Developing new standard method of doing each job.

  • Selecting training and developing workers instead of allowing them to self-train and choose their own tasks.

  • Develop cooperation between workers and management.

  • Division of work on the basis of the group that is best fitted to do the job.

Henry Fayol’s Universal Process theory

One of the oldest and most popular approaches, Henry Fayol’s theory holds that administration of all organizations – whether public or private, large or small – requires the same rational process or functions.

This school of thought is based on two assumptions −

  • Although the objective of an organization may differ (for example, business, government, education, or religion), yet there is a core management process that remains the same for all institutions.

  • Successful managers, therefore, are interchangeable among organizations of differing purposes. The universal management process can be reduced to a set of separate functions and related principles.

Fayol identifies fourteen universal principles of management, which are aimed at showing managers how to carry out their functional duties.

S.No Universal principles of management Managers Functional Duties
1 Specialization 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 to 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.
9 Scale of 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 There should be a place for everything, and everything 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 personnel.
12 Personal tenure Views 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 Team work, a sense of unity and togetherness, should be fostered and maintained.

Behavioral and Human Relations Approach

The criticism of scientific and administrative management approach as advocated by Taylor and Fayol, respectively gave birth to the behavioral approach to management. One of the main criticisms leveled against them are their indifference to and neglect of the human side of the enterprise in management dealings.

A good number of sociologists and psychologists like Abraham Maslow, Hugo Munsterberg, Rensis Likert, Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg, Mary Parker Follet, and Chester Barnard are the major contributors to this school of thought, which is further subdivided by some writers into the Human Relations approach and the Human Behavioral approach.

Elton Mayo and Hawthorne Studies

Elton Mayo and Hugo Munsterberg are considered pioneers of this school. The most important contribution to this school of thought was made by Elton Mayo and his associates through Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company between 1927 and 1932.

Following are the findings of Mayo and his colleagues from Hawthorne studies −

  • Human/social element operated in the workplace and productivity increases were as much an outgrowth of group dynamics as of managerial demands and physical factors.

  • Social factors might be as powerful a determinant of worker-productivity as were financial motives.

  • Management with an understanding of human behavior, particularly group behavior serves an enterprise through interpersonal skills such as motivating, counseling, leading and communicating − known as Hawthorne effect.

  • Employees or workers are social beings, so it is very important to fit them into a social system, resulting in a complete socio-technical system in an organization.


Following are the criticisms of Hawthorne studies −

  • Unreasonably high emphasis on the social or human side as against organizational needs.

  • The approach facilitates exploitation of employees by keeping them satisfied and happy, manipulating their emotions which in fact, serves the management goal of increasing productivity.