Classical and contemporary management theories

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Classical and Contemporary Management Theories

Principles of Scientific Management Improves Organisational Performance


Scientific Management is a conceived set of techniques and organisational ideology for managing organisational-related problems such as management’s arbitrariness, resource waste, greed, and so forth. Basically, scientific management involves a series of organisational arrangements, methods and tools for increasing efficiency. Clearly, the principles of scientific management are rooted deeply in people’s knowledge concerning work organisation, which are very difficult to recognise and distinguish from contemporary managerial practices. The emphasis of scientific management is on the ‘scientific’ analysis of tasks and jobs with the objective of establishing the effective way of accomplishing them. Besides, scientific management lays emphasis on the training employees who perform these tasks and also promotes cooperation of employees and management as well as utilisation of special incentives with the goal of improving performance. Even though scientific management is hardly utilised nowadays as a whole system, it offered a basis for the sound practices that are still utilised in the business organisations. This paper seeks to determine whether the organisations based on the principles of scientific management will always perform well than those applying other management theories.


According to Deb (2009), businesses are nowadays focussing on effectively managing their employees so as to maintain or gain a competitive edge. Therefore, much emphasis is placed on management as a means of improving profitability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Theoretically, this approach allows organisation to maximise its profits by ensuring employees work harder and smarter. Advocates of scientific management argue that although different people are inclined to do things differently, the best way to perform a task is maximising output and minimising waste. According to scientific management, the majority of workers are motivated by economic rewards such as money; therefore, productivity is only limited by the workers’ physical limitations. Therefore, the principles of scientific management as mentioned by Deb (2009) try to maximise the productivity of the workers by applying established performance standards, scientific planning and closely supervising the workers. Generally, scientific management approach seems to focus only on the organisation’s needs and ways of motivating workers so as to meet these needs without focussing on what the workers themselves want or need. Still, Taylor deemed that the employers’ interests and those of the employees were the alike:

Employees desire for higher wages and employers need lower costs of labour. Many workers in fast-food services, construction and manufacturing industries do not have a degree in business, but they always come in contact with various classical and contemporary management theories (Bell & Martin, 2012). Therefore, managers are always expected to explain to the workers why things in the company are done in a certain way. Still, the majority of employees are not aware that their modern work routines are underlined by the principles of scientific management. Thanks to these principles, scores of workers are trained in order to become machine-like in their jobs for enhanced profitability and efficiency. For instance, the employees’ efficiency in the most fast-food restaurant across Australia such as KFC and McDonald’s is associated directly with corporate profits. Regrettably, contemporary managers are no longer equating the value of communicating to their workers’ the significance of motion and time, with respect to corporate profits (Bell & Martin, 2012). According to Freedman (1992), new technologies are transforming the business environment in terms of markets, business processes, and products. Therefore, while the very essence of business is being reshaped progressively by technology and science, the management concept as a science has become less handy. The principles of scientific management have become less useful while science itself seems to be irrelevant to the managers’ practical concerns (Freedman, 1992). For this reason, contemporary management theories have evolved with the objective of solving the different problems associated with the principles of scientific management.

Uddin and Hossain (2015) opine that the contemporary management theories have addressed the systematic use of workers as mechanical objects. In view of the Hawthorne Studies as cited by Uddin and Hossain (2015), organisation performance is likely to improve by supervising the workers, considering their contribution as well as offering them mental support by guaranteeing job-security rather than offering them a set of instructions, regulations and rules. Hawthorne established that workers value transparency in information sharing, rewarding, and encouragement by managers. Organisations are no longer using the classical management approaches to improve to ensure profit maximisation; for instance, the management approach used by McDonaldized organisations focus on utilisation of technologies, wherein workers are appropriately trained so as to perform their assigned tasks in ways that have been instructed. Both classical and contemporary management theories have some strengths and weaknesses. The classical theories improve the abilities of the management to predict and control and the workers’ behaviour. Therefore, the contemporary management theories normally focus on predicting and controlling organisational behaviour by taking into account the tasks functions of organisation’s communication but disregard the human maintenance and relational communication functions.

The classical theories offer a clear organisational hierarchy having three different levels of management (top, middle, and lowest level management). Although the three-level structure is not suitable for small businesses, it is beneficial to the expanding businesses. Division of labour is one of the most notable strengths of the classical management approach, whereby the expectations and responsibilities of employees are clearly defined. The classical management approach enables organisation to narrow employees’ field of expertise as well as to specialise only in one area. Importantly, the division of labour results in improved efficiency and increased productivity since employees are not multitasking. The classical management theory emphasises the need for rewarding employees using monetary rewards. Taylor’s scientific management argued that employees will work harder and improve organisation’s productivity if they are rewarded.

The main weakness of classical management theories is sourced from their reliance on experience; for instance, the Principles of Management by Henri Fayol as well as Taylor’s scientific management came mainly from their personal experiences while working in the large manufacturing companies (Wart, 2005).Such experiences cannot be applied in the modern firms operating in highly competitive markets. Furthermore, the majority of assumptions in the classical management theories are not based on scientific tests, but rather, on value judgments. The classical approaches assume that employees are largely motivated by monetary rewards, but these assumptions do not recognise that workers have needs and wants that are not associated with the workplace. Furthermore, the classical management theories view organisation as a machine that can function efficiently when workers as mere parts of the machine are fitted appropriately. Therefore, scores of the principles focus on making the organisation more efficient and assume that employees will comply with the work environment if they are offered agreeable financial incentives.

Some of the strengths of the contemporary management theories include productivity maximisation. Contemporary management theories allow businesses to maximise through production by utilising workers to the maximum ability. These days, businesses are doing everything possible so as to ensure their employees work to their maximum potential and efficiency. With the view to the theory of division of labour, employees can become more skilled on certain task; therefore, determining these tasks can help make all workers more productive. Decision making has been simplified by the contemporary management approach; for instance, the theory of hierarchy delayering argue that when the hierarchy is flattened it results in shortening of communication paths are shortened, acceleration of the decision making and reduction of bureaucracy. The contemporary management approaches enable managers to be involved more closely in the production processes. Other strengths of contemporary management approaches include increased employee participation, ability to adapt to the global changes and allow managers to think objectively. One of the weaknesses is the unrealistic assumption that the decision-making variables are inter-dependent and measurable.

Qantas is a good example of an Australian business that uses management approach to improve organisational performance. In 1991, deregulation forced Qantas to adopt some features of the management theory, especially the behavioural management theory. The Qantas management placed more emphasis on the management of human resources by ensuring communication channels are effective and introduced working initiatives that were more flexible so as to ensure work/life balance. Furthermore, the company flattened its organisational structure by reducing the management levels so as to offer the employees a greater responsibility. The company also introduced a new style of management that was more democratic, wherein employees were allowed to take part in the decision making process. Utilising the modern management theories has enabled Qantas to effectively manage changes in the external and internal business environment and has also offered a more efficient and productive management structure.


In conclusion,the essay has determined whether the organisations based on the principles of scientific management will always perform well than those applying other management theories. Evidently, the strengths of scientificmanagementin creating a gap between the functions of the management and that of the workers have been utilised extensively at every level in many business organisations. Although the core concepts associated with the principles of scientific management has been retained, the need for improved performance in the contemporary organisations has lessened the distinctions of the employer/employee relationship but instead prioritises the employee-related initiatives that make them feel valuable to the organisation. Undoubtedly, managers who focus on translating the management theory into realism is likely to improve the organisation’s performance as compared to those utilising the trial and error approach.


Bell, R. L., & Martin, J. S. (2012). The Relevance of Scientific Management and Equity Theory in Everyday Managerial Communication Situations. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 13(3), 106-115.

Deb, T. (2009). Managing Human Resource And Industrial Relations. Delhi: Excel Books India.

Freedman, D. H. (1992). Is management still a science? Harvard business review, 70(6), 26-38.

Uddin, N., & Hossain, F. (2015). Evolution of modern management through Taylorism: An adjustment of Scientific Management comprising behavioral science. Procedia Computer Science, 62, 578 – 584.

Wart, M. V. (2005). Dynamics of Leadership in Public Service: Theory and Practice. Armonk, New York : M.E. Sharpe.