Management Theories Essay Example

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3Management Theories

Management Theories


Management is considered as a young science since most of its literature can be dated back to 100 years. Management approaches that are in use today can be dated back to thousands of years; however, much evidence can be found after the industrial revolution. Consequently, theorists have argued that companies realize benefits by capitalizing on either modern or traditional management approaches. For instance, Fayol, Weber, and Taylor advocatedthe use of traditional management. As Mullins (2007) asserts, they are the founders of organizational theories, coined in the 20th century, and focused on rules, competencies, technical aspects, and discipline in the management discipline. However, different approaches to management differ in the manner in which the manager manages his people. For instance, according to Warren Bennis, «managing people is like herding cats and cats won’t allow themselves to be herded». This current paper analyzes the validity of this statement and investigates whether this approach to management is helpful. For this reason, various management theories will be used to analyze this statement put forth by Bennis.

Management Theories and Validity of Bennis’s Statement

The management literature differentiates two types of organizational management, which translates to two types of organizations, those which follow the traditional approach and those which utilize modern management approaches. The traditional approach to management is whereby an organization capitalizes on performance, explicit control and coordination, extrinsic sanctions and rewards, push managerial qualities, problem-solving, as well as seeing the intangible and tangible organizational assets as the core resources (De Wit and Meyer, 2004). On the other hand, modern management encompasses the focus of long-term performance, pull managerial options, implicit coordination, and control, recognition of employees, opportunity recognition, as well as the view that psychological and social capital are the main resources for the organization (De Wit and Meyer, 2004).

Classical management theory was put forward by Henri Fayol, Fredrick Taylor, and Max Weber. For instance, the scientific management theory, which falls within the precincts of classical management, was developed by Frederick Taylor, which was popular between 1890 and 1940 following the onset of the industrial revolution, espoused the careful measurement and specification of tasks within the workplace environment (House and Aditya, 1997). For this reason, as the writers assert, it encompassed the careful selection and training of the employees. This was in turn supported by the supervisory support. It has four guiding principles, which entail the development of a job science which entails the inclusion of standardized work processes coupled with appropriate working conditions. In turn, selection of workers with the right qualities is done, and they are trained and rewarded using incentives while also supporting them as they complete the various tasks by carefully planning the work. The theory, as Bratton and Gold (2012) emphasized, more on the speed of production, availability of unskilled labor, and low-cost production. It also encouraged the use of efficient and standardized products, procedures, as well as quality. Analyzing Bennis’s statement, this management theory is not inclined to the statement, where people are considered as cats, and managing them is like herding them, but they do not want to be herded. In essence, as the theory asserts, people are supervised and follow clearly the directives. They are trained so that they may follow the processes that have been dictated and set. For them to follow directives and the supervisor’s directions, the theory asserts that careful selection should be followed, and they have to be trained. For this reason, the selection and training ensure that the right set of employees who can be “herded” or controlled are selected (House and Aditya, 1997). Once they meet the criterial, they cannot oppose the directives, and therefore, they can be considered as “cats” which can be herded and will allow themselves to be herded. It can be derived that the scientific management theory presented by Frederick does not support Bennis’s statement.

As classical management emphasizes on structure, as Henri Fayol points out, there should be a chain of management. In essence,according to House and Aditya (1997),those who are on top of the chain issued order and directives while those on the lower end followed them. For this reason, there was the division of work and a sense of authority, especially for those who were on top of the chain. Also, discipline was not compromised, where employees provided outward marks of respect which were forged by agreements between the employees and the firm. Because it also used the unity of command, only one man was superior. However, in this case, as Fayol asserted, employees should be given time so that they could settle perfectly in their jobs, even though the period would be lengthy. For this reason, it can be derived that employees were to follow every order and directive without opposing. In essence, opposition was not something to be tolerated, and in many instances, any employee who did not follow directives was to be terminated (Nhema, 2015). Considering the statement made by Bennis, it can be derived that, the classical management approach, as put forth by Henri Fayol, is not in line with the statement. Ideally, Fayol asserted that there was to be a line of command and employees were to follow directives without any form of opposition. For this reason, they can be considered as “cats” that allowed themselves to be herded. Therefore, since the employees could be “herded”, it can be surmised that Bennis’s and the management approach Fayol advocates are not consistent, and this, from Fayol’s perspective, the statement is not true.

The bureaucratic management theory, as Hatch and Cunliffe (2013) point out, was supported by a German, Max Weber, dictated that aspects like organizational hierarchy of authority and a clear set system of rules characterized organizations. The theory was applied in the organizational context from 1930 to 1950. In essence, bureaucracy is a sense of officialdom and thus, as the model asserted, organizations should be divided into various hierarchies, which are characterized by strong lines of authority and control. For this reason, Weber suggested that for the organizations to succeed, they needed comprehensive and detailed operating procedures that could in turn be used to accomplish a routine of tasks. Weber also presented a variety of legitimate authority, which was traditional, rational-legal, and charismatic (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2013).

Traditional authority followed that the authority was custom or traditional. Rational-legal authority, where the acceptance was derived out of position or office as bounded by the organizational rules and procedures. On the other hand, charismatic authority summoned acceptance via loyalty, personal qualities, and confidence of the ruler. In charismatic approach, the leader’s qualities rea the important part of the management style and capitalizes on it for management. Analyzing the statement put forth by Bennis, Weber’s bureaucratic management theory does not support. In essence, there are strong hierarchies and the people who are on the lower side follow directives. Also, since there are agreements between the employer and the employees, there is a clean pattern on how people behave, and thus, if the employees were cats, then they would accept being herded. In essence, since promotion, appointment, and advancement in authority depended on the technical competence, and reinforced by written rules and procedures, employees followed them categorically without any form of resistance, and thus, Weber does not validate Bennis’s statement.

The human relations theories were spearheaded by Hawthorne studies, and was supported majorly by Elton Mayo. Thee management theories were different from classical management theory which concentrated on mechanics and structures of the organization. The human relations theory were concerned with human factors. As Elton Mayo asserted, the focus of human relations is motivation, leadership, and whenever a group or team is involved, then group motivation is paramount(Lin, 2007). Elton Mayo made several assumptions about the employer-employee relationship. These are: both were social scientists, emphasis was given to organizational human behavior, they were descriptive, and thus, followed a predictive pattern of behavior, and thus, people’s needs were decisive factors in the road to achieving organizational success (Nhema, 2015). It can be pointed out that motivation comes from the word motive, which refers to a driving force within a person. For this reason, motivation bolsters what factors that will ensure that an employee performs optimally. Since classical theories were dehumanizing, human relations theory intended to eliminate the dehumanizing aspects orchestrated by classical management theories. Accord to Nhema, 2015, Mayo asserted that individuals cannot be treated in isolation, rather, as a function of the group members. Also, motivations, as Mayo pointed out was not necessarily derived from a monetary or physical condition, and thus, supervisors along with their managers were to be sensitive and thus, cater for the social needs of the workers. For this reason, Mayo is inclined to Bennis’s statement because people have to be motivated by meeting their social needs. Without meeting them, then it would be impossible to manage them. Therefore, considering Bennis’s statement, people can be considered as cats that cannot be herded. For this reason, Elton Mayo validates the statement. By herding them, then the manager provides a motivational basis.

On the other hand, the neo-human relations theory presented by Maslow and McGregor is also inclined to Bennis’s statement. Bennis asserts that managing people is like herding cats, cats that will not allow themselves to be herded. This statement is inclined to the neo-human relations managerial theory as whenever they are motivated by social relations; then it would be easier for them to be managerial compared to when there are no social motivators(Lin, 2007). The theory holds that focus should be given to human motivations, mainly through satisfaction, incentive, and intrinsic. For instance, Maslow formulated that psychological needs should first be met before food, safety and shelter. Similarly, love should be met before self-esteem, while self-actualization should be the final need that people are motivated with after meeting the needs below the hierarchy. Therefore, it would be difficult managing people without meeting their social needs as it would be “difficult to herd the cats.”

In addition, as Adler and Borys (1996) point out McGregor’s Theory X assumes the pessimistic view on humans. They are lazy, avoid responsibility, and thus there is the need for coercion and control. For this reason, there needs to be someone to oversee what they are doing. The theory validates Bennis’s statement as people will be difficult to manage. They usually do not follow the laid down rules and guidelines, and this, there has to be strong supervision. Therefore, it would be difficult herding them as they do not allow managers to herd them easily. On the other hand, Theory Y takes the optimistic approach where people like working, accept responsibility and need space to develop (Lin,2007). In this case, this theory does not validate Bennis’s statement as it is easier to manage employees, and thus, if they were cats, it would be easy to herd them. The human relations theory asserts that workers are motivated by achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and work itself (Novak,, 2015). However, important hygiene factors include salary, company policy and recognition, interpersonal relations, and working conditions. Providing these elements will ensure that employees are well motivated, and this, it would be easy to motivate them. Therefore, it can be surmised that human relations theories, except McGregor’s Theory Y validates Bennis’s statement.

Modern management theories include contemporary theories of management, such as, systems, contingency, and chaos theories (Jones and George, 2015). Contingency theory holds that managers must make decisions based on the current situation and matters at hand. As such, it follows a facilitative and participative approach, and thisinclines to Bennis’s statement as systems change every day. The systems theory recognizes how different systems affect employees in the workplace, and thus managers should look into patterns and events, and thus inclining to them would be easier to work with employees, which validates Bennis’s statement. The chaos theory also validates the statement as managing change is one of the hardest challenges for managers. Besides, employees tend to resist change.


It can be concluded that most of the management theories validates Warren Bennis statement that «managing people is like herding cats, cats that won’t allow themselves to be herded». It is hard managing people because managers have to take many matters into consideration. In essence, organizations along with the business environment change often, and people are resistive to change, which makes it difficult for managers. However, since most of the classical management theories were mostly hierarchical, and used effective lines of authority, coupled with coercion and control, the management, as the theories assert were dictatorial, and thus managing the employees was easier. For this reason, most of the classical theories do not support Bennis’sstatement. However, modern management theories, including systems, contingency, chaos, as well as human relations theories, with the exception of Theory Y, support Bennis’s statement primarily because they hold that managing people is a hard task for managers.


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