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The Time-line of Development of Management Theories: Relative or Absolute

The study of management theories has been criticized by some people as a waste of time because old ideas are discarded if they are found to be out of tune with today’s business context. For instance, time-and-motion studies have fallen out of favor these days. On the other hand some writers have argued that the timeline for the development of management theories is not an absolute scale but is, in fact, a relative scale. This means that what we think is an old idea may be a new idea in a different context. In this paper you are to discuss and argue these different points of view citing evidence from your research.


The Concept of Management is used in several areas in the modern world; it can be used in the family context to refer to the management of family resources, in the school context to refer to the management of time by students and teachers among other broad areas of use. However, management in the business context is basically concerned with the creation of wealth through the use of specific ideas and concepts. Management dates back to the era of Industrial revolution era whose start was the year 1860.The industrial revolution is used to the period in which there was a general shift by the society from farming to industrialization (Taylor,2014). It is the shift from agrarian and handicraft economy to an industrialized economy dominated by industries and machines. The industrial revolution started in Britain before spreading to other parts of the world. With the Industrial Revolution, came many changes in the society which were classified into technological, cultural and socioeconomic changes. Among the resultant technological changes was the introduction of a new system of work which was known as factory system and which was characterized by specialization and high division of labor. Social changes resulting from this era included the entrance of women and children into the workforce, many people who were previously farmers moved to cities to secure formal jobs among others. Replacement of people by machines as the primary means of production was among the economic changes that resulted from this period. Others included replaced of homed by factories as the primary center of production among other changes (Adetule,2011).  Management has been in existence from way back since human beings started controlling each other. It has however been a concept under evolution over time. Changes in Management came about as a result of these changes especially the introduction of labor economies which necessitated the rise of a discipline aimed at understanding workers in a broader perspective and making them more resourceful. This was followed by scholarly interests in the field of management which led to the rise of management theories. Among the scholars who had a special interest in management was Taylor who was known for the scientific theory of management, Fayol is known for the Administrative theory of management. The two believed that management could be taught (Taylor,2014).  Others included Mary Parker, Max Weber. There are different points of view in management such as management being on a relative scale and management being on an absolute scale. This report will analyze different points of view regarding management.

Taylorism is a management theory also known as scientific management and which is basically concerned with the analyzing and synthesizing of workflows. Its main focus is on breaking down of tasks or jobs into small and simple segments which can be taught and analyzed with ease. The theory was established by Fredrick Taylor in the 1880’s and 1890’s in the United States and continues to be used even in the present management contexts. By Coming up with this theory Taylor was focused on improving economic efficiency particularly productivity. Although the theory in its entirety doesn’t exist today, its themes are still widely used in the modern day management.  Some of these themes include the elimination of wastes and standardization of best practices, increasing efficiency, rationality and work ethics. The relevance of these aspects in the in the modern economy is indisputable. As per say, Taylorism theory was intended at achieving a number of objectives at the time of its establishment (Snow,2014).  Some of these included separations of work planning from work execution, separation of direct labor from indirect labor, facilitating payments based on results, achieving maximum job fragmentation in order to reduce job learning time and skill requirement among others.


Despite the fact that this theory was established several years ago, most of what it advocated for is still emphasized in the modern economy.

Productivity in economic terms refers to the measure of output per every unit of input. Input, therefore, includes the labor provided by the employee and capital provided by the employer while the output is calculated in terms of revenue. Taylor was so much focused on workforce productivity. He argued that focus on productivity does not only help the employer but also the workforce. Taylor influenced the setting of wages in accordance with the complexity of the task at hand, deviating from the previous method where workers were paid fixed rates for all pieces of work. As a result, workers became more productive hence earning more pay (Sheldrake,2013).  There were incentives for greater output. Productivity is also emphasized in the modern times whereby employers put in place measures to increase the productivity of their workforce with minimal resources.  There are also incentives offered for greater output for example overtime pay for employees working normal hours. However, just like in the onset of this theory, the emphasis is on increasing productivity through efficiency enhancement which means that employees are made to become smarter in their jobs.

Elimination of wastes was another area of focus for Taylorism theory. Taylor argued that for maximum efficiency at the workplace to be achieved, wastes had to be reduced as much as possible. Waste in this context can be viewed in terms of material resources and time. Without having in place control measures so much time was wasted in organizations. Taylorism was one of the solutions to this problem. Elimination of wastes in business processes is not a concept that only applies to the times of Fredrick Taylor but it is also widely emphasized in the modern business settings. There is so much focus on achieving maximum output with minimum input. Numerous technological innovations and ongoing employee training and development are some of the strategies that are used to eliminate waste in business processes (Sapru,2013).

Under work ethics, there was a focus on employees, with the belief that employees should work hard and maintain rationalism in their undertakings (Schermerhorn, 2011).  Work ethics is also strongly encouraged in the present business world. Among the elements that employees are supposed to abide by are respect, professionalism, accountability, dedication, sense of teamwork, emphasis on quality, integrity among others.

Before Taylorism, the foreman was responsible for all tasks regarding employees. He acted as the manager, human resource manager, accountant, etc. There was also no specialization on the part of employees. Taylorism’s division of labor was, therefore, was aimed at having specific people undertake specific roles at the workplace. The concept has continued to be used even in the modern work setting which is highly specialized. Managers, accountants, personnel officers, communication assistants all perform specific duties.

Bureaucratic theory of management or what is commonly referred to as the Max Weber theory was established, used and described at the end of 19th Century by Max Weber who was a German sociologist. The bureaucratic theory was believed to be the most effective way of setting up organizations compared to the traditional structures. Under bureaucracy, each employee had their roles clearly described. There was also equal treatment of all employees (Newton,2011).

Elimination of wastes

It is defined as an organization structure whose characteristics include procedures and requirements, many rules, standardized processes, the division of labor and responsibility, a number of desks, professional interactions among employees and clear hierarchies of authority. Weber argued that such an organizational structure was vital in large organizations and in facilitating numerous tasks to be performed by many employees (Miles, 2012). Under this theory also, employees were selected and promoted purely on the basis of technical qualifications.

What was emphasized by Max Weber at the end of the 19th Century is to a large extent similar to what is currently happening in the modern times. This demonstrates the usability of the Bureaucratic theory of management in emerging economy today. As emphasized by the theory the process of recruitment and selection is currently carried out purely on merit basis. Under this, after potential employees have been shortlisted, the selection is carried out on the basis of the most qualified applicants from the pool of applicants. This is also the basis upon which employees are promoted for various positions within their organization whereby, those with exemplary performance and outstanding personalities are given first preference for promotion. There is also a great deal of emphasis on professional interactions at the workplace in order to keep productivity at its optimum as it was the case when this theory was founded. Division of labor and high level of specialization is also a characteristic of the modern workplace. Employees within the same organization perform different roles which collectively lead to the overall success of organizations.  Clear organizations structures with a clearly defined structure of authority are quite relevant even in the modern economy (Mcgrath,2017).

Principles of bureaucratic theory of management relevant to modern economy

In the modern economy there exist clear requirements and regulations at the workplace that create impersonal associations among the workforce. Professional interactions at the workplace help in minimizing the instances of nepotism or the possibility of the workforce being influenced from the outside (Mahadevan,2010). This prominent feature of bureaucracy is founded on a set of rules and requirements that ensures that employee’s or management’s views are not influenced by feelings, emotions or personal involvement making rational factors as the sole basis for decision-making.

Bureaucratic theory emphasized on the selection of employees purely on the basis of competence and technical skills acquired through workplace experience, relevant education or training. As per this theory employee’s salary differ according to their positions. The principle of formal selection is widely used in the modern economy.

Specialization involves division of tasks as per competencies and specializations of employees. In the modern workplace, employees are responsible for what they do and undertake simple, routine tasks (Magretta,2012). Each position has a role description on which job evaluations are based. This means that employees are only allowed to operate within their responsibilities.

Rules and requirements were not only emphasized during the times of Weber but are also characteristics of the modern workplace. Rules are meant to inform the employees of what is expected of them and hence lead to some sort of uniformity among the employees and better coordination of employee’s efforts. (Johnson,2009). All employees are required to conform to these rules and requirements and it is the work of the senior management to come up with new or modify existing rules.

Work ethics

Just like Weber emphasized on employment based on expertise, in the modern economy, employees are also employees are selected based on their expertise. There is a great emphasis on having the right people in the right positions. Bureaucracy emphasizes on the building of one’s career on expertise and experience as it is the case with many positions today (Flamholtz,2007).  With the division of labor, employees are able to improve their performances and become experts in their areas of specialization.

Bureaucracy also involves organization of authority into different hierarchical layers. In each of these layers, the management is responsible for the staff and its overall performance. This is synonymous with the modern economy where management is categorized into senior level management and mid-level management. Thre are indeed many hierarchical positions in organizations in which the highest position has the highest power.  The hierarchy demonstrates the existing lines of communication, power and responsibilities and the degree of delegation (Evans & Alire, 2013).

Empowerment is a management concept that that is founded on the belief that employees become more productive if they are given sufficient resources, information, opportunities, and authority. It also asserts that such employees have a higher job satisfaction. It is the role of the management to create the right environment so that empowerment can take place.

With the coming of the industrial revolution and the subsequent movement of many people in towns to work in factories, there was an absolute loss of control over own destinies by such people. Working in industries, people could work without rest for fourteen days a week, seven days a week and still never made enough money for their own upkeep. The working conditions in factories were quite dehumanizing with endless instructions to this or that. In management, empowerment is viewed as a form of industrial democracy. After industrial revolution focus shifted to the behavior displayed by Managers in front of their employees (Ein-Dor,2007).  In the 1960’s.There was also focus on manager’s sensitivity regarding the incentives and needs of their employees and overall employee involvement. Over the years, employee empowerment has been viewed as a strategy for improving employee’s productivity and job satisfaction. The management concept gained momentum in the 1980’s and 1990’s and has become an area of focus for many organizations.

As it was the case during the period of industrial revolution, productivity has remained to be an area of central focus in organization settings. However, while the focus was so much on productivity then and little focus on morale, the focus has shifted towards balancing the two in the modem economy (Dzimbiri,2009). There has been growing realization by managers that high morale among the workforce was relative to productivity. Empowering employees is therefore focused on improving their job satisfaction and hence their overall output.

Employee involvement comes as a result of responsibility allocation. Managers, who wish engage their employees, do so by assigning them more responsibilities. Employee involvement has the possibility of making employees perceive their organization, customers as well as their colleagues in a different way. It makes them feel appreciated and valued for their input which in return inculcates in them a sense of belonging. Involvement of employees in various organizational decisional making processes improves their commitment to their employer which in return reduces the rate of employee turnover and the subsequent recruitment costs (Daft, Kendrick & Vershinina,2010).

Division of labor

Employees are often confronted with many issues and problems in the course of discharging their duties. Empowerment is used in the modern workplace to improve problem-solving skills of the workforce among other advantages. An empowered employee is responsive to problems than an employee who is not empowered (Cole,2014).

In the modern competitive business world, organizations are faced with the risk of losing customers if they don’t offer them quality goods and services. Among the reasons why empowerment is greatly emphasized in the modern workplace is because empowerment of employees makes them offer exceptional services to customers. It enables them to make major decisions without having to consult their managers because they possess the necessary skills (Cole & Kelly,2015). They have the ability go against the established rules and do what they feel is the right thing for the customers. The impact of exceptional customer service is improved customer loyalty. The overall outcome of customer loyalty is an organizational success. Organizations, therefore, empower their employees in order to be more successful.

Due to the significance of empowerment modern economy empower, organizations have come up with several strategies to empower their employees. While these might differ from the place, there some which are employed in the vast majority of organizations.

Delegation is the process through which people in senior management levels assign responsibility and authority to subordinates to carry out specific activities. Delegation is among the most commonly used methods of employee empowerment. By delegating duties and authority, managers put employees in the shoes of senior management thus improving their decision-making skills, their ability to lead and operate in demanding situations (Banerjee,2013).  This level of trust in the employee’s abilities also helps in building the confidence levels of employees as well as pride in the positions which they occupy.

Giving employees the discretion to make own decisions is used to empower employees. Overreliance by the employees on the management for various decisions even minor ones makes employees weak to some extent, Employers after assessing  the ability of their employees give them more freedom to choose the methods which they feel are the most appropriate to accomplish those tasks. Through delegation, employees acquire the necessary skills to deal with different situations that might confront them at the workplace (Armstrong & Stephens, 2015).  With this, employees are able to establish different ways of undertaking their responsibilities.


In conclusion development of management, theories has continued over the years from the industrial revolution period. The relevance of theories coined by early management scholars such as Weber continues to be applicable even in the modern economy. While some may perceive the development of these theories as being on a relative scale while others perceive them as being on an absolute scale. The report supports the perception that management theories are still quite relevant in the modern economy. Taylorism for example focused on principles that are still applicable in the business in the modern economy. Among the areas of focus for this theory was improving productivity at the workplace. Productivity improvement is still widely emphasized in the modern world. The theory also focuses on the elimination of as much waste as possible and division of labor. Weber’s bureaucratic theory of management is also quite relevant in the modern world. Among its focus areas are impersonal relationships at the workplace, formal employee selection, role specialization, career orientation, the hierarchy of Authority, rules and regulations among others. All these are still highly used in the modern workplace to improve efficiency and productivity.  Empowerment is also a concept that has become an area of focus for many employers, Empowerment is used to improve job satisfaction for employees and improve competencies in their areas of specialization and improve their overall skills. Based on this analysis, therefore, it can be concluded that management theories are still relevant in the emerging economy today.


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