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Major Schools of Management Thought

Posted on the 12 August 2013 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

The various approaches to the study of management as propounded by specialists from different disciplines have come to be called the Schools of Management Thought.

The Major Schools of Management Theory are:

1.  Management Process School

2.  Empirical School

3.  Human Behaviors or Human Relations School

4.  Social School

5.  Decisions Theory School

6.  Mathematical or Quantitative Management School

7.  Systems Management School

8.  Contingency School

Management Process School or the Operational Approach

This school regards management as a process of getting things done with people operating in organized groups. Henry Fayol is known as the father of this school. According to this, school management can best be studied in terms of the process that it involves.

Those subscribing to this school are of the view that management principles are of universal application. This approach is also designated as the traditional approach, the universal approach or the classical approach. The contributors and thinkers who belong to this school are William Newman, Summers, McFarland, Henry, J.D. Mooney, A.C. Railey, lyndell Urwick and Harold Koontz.

The Empirical School or the Management by Customs School

This approach to management is taken by scholars who identify management as the study of experience, followed by efforts to learn from the experience and then transfer the knowledge to practitioners and students. Typically, this is done through a case study approach or through the study of decision-making.

This school of thought believes that by analyzing the experience of successful managers or the mistakes of poor managers, we somehow can learn about applying the most effective management techniques. The main contributors of this approach are Earnest Dale, Mooney and Raliey, Urwick and many other management practitioners and associations like the American Management Association.

The main features of this approach are

1 . Management is the study of managerial experiences.

2.  Managerial experiences con be passed over to the practitioners and students.

3. The techniques used in successful cases can be used by future managers for further references.

4.  Theoretical research can be combined with practical experiences for better management.

The Human Relations Approach (or) the Human Behavior School

This school takes note of the psychological factors causing a change in the human behavior in organized groups under a given situation. It is based upon the fact that management involves getting things done through people and therefore management must be centered on interpersonal relations.

This approach has been called the human relations, leadership or behavioral science approach. Exponents of this school of thought seek to apply existing and newly developed theories, methods and techniques of the relevant social science to the study of intra and interpersonal relations, which varies from personality dynamics to relations of cultures. This school stresses on the people part of management and the understanding aspects.

The motivation of the individual and adherents of this school is heavily oriented towards psychology and sociology. The range of thought tn this school ore (a) The study of human relations and how managers can understand and use these relations; (b) The role of manager as a leader and how he should lead others; (c) The study of group dynamics and inter-personal relationships.

The Social Systems School

This school of thought is closely related to the human behavior or the human relations school of thought. It looks upon management as a social system, which refers to a system of cultural inter­ relationships. These can be formal organizational relationships or any kind of human relationships. This approach to management being heavily sociological in nature does what the study of sociology does.

It identifies the nature of the cultural relationships of various social groups and attempts to show them as an integrated system. The spiritual father of this school was the late Chester Barnard who developed the theory of co-operation. The focus of this school of thought is on the study of the organization as a co-operative or collaborative system. A social system is a unit or entity consisting of various social subsystems called groups.

Decision Theory School

The decision theory approach concentrates on the rational decisions theory, which refers to the selection of a suitable course of action from various possible alternatives. This approach may deal with the decisions itself, with the person or organizational group who makes the decision or with an analysis of the decision process.

By expanding the viewpoint well beyond the process of evaluating alternatives, many people use the theory to examine the nature of organizational structure, the psychological and social reactions of individuals and groups and analysis of value considerations with respect to goals, communication networks and incentives. The scientific approach to decision making involves some of the following factors:

1.  Defining the problem

2.  Collecting all relevant information

3.  Developing alternatives

4.  Examining all the alternatives and the solutions

5.  Testing the solutions, (if you can make this possible)

6.  Selecting a course of action

7.  Implementing the action.

8.  Evaluating the results of the action

The Mathematical School

In this group, we have those theorists who see management as a system of mathematical models and processes. According to the approach of the Mathematical school, decision-making is a logical process that can be expressed in terms of mathematical symbols and relationships. This approach forces the analyst to define a problem and allows for the insertion of symbols through logical methodology. which provides a powerful tool for solving complex phenomena.

The Systems Approach School

This school is of recent origin having developed in the later 1960s. It is an integrated approach, which considers management in its totality based on empirical data. According to this approach, attention must be paid to the overall effectiveness of a subsystem in isolation from the other subsystems. The main emphasis is on the interdependence and inter-relatedness of the various subsystems, from the point of view of the effectiveness of a large system. Its essential features are as follows:

  • A system has a number of subsystems, parts and subparts.
  • All the subsystems, parts and subparts are mutually related to each other. A change in one part will affect the changes in other parts.
  • The systems approach emphasizes on the study of the various parts in their interrelationships rather than in isolation from each other.
  • The systems approach to management brings out the complexity of a real life management problem much more sharply than any of the other approaches.
  • It can be utilized by any other school of management thought.

The boundary of a system may be classified into two parts:

1. Closed system that has no environment. This part implies that no outside systems are to be considered.

2.  Open system that has an environment. This part implies that it possesses systems with which it relates, exchanges and communicates.

The Contingency Approach School of Management

The contingency approach to management emphasizes on the fact that management is a highly practice-oriented and action-packed discipline.

Managerial decisions and actions initiatives are known to be matters of pragmatism and not of principles. The environment of organizations and managers is very complex, uncertain, ever changing and diverse. It is the basic function of managers to analyze and understand the environments in which they function before adopting their techniques, processes and practices.

The choice of approaches and also their effectiveness is contingent on the behavior and dynamics of situational variables. But, there is no one universally valid best way of doing things. Management theory and principles tend to be deterministic, while the pace, pattern and behavior of events defy the deterministic or dogmatic approaches. What is valid and good in a particular situation need not be the same in some other situation.


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