What can be learned from classical management thinking?
The classical management approaches encompass scientific management, administrative principles, and bureaucratic organization. The basic assumption of the classical management approaches is that people are rational and are primarily driven by economic concerns.
The useful lessons from scientific management, as espoused by Frederick Taylor, are: make results-based compensation a performance incentive; carefully design jobs with efficient work methods; carefully select workers with the abilities to do these jobs; train workers to perform the jobs to the best of their abilities; and train supervisors to support workers so they can perform the jobs to the best of their abilities. In addition, the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, also done within the scientific management tradition, provided a foundation for later advances in job simplification, work standards, and incentive wage plans.
The contributions of the administrative principles branch of the classical management approach are exemplified by the work of Henri Fayol and Mary Parker Follett. Henri Fayol developed rules and principles of management that served as guides to management practice. His rules of managerial foresight, organization, command, coordination, and control are similar to the modern planning, organizing, leading, and controlling functions of management. Fayol’s scalar chain, unity of command, and unity of direction principles also served to guide management practice. Follett brought an understanding of groups and a deep commitment to human cooperation to her writings about businesses and other organizations. Her insights about groups and human cooperation include the following: groups are mechanisms through which individuals could combine their talents for a greater good; organizations should be viewed as communities in which managers and workers work in harmony; and the manager’s job is to help organization members cooperate with one another and achieve an integration of interests. Follett’s work also anticipated many modern management concepts and practices, including employee ownership, profit sharing, gain-sharing, systems concepts, managerial ethics, and corporate social responsibility.
Max Weber viewed bureaucracy as an ideal, intentionally rational, and very efficient form of organization founded on principles of logic, order, and legitimate authority. The characteristics of bureaucratic organizations include the following: a clear division of labor, a clear hierarchy of authority, formal rules and procedures, impersonality, and careers based on merit. Weber believed that by designing and operating organizations as bureaucracies, productivity could be optimized.
Source: Management, 11th Edition - John R. Schermerhorn