Management Theories



Learning objectives



Historical Background of Management

         Explain why studying management history is important.

         Describe some early evidences of management practice.


Scientific Management

         Describe the important contributions made by Fredrick W. Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.

         Explain how today’s managers use scientific management.


General Administrative Theory

         Discuss Fayol’s contributions to management theory.

         Describe Max Weber’s contribution to management theory.

         Explain how today’s managers use general administrative theory.


Quantitative Approach

         Explain what the quantitative approach has contributed to the field of management.

         Discuss how today’s managers use the quantitative approach.


Toward Understanding Organizational Behavior

         Explain the contributions of the Hawthorne Studies to the field of management.

         Discuss how today’s managers use the behavioral approach.


The Systems Approach

         Describe an organization using the systems approach.

         Discuss how the systems approach helps us management.


The Contingency Approach

         Explain how the contingency approach differs from the early theories of management.

         Discuss how the contingency approach helps us understand management.


Lecture Outline



Most management literature is based on the experiences of Europe and North America these two geographical regions. However the economic success of Japan and other countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia demonstrate that other non-Western approaches to managing business organizations are very successful and worthy of study.


For this course, we introduce you to the best known management concepts and theories developed by Americans and Europeans. Japanese and Chinese management theories will be introduced from time to time.



Management theories (or, what is the best way to manage?)


See R&C p.58 Exhibit 2-1 for the development of major management theories.

Scientific Management (R&C p.60~62)


A management approach, formulated by Frederick W. Taylor and Gilbreths between 1890 and 1930, that sought to determine, by using scientific methods, the best ways for performing any task and for selecting, training and motivating workers.


Frederick Taylor - Emphasis on the idea of “ONE BEST WAY". (R&C p. 60, see Exhibit 2-2)


         Taylor's Four Principles of Management

o        Develop a science for each element of an individual work, which will replace the old rule-of-thumb method

o        Scientifically select and then train, teach and develop the worker

o        Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed

o        Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers. Management takes over all work for which it is better fitted than the workers


         Frank and Lillian Gilbreth

o        Use scientific management techniques to reduce wasteful hand-and-body motions in jobs. In an experiment, with the proper tools and equipment, they reduced the motions of interior brick laying from 18 to 2.


Now you can talk:


Do you think techniques from Scientific Management are still applicable today? 

(Hints: Can you think of any industry that is very labour intensive? Refer to R&C p.62 for an answer)




General Administrative Theorists (R&C p.62~64)


Writers of this theory attempted to identify and develop general principles and skills that underlie effective management. They focused on what managers do and what constitutes good management practice.



Henri Fayol (R&C, p.62, see R&C Exhibit 2-3)


        Fayol believed that sound management practice falls into certain patterns that can be identified and analyzed.


        The 14 principles of management



Max Weber (R&C p.62, see R&C Exhibit 2-4)


         Weber developed a theory of bureaucracy as an ideal authority structure that emphasizes rationality, predictability, impersonality, technical competence, and authoritarianism.


         Weber's Ideal Bureaucracy:

        Division of labor: Jobs broke down into simple, routine, and well-defined tasks

        Authority hierarchy: Positions organized in a hierarchy with a clear chain of command

        Formal Selection: People are selected for jobs based on technical qualifications

        Formal Rules and Regulations: System of written rules and standard operating procedures

        Impersonality: Uniform application of rules and controls, not according to personalities

        Career orientation: Managers are career professionals , nor owners of units they manage


         Bureaucracy, or its modifications, can still be observed in many contemporary large organizations.


The Quantitative Approach (R&C p.64-65)


        The quantitative approach to management includes applications of statistics, optimization models, information models and computer simulations to planning and controlling activities. (e.g. linear programming, work scheduling, economic order quantity model)


Now you can talk:


Can students who have taken Operation Management or Management Science courses give some examples on how Operation Research or Management Science can help a manager?




Organizational Behavior Approach (R&C p.66~67)


        A study of management that focuses on human behaviors and emphasizes the ways in which managers interact with their subordinates.


        Hawthorne Studies by Elton Mayo

        Group influences significantly affected individual worker's output.

        Money was less a factor in determining output than were group standards, group sentiments and job security.

        Informal work groups, the social environment of employees, have a positive influence on productivity.

                    Human Relations Movement

        They believed that a satisfied worker will be a productive worker.


Now you can talk:


Do you believe in the above statement? Can you give some real life examples to support your belief?




The Systems Approach (R&C p.68~69, see R&C Exhibit 2-6)

        The organization as being made up of interdependent factors, including individuals, groups, attitudes, motives, formal structure, interactions, goals, status and authority.

        The job of a manager is to ensure that all parts of the organization are coordinated internally so that the organization's goals can be achieved. (i.e. the manager needs to coordinate and integrate the activities of the various part of the organization as the decision and actions taken in one organizational area will affect others)

        The organization, as an open system, must fit into its environment. (Hence the manager should be more sensitive and responsive to key constituencies such as customers, government and the community)

Now you can talk:


Can you think of an organization that chooses to ignore its environment? How successful is it? 



The Contingency Approach (R&C p.69)


        The manager's task is to identify which technique will, in a particular condition and time, best contribute to the attainment of management goals.

        This theory recognizes that all organizations are different and that there is no one best way to manage.

        See Exhibit 2-7 for a list of popular contingency variables


Source:  Robbins & Coulter (2007) Management by, 9th ed., Pearson.



The materials beneath this line will be updated all through the semester

Self learning activities:


Try the following past examination questions:

(a) Describe what managers do in terms of functions they performed. (12 marks)
(b) "The managers have two duties, to come up with good ideas and to use good people". What do you think of this statement? (8 marks)


Suggested Answer: 

(a) Planning, organizing, leading and controlling 
(b) You can consider: 

    Connection between the statement and the functions, 
    Effect of level of management 
    Mintzberg's management roles 

Last modified: 2007/Jan/19