Conceptual Perspectives on Management

Management has become a part and parcel of everyday life, be it at home, in the office or factory and in government. In all organizations, where group of human beings assemble for a common purpose, management principles come into play through the management of resources, finance and planning, priorities, policies and practice. Management is a systematic way of carrying out activities in any field of human effort. Efficacious and effective management is not possible without in-depth knowledge of the organisation which is being managed. Organisational knowledge is absolutely critical to building, preserving and leveraging institutional excellence. It is like the air you breathe-you cannot measure it, touch it, or see it but you cannot survive without it.

The basic elements of management are always there whether we manage our lives or our business. In fact, management is used knowingly or unknowingly by everybody born as human being on this earth. We are all managers of our own life and the practice of management is found in every facet of human activity: schools, business, government, unions, armed forces, families and religious places. Thus, management has become an exciting and entertaining subject because it deals with setting, seeking and achieving objectives. It makes human efforts more productive. It brings order and effectiveness to the efforts of the people. It brings better equipment, plants, offices, products, services and human relations to our society. There is no substitute for good management and good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.

Society is a collection of individuals and individuals constitute society. Every individual has several needs and wants but it is impossible for him to satisfy all his desires and wants with his own efforts alone. Thus, he joins hands with others and works in organised groups to achieve what he cannot achieve singlehandedly. Today, the society has large and complex institutions with many people working together. In other words, when a number of persons join together for the attainment of some common objectives, organisation comes into being. Whatever may be the nature and kind of the organisation, it cannot run successfully unless there is someone to manage its affairs. Management is an essential part of any group activity. It is the management which plans, organises, co-ordinates and controls the affairs of the organisation. It brings the human and physical resources together and motivates the people at work in order to create a cordial, congenial and harmonious environment in the organisation. To sum up, it can be said that an organisation is like an orchestra team. It is for the management to make music or a noise out of it. If there is an effective and efficient management, the result is sweet and melodious music; otherwise the result is chaotic and awful noise.

Concept of Management Thought

The concept of management is as old as the human race itself. It is a universal phenomenon. It is not merely the monopoly of business houses. It is a part and parcel of every kind of decision making. It is the marshalling of manpower resources and strategy for getting a job done. Management is multifunctional in nature. It is a set of techniques and functional processes employed to maximize productive utilization of human, physical and natural resources for the benefit of all in a healthy physical and conceptual environment. Men, material, money, machinery and methods constitute human and physical resources. The physical environment consists of temperature; noise, light, ventilation; the tools which are employed; the methods of work; the material employed; the sequence in which the work is performed and other physical aspects. The conceptual, or mental, environment is concerned with the attitude or frame of mind of individual worker in the given environment. The manager has to provide a positive and conducive environment where the worker gives his best to the institution.

Management is the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals, working together in groups, efficiently accomplish selected aims. It involves coordinating and overseeing the work activities of others so that their activities are undertaken efficiently and effectively. Management puts ideas into action through and with people. Efficient management leads to productivity with peace, growth with harmony and brings out the best potential in people. Management creates harmony in working together, equilibrium in thought and action, goals and achievements, plan and performance, produce and market.

When people are motivated and inspired, they run their organisations efficiently and profitably, produce quality goods and services and keep customers and clients satisfied. Lack of management can create chaos and cause mayhem, perplexity, wastage, delay, obliteration, losses and low sense of worth. Management is about managing self, people and situations. Manager has to show the path on which his workforce can excel and stay focused. Management’s task is to make people capable of joint performances and make their strength effective and make their weaknesses irrelevant. It is the capability and capacity of the manager that can transform the situations to the best for all the stakeholders. If he is bestowed with the quality to judge the people and their talents then he can take them to the zenith of their performance. Management is helping ordinary people to produce extraordinary results.

Management, today, goes beyond giving just direction or getting work done by people. Manager has to think beyond results; he has also to create and sustain performers by inspiring them. Manager’s job is two-fold (1) To translate the dream in terms of project; and (2) To produce performers. Workman’s job is to produce results – from planning to execution. And supervisor’s duty is to solve the problems of workmen.

Management Perspectives

The word perspective has been derived from the Medieval Latin word perpectiva (ars) ‘science of optics’, from the verb perspicere which means ‘to look through’. It implies a view or vista or a mental view or outlook of a person or an organisation. It also means the ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance. Management Perspectives provide an overview of the principles, skills, challenges and the other factors which the managers have to face today. These include the theoretical framework, ideas and techniques which can be applied to day-to-day work of an organization like planning, decision making, leadership, motivation, communication, human resource management, corporate social responsibility, change management and managerial skills and mantras required for effective and efficient working of the organization.

It is a proved fact that management is not an action in isolation; it is rather the impact of total environment in which the organization exists. Starting from the management in antiquity to the management in modern times, the different perspectives of management at different points of time can be summed up briefly as under in an integrative manner:

Conceptual Perspectives on Management Thought

History of Management Thought

Management has always been a part of the nature of man. In its crude form, it has been there from nomads to rulers of various kingdoms. Management as a field of study may be just 125 years old, but management ideas and practices have actually been used from the earliest times of recorded history. For example, 2,500 years before management researchers called it job enrichment, the Greeks learned that they could improve the productivity of boring repetitious tasks by performing them to music. The basic idea was to use a flute, drum, or sing lyrics to pace people to work in unison, using the same efficient motions, to stimulate them to work faster and longer, and to make even a boring work or job interesting and entertaining. While we can find the seeds of many of today’s management ideas throughout history, not until the last two centuries, however, did systematic changes in the nature of work and organizations create a compelling need for managers. Examples of management thought and practice can be found all through the history. This has been shown in the table below.

History of Management Thought

Concept of management has undergone a sea change since its inception, as a formal subject, in the early 1900’s. From the set of principles evolved the scientific management theory of F. W. Taylor and it played a role as a prominent theory till 1950’s. Focus of management then shifted to decision theory. In 1960’s, systems orientation emerged. Change and contingency management of 1970’s was followed by new approaches to human relations and production quality in the 1980’s and archetype management in 1990’s. Journey of management thought is depicted briefly in the table below-Major Classification of Management Approaches

Under various approaches, management was described from different points of view largely depending on the perspective and background of the management thinker. Koontz identifies eleven approaches to the management concept, which are as follows:

  1. The empirical approach states that we can understand what management is by determining what contributed to success or failure in specific cases.
  2. The interpersonal behavior approach is based on getting things done through people and therefore, management is centered in understanding relationships (psychology).
  3. The group behavior approach emphasizes the behavior of people within groups and thus tends to rely on sociology, anthropology, and social psychology. Often this interest in-group behavior patterns is named ‘organizational behavior’.
  4. The cooperative social system approach (organizational theory) combines elements of the interpersonal and group behavior approaches into a system called the organization where the primary purpose is co-operation.
  5. The socio-technical system approach adds to the previous approach the dimension of technical systems. It is believed that the machines and methods have a strong influence on the social system and that the task of the manager is to ensure harmony between the social and technical systems.
  6. The decision theory approach believes that management is characterized by decision making and therefore a systematic approach to decision-making essentially outlines management.
  7. The systems approach to management, like biological systems, views management’s role within an assemblage of subsystems, inputs, and processes within an environment, all of which are interconnected and/or interdependent. This may not be a different approach but is a holistic view of management, providing place for elements of the other approaches to be incorporated.
  8. The management ‘science’ approach believes that problems can be described within a mathematical model – basic relationships – in such a way that the goal may be optimized.
  9. The situational approach states that, management action depends on the situation taking into account the influence of given actions on the behavior patterns of individuals and the organization. This is a practical approach, which hints at the art (viz, science) of management.
  10. The managerial roles approach is based on research by Mintzberg as to the roles (functions) managers fill.
  11. The operational approach is an attempt to combine elements of all of the above-mentioned approaches, taking what is applicable, discarding that which is not, and developing an approach to management that indicates the complexity and variedness of what is expected of the manager.

However, all these approaches are lacking in one aspect or the other. Concept of management has evolved over the years and is an ongoing process; it changes and improves as the environment changes. The discipline of ‘management’ is just 100 years old. By and large, it is a product of industrial revolution. Hence, its intellectual traditions are rooted in engineering and economics. Later it was influenced by psychology, sociology and other related disciplines. During the 1990’s, the evolution of spirituality and management theories converged and triggered a bold interest in formulating spirituality based theories and research within the academic management domain, resulting in the formulation of a new discipline.

In the present epoch, internationally operated organisations are stirring towards holistic approach to management. Holistic approach takes under its ambit the whole organisation, systems, people and culture. Holistic approach can bring better results for modern organisations to deal with complex issues in global environment, because according to Aristotle, whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Management Today

People who are making judicious use of available resources and effectively managing to earn high profits and returns are not sure if it’s worth it. They feel defeated in spite of being successful. The reason is that money is being minted through unethical and immoral means. Industrialists today are doing the right things for their ventures but not necessarily doing things the right way. Indian companies are in a state of flux, more bewilderment, conflict and tension persists in its working and less emphasis is on the issues of productivity, motivation, principles, morals, ideals and ethics. The reason for this state of affairs is too much dependence on western models of management. The management philosophy emanating from the west is based on the lure of materialism and on a perennial thirst for profits, irrespective of the quality of the means adopted to achieve that goal.

There is a spurt in corporate scandals since the focus of most business houses is to earn more and more money. Almost every year, it seems, some scandal envelops a Fortune 500 company and causes a new spasm of public distrust of big corporations. This year’s occurrence probably should not be surprising; in the competitive marketplace, the temptation to cut ethical corners can be hard to resist. Corporate, do not stop to think and contemplate the effect of their greed on the stakeholders. There is insatiable hunger for success at any cost. In their unquenchable desire for number one position, corporate are becoming ruthless, forgetting their duties towards the society at large. The world today is so corruptible, gullible and materialistic that many corporations and nations operate without a soul conscience. The capitalistic bottom-line of maximizing profits has become the benchmark for purported success, pervading international, regional, national and organizational levels. Management has been reduced to a handmaid of profiteering. The maximizing of profits becomes the ultimate goal, to the exclusion of all other considerations. We are aware that with its axis on privatization and liberalization, national and world economic order is gradually becoming market oriented and globalized. Capital is today’s integrating factor. Those who have or can access to resource stand to benefit from this economy while others are being marginalized.

Corporate houses that are becoming aware of their ethical and social responsibilities towards the society are only following the mandatory responsibilities. Contemporary research has found that while around three quarters of major Australian companies believe it is the responsibility of their boards to set an appropriate ‘tone from the top’ and monitor organizational performance against a formal code of conduct, 84 percent of the companies that has promulgated a code of ethics reported that they did not actually monitor compliance with it (International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2005, KPMG, Australia). This is also the case of companies in many developed as well as developing economies. There is awakening of moral and ethical responsibilities but much more needs to be done at the local and global level. Lately, however, corporate America seems to be doing more than just paying lip service to standards of management behavior. For all the controversy surrounding the Firestone/Ford tyre recall, and the questions it raises about the potential for corporate wrongdoing, a growing number of big companies are enacting strict ethical guidelines and backing them up with internal mechanisms to enforce them. While some consider the changes little more than window dressing, there is no doubt that change is afoot.

In the present era, corporate sector desires to own workers not humans. Materialism has crept into the roots of the corporate world. Materialistic management has done more harm than good. The capitalist has grown richer, man has been reduced to a hired wage-earner and the consumer has been placed at the mercy of the materialistic manager. There is no sense of belonging, no harmony, no co-operative organisation, no fellow-feeling and the least common approach and perspective.

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