Is Management is an Art or a Science?

Is management characterized as an art, as a science or both? In order to investigate the nature of Management, it would be useful firstly to define it. According to Drucker “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. This is what organization is all about, and this is the reason why management is the critical, determining factor”. Nowadays, practically everyone works for a managed institution, large or not, business or not. Our living actually depends on management. The ability we have to contribute to society, depends firstly on the way, the institute we work for, is managed and furthermore on our own abilities, devotion and effort. For years now, there has been a great debate on whether management can be characterized as a science or as an art.

Management as an Art

Art is viewed as: the use of imagination to interpret feelings and ideas, particularly in painting, drawing sculpture, or the skill of creating objects such as paintings or drawings, especially when studying art. In reality, art has nothing to do with objectivity. It relates to collective, mostly, individual subjectivity. So can management really be the very antithesis of the use of a body of rigorous professional knowledge? Although management apparently has imaginative and artistic aspects, this is not really the point. The point here is to contrast rational way of decision making against intuitive creation. to imply that it might be more useful to think of business leadership as something other than cold, objective reasoning.

This is why, managers need to study philosophy. Repeatedly, managers have to be able to decide which data they need in order to make a decision, to interpret this theory and even choose what its purpose really is. This is not unexpected, if you take into consideration that many academic books on the topic often lack any practical suggestions. Philosophy is a study that inspires personal choice, and in management choices thrive. So, effective managers should know when a decision has to be based on principle and when it should be made logically, depending on each case. Managers need impact rather than technique, and they prefer to be sound rather than clever; they know the trickiest part is to choose between the right and the wrong compromise , and they have learned to tell the difference from one another. Anyhow, in management, the most time-consuming part of the process is not taking the decision, but making it effective, and this is when the ability to manage through discontinuity, to be able to detect changes but also to recognize patterns and be able to focus on those things that do not change, is needed.

Management as an art is an amazing but natural expression of human behavior. Managers are both artists and leaders who are able to develop exceptional solutions and fresh ideas about their organizations’ needs. They adjust to people and events around them and learn to expect the chaotic twirls and turns of managerial life.

To sum up, a significant group of people think of management as an art. In reality, management personalities, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and GE’s Jack Welch, and their top-down managerial strategy, have enhanced this idea. The reasons are not only because these people have supported or have gone over the top about personal intuition and other personal irrational factors such as emotion and intuition in decision-making and management, but also because no management theory or approach can assure successful practical accomplishment of a social or economic organization in practice.

So, as we already mentioned, effective management can be considered as an art – the art of getting things done through people. Thinking of management as an art is possibly more productive, because it identifies management as something more than just a set of unambiguous techniques. Management as art implies inventiveness rather than conformity, practice rather than mere prescription, wisdom rather than mere knowledge.

Management as a Science

Science, on the other hand, even though there is no commonly agreed definition for it, is viewed as knowledge about the behavior and structure of the world, based on facts. However, even though there is no body with the authority to define science, and there are various discussions about its definition, its nature and its motive in philosophy of science, everybody agrees that science is based on rational assumption and experimental orientation. Science is the organized, systematic enterprise that gathers knowledge about the world and condenses the knowledge into testable laws and principles. Science involves the expansion of sensory capacity by instruments, the categorization of data, and the analysis of data guided by theory.

Management as a science was firstly characterized by Frederick Taylor. Scientific Management considered employees as tools for the achievement of organizational goals. Taylor believed that with the help of time and motion studies he could find out the best way for the accomplishment of a task – and that workers should be very pleased that were imposed to do precisely what they were instructed. The needs of the organization were separated from the needs of the individual. In Peter Drucker’s words, Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study; on Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years which has lifted the working masses in the developed countries well above any level recorded before, even for the well-to-do. Frederic W. Taylor, though, placed the main foundation, however, not much has been added to them since – even though Taylor has been dead for over sixty years.

Even though the answer, to if management is an art or a science, could be both, either or neither. Some people think management is indeed a science, because of the scientific principles and rules that exist (like Taylor’s scientific management theories and Weber’s administration of social and economic organization) and that can be applied for improving the productivity and efficiency of organizations, profit or nonprofit, private or public.

The severity of the management science utilization problem may be a result of an imbalance in the work of management scientists: too much science; not enough engineering. With the improvement of science so should also be improved the practical application of science. Even though the turns of organizational life are extremely complex and intangible, the knowledge and the available management theory could certainly contribute to the improvement of managerial practice. It is obvious that in management, a severe strain exists between the promises of scientific methods and the realities of practice.

Management as Art and Science

So it is obvious that management combines both science and art. According to P.F. Drucker “management is thus what tradition used to call a liberal art – “liberal” because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; “art” because it is also concerned with practice and application. Managers draw on all the knowledge and insights of the humanities and the social sciences – on psychology and philosophy, on economics and history, on ethics – as well as on the physical sciences. But they have to transform this knowledge on effectiveness and results.” The effective practice of management requires a mixture of science and art; that is, a blend of rational objectivity and intuitive insight.

Both views of management, as a science or as an art, can provide ample evidence to support their viewpoints, and they all seem correct and reasonable from their perspective. However, some people also think management is neither a science nor an art, but a political game.