Management as defined by Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich is the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals, working together in groups, efficiently accomplish selected aims. The main managerial functions are planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling.
The major aim of all mangers is to create surplus, which must be done efficiently and effectively. This surplus in business organizations is profit, in non-profit organizations is satisfaction of needs (creating the desired impact), schools and colleges create a surplus through generation and dissemination of knowledge as well as providing service to the community.
Koontz and Weihrich define an organization as a group of people working together to achieve common goals. A modern organization is very dynamic and flexible in its operation and focuses.
Theories are very important as they provide the basis for all other theories of management. The key proponents of classical theories include; Henri Fayol (1841-1925), Fredrick Taylor (1856-1915), Max-Weber (1864-1920). Three well established theories of Classical Management are Scientific Management Theory, Administrative Theory and Bureaucratic Theory.
The fact that the goal of modern organizations is not any different from the views and ideas laid down by these theorists, proves that the classical theories are still applicable in management of these modern organizations except the extent of applicability varies from one component to another. This therefore means they need to be examined separately.
For the purpose of this essay, the classical theories of management are broadly discussed in relation to most modern organizations with specific reference to the Non-profit organization I work for-Action Africa Help International(AAH-I) which is an African based organization with country programs in 7 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. Its main focus is on health, livelihoods and logistics support for refugee programs.
Fredrick W. Taylor’s primary goal was to increase worker efficiency by scientifically designing jobs, believing that there was one particular way to best perform tasks and this “way” be discovered and operationalized. Fredrick Taylor’s scientific theory of management assumes managers and employees as highly rational in a highly structured, specialized, standardized and production-oriented organization to achieve efficiency by cutting waste (Kreitner, 1999). Taylor developed 4 principles of scientific management to increase efficiency and these included:
1. Develop the “science of work”. This involves a scientific study of tasks carried out in order to develop work methods that can be adopted for use through analyzing every basic movement involved and timing each of these motions in various ways to come up with the the quickest and easiest method. The science of work principle applies to precise, routine, and standardized work environments like factories. Today, an increasing range of public services and non-profit organizations are information-and knowledge-based. The quality and the nature of the service depend on the accumulated knowledge and know-how of the worker providing it (Nhema, 2015). For example in AAH-I the method one mechanic will employ and time spent in servicing and repair of a vehicle with similar mechanical problems isn’t exactly the same another will, what matters is that the job gets done at the end of the day.
2. Workers should be scientifically selected and trained and their performance monitored in order to ensure they are performing tasks according to the adopted scientific methods. Taylor adds here that the workers shouldn’t be left on their own but rather keenly observed to ensure they perform tasks according to the adopted scientific way. Today elaborate recruitment procedures and trainings are conducted for employees upon entry and for old staff based on their training needs. For example in AAH-I candidates undergo written tests after being shortlisted through a rigorous exercise based on their suitability as portrayed by the resumes, thereafter a few who pass the written test are invited for oral interviews. The results of which are reviewed and discussed by the panel before they decide on the best fit for a particular role. The candidate who accepts the offer and reports to duty then goes through an induction process before being deployed. This shows the relevance of the second principle above except for the fact that modern organizations do not have any room for micromanaging as Taylor would have wanted, most if not all organizations are seeking employees who deliver under minimal supervision. In AAH-I what happens is that there is bi annual performance appraisal exercises which help in performance improvement but not having managers (supervisors) watch staff like a hawk.
3. Science of work should be matched with scientifically selected and trained workers to get maximum results. Payment and reward should be linked to the productivity of each worker.
4. Tasks and responsibilities should be equally divided between the workers and the management such that managers can apply established scientific methods and processes of production whereas the workers perform the job according to the established procedures to complete task efficiently and effectively. (Mahmood, Basharat, & Bashir, 2012) This implies that mangers should be mainly concerned with thinking for the organization while the lower level staff do the actual job. This still applies today particularly in AAH-I where every Monday morning is a management meeting where the previous week is reviewed and certain decisions that need to be taken are discussed and passed, the action points from this meeting are produced and shared with responsible staff to take the necessary action and this is reported to the next meeting by the sector heads. However, there is over time being considered inadequate as most staff feel their voice isn’t sufficiently represented.
Administrative Management Theory was developed by Henri Fayol in 1916. Fayol was a senior manager and developed this theory on his personal experience. This theory is about business management as well as general management. Its main focus is management. He proposed six functions that includes forecasting, planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and monitoring and fourteen principles of management as Division of labour, Authority, Discipline, Unity of command, Unity of direction, Subordination of individual interests to the common good, Remuneration, Centralization, Scalar chain of Command, Order, Equity, Stability of tenure, Initiative and Morale. (Nhema, 2015)
These functions and principles were aimed at improving organizational efficiency, handling of people and appropriate management action. Fayol’s ideas more than any other scholar’s seems to remain more applicable in modern organizations as expounded below:
Division of Labour: he believed that allocating labour to specific tasks helped employees become more specialized in their field which resulted in skills improvement and efficiency. This is evident in the way today’s organizations are divided into departments. In AAH-I for example we have Finance and Administration, Programs, Procurement, Workshop, Warehouse and Operations where staff with specific skills work under each of these departments.
Authority: he advocated authority and the right to give orders to subordinates, this is still practiced today as authority is vested in managers, much as organizations today are becoming more liberal.
Discipline: employees are expected to respect the organizations rules and code of conduct, this is a principle that still applies for example in AAH-I new employees are given the code of conduct and a number of policies to read and sign their acceptance to adhere to them before being taken on board and there are penalties that are met to those who breach these rules and regulations.
Initiative: Fayol proposed that employees should be encouraged to take initiative as long as they adhere to the bounds of authority and discipline. Today everybody wants to hire an employee who can take initiative such that work flows with minimal effort from managers.
We could have examined all the principles one by one and still agree that almost all are applicable in today’s organizations therefore it can be said that Fayol was a philosopher way ahead of his time as nearly all his proposals retain great relevance for today’s organizations.
Proposed by a German Sociologist Karl Emil Maximilian known as “Max Weber” the bureaucratic theory of management is also referred to as Weber’s Theory of Bureaucracy. The two previous theories of Fayol and Taylor concentrated on processes, whereas Weber’s focus is on administrative structure. He believes that workers should respect the right of the managers to direct activities dictated by the organizational rules and regulations. (Mahmood, Basharat, & Bashir, 2012)
To show the theory’s relevance to today’s organizations, let’s examine 5 features of the theory as expounded below. (Nhema, 2015)
1. Administrative Class:
Bureaucratic organizations generally have administrative class responsible for maintaining coordinative activities of the members. Staff are paid and are full time employees, salary and other allowances are normally based on their positions, tenure is determined by the rules and regulations of the organization, they do not have any proprietary interest in the organization and selection for employment is based on competence. All these are being practiced today for instance in AAH-I like earlier discussed, staff are selected on merit and they are expected to agree to adhere to the rules and regulations else face disciplinary action including dismissal for grave offences. All staff are paid a certain remuneration except not all staff are full time, we have casual laborers who are paid per day worked and aren’t entitled to paid leave.
Various positions are ranked in descending scale from top to bottom of the organization. Each lower office is subject to control and supervision by higher office. This hierarchy serves as lines of communication and delegation of authority. In AAH-I every staff reports to a particular person in a higher office much as s/he could liaise with so many others in technically performing his/her duties. Even the highest office of the Executive director reports to the International Board of directors.
3. Division of Work:
Work of the organization is divided on the basis of specialization to take the advantages of division of labour. Each office has specific sphere of competence. In AAH-I this applied by issuing each position a job description to ensure each staff has specific roles to play. However this theory seems rigid and lacking for organizations like AAH-I that are emphasizing the need for multi-tasking where employees who have other competences outside their preferred career disciplines.
5. Impersonal Relationships:
Relationships among individuals are governed through the system of official authority and rules. Official positions are free from personal involvement, emotions and sentiments. Thus, decisions are governed by rational factors rather than personal factors. This impersonality concept is to some extent is applicable in my workplace as it’s always emphasized to separate work from personal issues but whether this is achievable is left to debate as many times its evident decisions taken have some subjectivity in it.
6. Official Record:
Maintenance of proper official records such as decisions and activities of the organization are formally recorded and preserved for future reference. This is very much practiced in AAH-I where every department makes extensive use of filling system both physical and manual.
One of the most important human activities is managing. Ever since people began forming groups to accomplish aims they could not achieve as individuals, managing has been essential to ensure the coordination of individual efforts. The classical theorists mainly sought to connect the main management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling to improving an organization’s efficiency and productivity. They may have used different language and disguised their ideas in diverse terminologies but they were all working towards one common goal of increasing the efficiency and productivity of an organization. From all the above discussion it’s clear that these theories are still very much applicable in today’s organizations except for the fact some of the ideas and principles present rigidity, impersonality, excessive cost of control, excessive dependence on superiors which almost have no place in management of today’s organizations.
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