Management in Antiquity and Development of Management Theories

Management has moved a great distance along the continuum of development. The journey began at the very beginning of human civilization and even before that. Today, as an area of knowledge, management has a unique position that its influence is felt in all activities of our life. In this post we will see the Management’s practice in Ancient times and its journey to the modern theories.

Management in Antiquity

The need for the systematic study of management was not realized till the beginning of the 20th  century and the study of management as a distinct discipline is a product of the twentieth century. However; management practice in some forms did exist among human in early generations. Actually “Management” is as old as human civilization itself. But the need of studying management and developing the theories is relatively new.

We can see management or management methods are being using in the history of many great civilizations. The Egyptians applied the management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling to construct the pyramids. Alexander, the great; employed staffs to organize and co-ordinate activities during the military campaign. The Roman Empire developed a well-defined organizational structure that greatly aided communication and control. Management practices and concepts were discussed by Socrates in 400 B.C. Plato described job specialization in 350 B.C. and Al-farabi listed several leadership traits in 900 A.D.

In addition to this, management thoughts have come from the Roman Catholic Church, military organizations and “Cameralists” of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. These contributions centered on the fields of principles of specialization, selection and training of subordinates and effective use of staff in the performance of major activities.

During 3000 B.C. to 150 A.D many civilization contribute to development of the human society to today we know. Management is no doubt a part of society, its universal in society. Let’s see in brief what the great civilizations from past contributed in management;

  • Sumerians civilization introduced written rules and regulations for governance.
  • Egyptians used management practices to construct pyramids.
  • Babylonians used extensive set of laws and policies for governance.
  • Different governing systems for cities and states were used by the Greeks.
  • Chinese civilization made organization structure for communication and control.
  • Romans are the one to use extensive organization structure for government agencies and the arts.
  • Venetians used organization design and planning concepts to control the seas. Although the management function was practiced thousands of years.
But management was never considered as an important field of study for several centuries. Earlier management functions were centered around political activities leading to expansion of empire and its maintenance. The Roman Empire was for example, essentially a governmental organization and had unlimited power of taxation. But it was not interested in maximizing sales or minimizing cost.

Business management was then practically absent because, in the early days, there was hardly a large business organization until 18th century when family business, first emerged. In the later periods of 19th century, a few people began to concern themselves with business management. The pioneers in this respect are James Watt, Mathew R. Boulton, Robert Owen and Charles Babbage. The real development of management as a science was the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his associates during the Scientific Management movement that developed around 1900.

Reasons for Late Development of Management Thoughts

The basic reasons for slow development of management thought and practice are:
  • Non-recognition of business as an occupation until recently.
  • Management was not considered as a subject worthy of theoretical analysis by well-known economists.
  • A wrong notion about the concept of management that 'managers are born and not made.
  • Even businessmen did not develop a body of principles to guide management practice.
  • Failure to treat management as a science and not merely an art by economists, psychologists and sociologists.
The development of management theory has been noteworthy only in the past eight decades. The main reasons were for this; attainment of an effective enterprise system, proper handling of human factor was essential. Labor unrest at industries, trade union, manipulation of resources and the attack by government and other social groups on free private enterprises played an instrumental part in forcing managers to examine the nature of their job.

The Second World War and the subsequent defiance and space programs also contributed to the development of management theories. Most of the theories emphasized upon the best use of limited resources to accomplish the goals. The changing commercial environment, increasing complexities of business activities, regional integration and strategic alliances and also growing competition further provided the force for developing of the management concepts and principles. In addition to this, enterprises have been faced with the problem of cost-price squeezes. Businesses which failed to use modern techniques of management were not in a position to cope up with this problem.
 

The evolution and growth of management thought, theories and principles can be divided into three well-defined channels. These are:
  • Investigation of shop level and workshop efficiency and industrial productivity: The pioneer in this field was F. W. Taylor in the USA.
  • Developing management as a body of organized knowledge, Systematic principles and conduct of universal applicability in industry, office and administration. The undoubted leader in this field was C. I. Barnerd and Henri Fayol in France.
  • The third branch devoted itself to the study of the behavioral part of management and the control and motivation of the human resources for securing sustained and high level efficiency. This aspect of management shot into prominence with the now famous Hawthorne Experiments during the 1930s. The pioneer in this field was Mary Parker Follett who was working in the U.S.A. during 1920s—long before the Hawthorne experiments were being conducted by Elton Mayo.

Development of Modern Management Theories

Both theory and history of management are useful for practicing manager. Theories help us by organizing information and providing a systematic framework for action. A theory is also works as a blue print or a road map for guiding the manager towards achieving goals. The history of management theories can help a manager to be aware of the many insights, ideas and scientific underpinnings that have gone into the making of modern management and the burgeoning of writings on management at the present day.

We have already seen that although the practice of management started when man first attempted to accomplish goals by working together in groups, the systematic study of management began at the age of the Industrial Revolution which ushered in a new era of serious thinking and theorizing the management. At this stage it is considered important and worthwhile to have some knowledge of the background of the evolution of modern management thought, for then the growth of modem thinking on management can be appreciated as the fruit of a long-going historical process and development.

For the beginning there is no single universally accepted or practiced management theory. Because management is not a knowledge body like physics, chemistry.

The wild array of management theories could even look like a “jungle” as Koontz says. However, to help put the different theories in perspective, we shall discuss them as representing different schools of management thought.

The present status of management is not a sudden attainment. It has come through a process of evolution when a lot of changes have occurred in the nature and approaches and even in the understanding of management. In fact a host of scholars from various disciplines have profusely contributed towards the development of this discipline. It has reached its position through the efforts of men working on its behalf over centuries. It stands tall because it stands on the shoulders of past theoreticians and scholars of various fields. In the contemporary arena of management, every manager faces the challenges of the globalization of business, the importance of quality and productivity, ownership issues, ethics and social responsibility, workforce diversity, change, and improvement.

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