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Comparative Analysis of Management Theories

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 2367 words Published: 2nd Aug 2018

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Fayol’s management functions, Mintzberg’s roles and Katz’s skills are still important for the modern day manager. Discuss.

The pivotal nature of management theory has seen various trajectories throughout the ages which has caused for discrepancies between administrative theorists who claim to possess the ‘utmost’ beneficial theorem behind the functions of business activity. As Abedi justifiably proffers; “the conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work”. The paradigm of proficient management is developing the employees and people of the organization through work, as it is this ‘unification’ of the people; to impel rather than compel; which will ultimately cause for the augmentation of the business entity as a whole. Management is the development of a bureaucracy that demands strategic planning, co-ordination, directing and controlling of complex decision-making processes (Olum). Interestingly, the foundations and heritage of contemporary management can be traced back to as far as 5000 BC; seen in ancient Sumerian records, the construction of the Egyptian pyramids and rise of the Roman Empire. Additionally, social change during the time of the industrial revolution and the work of Frederick W. Taylor, the ‘father of scientific management (Frederick Winslow Taylor)’worked to inscribe the foundations of management theory. This antiquated legacy of management provided Henri Fayol (1916), Henry Mintzberg (1973) and Robert Katz (1955) the knowledge to construct their individual approaches to management. Indeed, Fayol’s management functions, Mintzberg’s roles and Katz’s skills are still important for the modern day manager; however, it would be naïve for a manager to espouse a particular management theorem due to the changing nature of society and the global economy, but rather to acquire the knowledge of a multitude of theorems and work to manipulate them to suit their individual requirements and business circumstances. Thus, contemporary managerial theory is central to modern managers engineering complex organizations, as it cultivates in the rapid contingency of today’s changing economy.

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Henri Fayol (1841-1925), first established the functional approach to management in the early 20th century (Drucker). Fayol outlined the five key functions of management in his treatise, ‘General and Industrial Management’, which typified a ‘superior’ approach to management thinking. Fayol’s five functions were collectively to forecast – ‘prevoyance’, organize, command, coordinate and to control the business entity – these functions are still relevant to the roles and actions of the modern day manager. During the 1920’s, Henri Fayol earned the title of being ‘the father of management’ (Mote), as scientific management principles were displaced by the classical management school of thought. Classical management emphasized the identification of universal principles of management which, if adhered to, would lead to organizational success (Mote). These universal principles systematically created two broad categories being the identification of business functions and the structuring of organizations and management of employees. In addition to Fayol’s acknowledged ‘five functions’ of management, he also established 14 principles of management. The legacy of these principles continues to influence modern management theory. Interestingly, Wren (1994:193) stated;

“Fayol’s elements of management provided the modern conceptualization of a management process; his principles were lighthouses to managerial action”.

Fayol’s model for the functional approach to management was design was the coal-mining business he owned and managed. At that time, the coal mining company was a large business in the early 20th century; however, in today’s age would have been considered fairly small (Drucker). This idea of functional organization is still, arguably the best way to structure in particular a small manufacturing business. In the same fashion, and arguably the precedent of functionalism, is its ‘clarity’ and ‘stability’. Therefore, his approach to management through functionalism performs exceedingly well for the simplistic kind of business it was designed for. However, the functional model does not possess the performance capabilities needed to deal with anything more dynamic or complex – a crucial factor in demand from the modern day manager. Additionally, Fayol’s functional principle leaves little scope for innovation and is thus, inadequate when working to develop, test and prepare employees. Peter Drucker, author of the book ‘Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Management’, importantly outlined that;

“In businesses that exceed Fayol’s model, in size, in complexity, in innovative scope, functional design should be used only as one principle and never as the principle” (Drucker).

Finally, functionalism is immensely uneconomical, which is the result of its rigid design – nowadays, the development of a business even to a mere moderate size, will cause for friction to build and end up being costly and resource inefficient. Thus, Henri Fayol’s principles of functionalism is an excellent approach for a small business, and especially small manufacturing business like Fayol’s own, however the idea of functionalism on its own, is not a practical approach for a business exceeding Fayol’s model and it was not until Mintzberg’s roles that sought a new trajectory in the field of management theory.

The pivotal nature of management theory sought a new direction in the early 1970’s as experts began to question the rigidity of Fayol’s fundamental principles. Henry Mintzberg argued that Fayol’s principles of management did not embody the turbulent nature of managerial work. In contrast to Fayol’s systematic perspective on management theory, Mintzberg conducted empirical research, which involved observing and analyzing the activities of CEOs from five private and semi-public organizations (Ten Managerial Roles). Mintzberg composed his studies on ‘real word’ business managers as opposed to Fayol, who consolidated his managerial principles through the study of organizational structure. Additionally, Mintzberg identified ten separate managerial activities that fall into three categories: interpersonal, information processing and decision making (Chapter 9: Marketing Information Systems). Mintzberg’s empirical research on the ‘nature of managerial work (Ten Managerial Roles)’, typified several flaws from Fayol’s management functions. Mintzberg wrote;

“…the pressures of the job drive the manager to take on too much work, encourage interruption, respond quickly to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, make decisions in small increments, and do everything abruptly. (Mintzberg)”

Mintzberg realized the changing world that confronted the modern day managers which worked to consolidate his strategic approach towards management. Interestingly, Mintzberg expressed that effective managers must be proficient at responding to numerous and varying problems without responding too abruptly, and working the tangible information into a comprehensive picture (Mintzberg). Mintzberg furthered this approach through stressing the importance of a ‘broad picture’;

“the manager is challenged to deal consciously with the pressures of superficiality by giving serious attention to the issues that require it, by stepping back in order to see a broad picture, and by making use of analytical inputs.” (Mintzberg)

Finally, Mintzberg found that although individual capabilities influence the implementation of a role, it is the organization that determines the need for a particular role, addressing the common belief that it predominantly a manager’s skill set that determines success. Effective managers develop protocols for action given their job description and personal preference, and match these with the situation at hand.

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In 1974, Robert L. Katz proffered the importance of skill amongst all administration. Katz stressed the importance of skill under varying conditions; ‘a skill implies an ability which can be developed, not necessarily inborn, and which is manifested in performance, not merely in potential. So the principal criterion of skillfulness must be effective action under varying conditions’ (L.Katz, 1974). Additionally, Katz advanced this broad notion of ‘skill’ and concluded that effective administration depends on three basic skills, categorized as ‘technical skill, human skill and conceptual skill’. First of all, Katz studied the notion of technical skill, in which the manager must possess an adequate magnitude of technical skill in order to master the mechanics of the particular job for which he will be culpable. Secondly, is the idea of human skill; in which it is essential for the manager to work cogently as a group member whilst being collegial within the organization he is leading. Finally, Katz stressed the idea of Conceptual skill, being the ability to visualize the enterprise as a whole (L.Katz, 1974). Sound conceptual skill enables manager’s to decipher the consequences of change in any section of the entity on other areas of the organization and how the differing functions of administration must unify and work in synchronization of one another. In fact, Katz extended the idea of conceptual skill to include a sound relationship of the individual business to external relations affecting the business entity and hence, should enable the business to achieve inclusive affluence. Interestingly, Katz wrote on the paradigm of skill, defining it as ‘an ability to translate knowledge into action’ (L.Katz, 1974), and hence, facilitate in the differentiation of these complex skills.

Additionally, the importance of the skills varies with accordance to the level of managerial responsibility. Human and conceptual skills, although important in all levels of management seem to be of greatest use in the higher levels of administration, whilst technical and human skills are most important in the lower levels. However, it is the notion of conceptual skill that becomes most important for the ‘top’ managers when working to achieve prosperity. Katz emphasized that;

“This three-skill approach emphasizes that good administrators are not necessarily born; they may be developed” (L.Katz, 1974).

The idea that good administrators may be developed rather than born is important for the modern manager as it gives managers the incentive to advance their skills in order to advance their business output. Additionally, the categorization of Katz skills, and the identification of the skills needed at the differing levels of management, provides an instrumental starting point for the training, and advance of executives (ArticlesBase). Thus, Katz skills will enable the modern day manager to achieve the optimum level of output labor and business efficiency.

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” – Paul Hawken

Paul Hawkens idea on good management is without a doubt significant to the progression of a modern manager. It is important to note, and, as mentioned earlier, management is the development of a bureaucracy that demands strategic planning, co-ordination, directing and controlling of complex decision-making processes (Olum). In essence, management is the process of designing and maintaining an environment in which individuals, working together in groups, efficiently accomplish selected aims (Koontz and Weihrich 1990, p. 4). With this in mind; and, to varying degrees, it is believed that Fayol’s management functions, Mintzberg’s roles and Katz’s skills are still of importance to the modern day management. In fact, according to Pearson’s textbook on ‘Management’, “an exceptional manager is separated from an average manager through the ‘recognition, acceptance and mastery of managing paradoxes – the ability to cope with forces that pull managers in different directions. Great managers do not avoid these tensions but embrace them, harness them and use them (Hitt, 2007)’. Management theory has seen a significant change from the classical approach, through the behavioral school and then into more recent developments in management theory with the systems approach, contingency theory, chaos theory and team building approach to management. Agreeably, each management approach contains its advantages and limitation’s, and the manager must interpret the variables before practicing the differing approaches on the business. In this manner, the dexterity of Fayol’s management functions, the influence of Mintzberg’s administrative roles and the usefulness of Katz’s skills are all of fundamental importance for modern managers and interestingly simplistic businesses still advocate Fayol’s classical approach to management. However, it is the manager who strives to convert the theory behind Fayol, Mintzberg or Katz, whilst systematically integrating the appropriate management approaches, will unquestionably increase the level of productivity within their business rather than the manager who adopts an experimental or trial and error approach to management. This will enable managers to achieve a common objective; being to create a business surplus through increased productivity.

Written by Hamish Farquhar


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