The study of management as a discipline is relatively new, especially when compared with other scientific disciplines. Yet, to truly understand current management thought, it is necessary to examine the historical links. It is best to consider not only management pioneers' management theories, but also the contextual and environmental factors that helped to clarify the developmental process behind the theories. Therefore, management pioneers may be easily placed along a historical timeline.
Using the work of Daniel Wren as a guide, the following categories are employed: (1) early management thought; (2) the scientific management era; (3) the social man era; and (4) the modern era.
Adam Smith and James Watt have been identified as the two men most responsible for destroying the old England and launching the world toward industrialization. Adam Smith brought about the revolution in economic thought and James Watt's steam engine provided cheaper power that revolutionized English commerce and industry. In doing so, they also laid the foundation for modern notions of business management theory and practice.
Adam Smith (1723–1790) was a Scottish political economist. His Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, established the "classical school" and with its publication, he became the father of "liberal economics." Smith argued that market and competition should be the regulators of economic activity and that tariff policies were destructive. The specialization of labor was the mainstay of Smith's market system. According to Smith, division of labor provided managers with the greatest opportunity for increased productivity.
James Watt (1736–1819), aided by Matthew Boulton (1728–1809), and building on the work of his predecessors, developed his first workable steam engine in 1765. Together the partners founded the engineering firm of Boulton, Watt, and Sons.
Recognized as Watt's greatest breakthrough, in 1971 he developed a steam engine with rotary, rather than the traditional up-and-down, movement. This made the engine more adaptable to factory uses as the engine replacing water wheel power for grinding grain, driving textile machines, and operating bellows for iron works.
Steam power lowered production costs, lowered prices, and expanded markets. In 1800 the sons of Boulton and Watts took over the management of the company and instituted one of the first complete applications of scientific management. In this plant there is evidence of market research, including machine layout study involving workflow, production standards, cost accounting, employee training, employee incentives, and employee welfare programs.
The division of labor, combined with the advances in technology, provided the economic rationale for the factory system. However, the factory system brought new problems for owners, managers, and society. Four management pioneers proposed solutions for coping with the pressures of the new large-scale industrial organizations. They were Robert Owens, Charles Babbage, Andrew Ure, and Charles Dupin.
Robert Owens (1771–1858) was a successful Scottish entrepreneur and a utopian socialist who sowed the first seeds of concern for the workers. He was repulsed by the working conditions and poor treatment of the workers in the factories across Scotland. Owen became a reformer. He reduced the use of child labor and used moral persuasion rather than corporal punishment in his factories. He chided his fellow factory owners for treating their equipment better than they treated their workers.
Owen deplored the evils of the division of labor and in his ideal system believed each man would do a number of different jobs switching easily from one job to another. Additionally, Owen hated the modern factory system, so he decided to revolutionize it. In 1813 he proposed a factory bill to prohibit employment of children under the age of ten and to limit hours for all children to 10 1 /2 hours per day with no night work. The bill became law six years later, but was limited to cotton mills, reduced the age limit to nine, and included no provision for inspections; therefore, the law had little impact.
Feeling frustrated in his attempts to reform Britain, Owen traveled to America in 1824. He continued on to New Harmony, Indiana, where he had purchased a large plot of land. New Harmony was the first and most famous of sixteen U.S.-based Owenite communities appearing between 1825 and 1829. None, however, lasted more than a few years as full-fledged socialist communities.
Charles Babbage (1792–1871) is known as the patron saint of operations research and management science. Babbage's scientific inventions included a mechanical calculator (his "difference engine"), a versatile computer (his "analytical engine"), and a punch-card machine. His projects never became a commercial reality; however, Babbage is considered the originator of the concepts behind the present day computer.
Babbage's most successful book, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers, described the tools and machinery used in English factories. It discussed the economic principles of manufacturing, and analyzed the operations; the skills used and suggested improved practices.
Babbage believed in the benefits of division of labor and was an advocate of profit sharing. He developed a method of observing manufacturing that is the same approach utilized today by operations analysts and consultants analyzing manufacturing operations.
Andrew Ure (1778–1857) and Charles Dupin (1784–1873) were early industrial educators. Ure provided academic training at Anderson's College in Glasgow for managers in the early factory system. He published a text in 1835 that dealt mainly with the technical problems of manufacturing in the textile industry, but also dealt with problems of managing.
Obviously pro-management, Ure advocated an "automatic plan" to provide harmony and to keep any individual worker from stopping production. He was a defender of the factory system and believed workers must recognize the benefits of mechanization and not resist its introduction.
Dupin was a French engineer and professor who pioneered industrial education in France. He is credited with having a great influence on the writings of Henri Fayol. Dupin published Discours sur le Sort Des Ouvriers, translated Discourse on the Condition of the Workers, in 1831. This manuscript included concepts such as time study and the need to balance workloads after introducing division of labor. He wrote of the need for workers to receive concise instructions and the need to discover and publish the best way to perform work with the least amount of worker energy.
Since management relied heavily on engineers for advice in the new factories, it is not surprising that associations of engineers were some of the first to examine and write about management problems. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) was founded in 1880 and was one of the first proponents of the search for scientific management.
Henry Towne, president of the Yale and Towne Manufacturing Company, began applying systematic management practices as early as 1870. In 1866 he wrote a paper, The Engineer as an Economist, that suggested that ASME become a clearinghouse for information on managerial practices, since there was no management association.
Towne also published several papers and a book, Evolution of Industrial Management, on the use of "gain sharing" to increase worker productivity. In his last book Towne contrasted the status of scientific management in 1886 and in 1921, noting the establishment of industrial management courses, and crediting Frederick Taylor as the apostle of the scientific movement.
Frederick A. Halsey was another engineer who wrote papers presented to ASME outlining his ideas about wages. He attacked the evils of profit sharing and proposed a special "premium plan" for paying workers based on time saved. Halsey proposed incentives based on past production records, including a guaranteed minimum wage and a premium for not doing work. Halsey's plan, along with Taylor's ideas on piece rates, had a major influence in the United States and Great Britain on the design of pay schemes.
Another early application of the scientific principles of management occurred when Captain Henry Metcalfe developed a system of controls that he applied to the management of the Frankford Arsenal. In 1885, Metcalfe published The Cost of Manufactures and the Administration of Workshops, Public and Private. This book is considered a pioneer work in the area of management science.
Unlike many industries, the rail-road industry forced managers to develop special ways of managing a labor force that was dispersed over a wide geographical area. Daniel McCallum (1815–1878) became general superintendent of the Erie Railroad in 1854. He developed principles of management that included discipline, division of labor, detailed job descriptions, promotion and pay based on merit, frequent and accurate reporting of worker performance, and a clearly defined chain of command.
McCallum also designed a formal organizational chart and a sophisticated information management system using the telegraph. His system and rules, however, ran afoul of the militant union and he resigned after a six-month strike. Later, McCallum successfully ran the Northern railroads during the Civil War. He also served as a management consultant for several railroads after the war.
Probably the most famous management pioneer of all is Frederick W. Taylor (1856–1915), the father of scientific management. Taylor rose from common laborer to chief engineer in six years, and completed a home study course to earn a degree in mechanical engineering in 1883.
In trying to overcome soldiering by the workers, Taylor began a scientific study of what workers ought to be able to produce. This study led to the beginnings of scientific management. Taylor used time studies to break tasks down into elementary movements, and designed complementary piece-rate incentive systems.
Taylor believed management's responsibility was in knowing what you want workers to do and then seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way. He developed many new concepts such as functional authority. In other words, Taylor proposed that all authority was based on knowledge, not position. He wrote Shop Management in 1903, became the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1906, and was a widely traveled lecturer, lecturing at Harvard from 1909 to 1914.
In 1911, Taylor published Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. Its contents would become widely accepted by managers worldwide. The book described the theory of scientific management. Scientific management was defined as methods aimed at determining the one best way for a job to be done.
During this same period organized labor waged an all-out war on Taylorism resulting in a congressional investigation. In February of 1912, however, the committee reported finding no evidence to support abuses of workers or any need for remedial legislation. Taylor did not neglect the human side of work, as often suggested. He simply emphasized the individual worker not the group. Taylor called for a revolution that would fuse the interests of labor and management into a mutually rewarding whole.
Henry Gantt (1861–1919) worked with Taylor at the Midvale Steel Company and was considered a Taylor disciple. Gantt felt the foreman should teach the workers to be industrious and cooperative which, in turn, would facilitate the acquisition of all other knowledge.
Gantt also designed graphic aids for management called Gantt charts using horizontal bars to plan and control work. Similar to Taylor, Gantt called for the scientific study of tasks, movements, working conditions, and worker cooperation. He also focused on the connection between the involvement of management and financial interests.
Frank Gilbreth (1868–1924) and Lillian Gilbreth (1878–1972) were a husband and wife team that brought many significant contributions, as well as color, to scientific management. Frank began working at age seventeen as an apprentice bricklayer, and later became a chief superintendent and independent contractor. Frank's early work parallels Taylor's and, in later years, Frank formed his own management consulting company, which was closely associated with scientific management methods.
Frank Gilbreth published a series of books describing the best way of laying bricks, handling materials, training apprentices, and improving methods while lowering costs and paying higher wages.
In 1907, Frank Gilbreth met Frederick Taylor and soon became one of Taylor's most devoted advocates. Frank turned his attention away from construction, and extended his interest in motion study (similar to Taylor's time study) to the general field of management.
In order to supplement the human eye, Gilbreth used motion picture cameras, lights, and clocks calibrated in fractions of minutes to create "micromotion" study. Gilbreth also developed a list of seventeen basic motions he called "therbligs" (Gilbreth spelled backwards) to help analyze any worker movement. Unfortunately, the partnership of Frank and Lillian came to an end in 1924 when Frank died of a heart attack. Lillian continued their work through motion study seminars and consulting, later becoming a professor of management at Purdue University (1935–1948).
Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, known as the first lady of management, played an important role in Frank's research and made many contributions of her own. Lillian pursued a degree in psychology, and in addition to her marriage and family of twelve, she assisted Frank with his work. Lillian's thesis-turned-book, The Psychology of Management, is one of the earliest contributions to understanding the human side of management.
Lillian faced many incidents of discrimination during her life, including the fact that her book could only be published if her initials were used so readers would not know she was a woman. Dr. Gilbreth's work was always more management than psychology. Her work illustrated concern for the worker and attempted to show how scientific management would benefit the individual worker, as well as the organization. Lillian wrote about reduction of worker fatigue, how to retool for disabled veteran workers returning to the workplace, and how to apply principles of scientific management to the home.
Harrington Emerson (1853–1931) was educated in Germany and symbolized a new breed of "efficiency engineers" who were bringing new methods of time and cost savings to American industry. Emerson practiced his system as general manager of the Burlington Railroad, but saw the need for applications of his system in other industries.
The Engineering Magazine published a series of articles by Emerson in 1908 and 1909 that were later issued as a single volume. To Emerson, organization was one of the greatest problems that led to inefficiency. Emerson embraced the general staff concept where each firm was to have a chief of staff and four major sub groupings of staff under him: one for employees, one for machines, one for materials, and one for methods. Staff advice was available to all levels and focused on planning.
Emerson made other contributions in the areas of cost accounting and in setting standards for judging workers and shop efficiency. In 1913, Emerson published Twelve Principles of Efficiency. This publication became a landmark in the history of management thought. Harrington Emerson achieved renown in his time and his legacy lives on today.
While Taylor, the Gilbreths, Gantt, and Emerson were working with industrial enterprises, Morris Cooke (1872–1960) was extending the gospel of efficiency in non-industrial organizations. Cooke focused his attention on educational and municipal organizations.
Cooke conducted a study of administration in educational organizations funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The resulting study was a bombshell in the academic world. Cooke's findings included, among other things, widespread use of inbreeding (hiring your own graduates), inefficient committee management, autonomous departments working against university coordination, and pay based on tenure.
In 1911, Cooke was selected as director of public works and brought scientific management to the governance of Philadelphia. In four years he saved the city over $1 million in garbage collection costs alone. Cooke wrote Our Cities Awake (1918) to put forth his case for using scientific management for better-managed municipalities.
Cooke became a close friend of Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, and tried to bring labor and management together in a time when they were becoming more antagonistic.
While the efficiency engineers studied mechanical efficiency, the industrial psychologists studied human efficiency, with the same goal in mind of improving productivity. The father of industrial psychology was Hugo Munsterberg (1863–1916). In 1892, Munsterberg established his psychological laboratory at Harvard, which was to become the foundation stone in the industrial psychology movement.
Munsterberg published Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (1913), which included theories directly related to Taylor's scientific management. The book contained three parts. Part one, the "best possible man," was a study of the demand jobs made on people, and the importance of finding people whose mental capabilities made them well-matched for the work. Part two, the "best possible work," described the psychological conditions under which the greatest output might be obtained from every worker. Part three, the "best possible effect," examined the necessity of creating the influences on human needs that were desirable for the interests of business.
Munsterberg's proposals were based on his own evidence from studies involving telephone operators, trolley drivers, and naval officers.
Walter Dill Scott (1869–1955) taught at Northwestern University from 1901 to 1920 and then served as president of the university for nineteen years. Scott was interested in employee attitudes and motivation in production and devised a system, adopted by the army, for classifying personnel and testing officer candidates. In fact, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his work.
From March 1910 till October 1911, Scott wrote a series of articles entitled The Psychology of Business later published in System magazine. These articles were based on actual business cases and represented one of the earliest applications of the principles of psychology to motivation and productivity in industry.
Two contributors to the administrative theory of management are Henri Fayol (1841–1925) and Max Weber (1864–1920). Both wrote during the scientific management era in America, but neither was accorded the full measure of his contribution until some decades after his death.
Fayol was trained as a mining engineer and became the managing director of a coal-mining and iron foundry combine. From his own experience, he formulated and wrote papers about his ideas of administrative theory as early as 1900. His first mention of the "elements" of administration came in a book published in 1916. However, America was not thoroughly exposed to Fayol's theory until the book was translated in 1949 and entitled General and Industrial Management.
Fayol identified the major elements or functions of management as planning, organization, command, coordination, and control. Planning and organization received the majority of his attention in his writings. Fayol believed that management could be taught, that managerial ability was sorely needed as one moved up the ladder, and that management was a separate activity applicable to all types of undertakings.
Fayol's fourteen principles of management included: division of labor, authority, discipline, unity of command, unity of direction, subordination of individual interests to the general interest, remuneration, centralization, scalar chain, order, equity, stability of tenure of personnel, initiative, and espirit de corps (morale).
The work of Max Weber (1864–1920) runs chronologically parallel to that of Fayol and Taylor. Weber was a German intellectual with interests in sociology, religion, economics, and political science. He was a professor, editor, government consultant, and author. Weber used the concept of "bureaucracy" as an ideal organizational arrangement for the administration of large-scale organizations. His work was not translated into English until 1947.
Weber's concept of the best administrative system was actually similar to Taylor's. Some of Weber's essential elements included division of labor, and chain of command. He also believed that selection should be based on technical qualifications, officials'/managers' appointments should be based on qualifications, managers should not be owners, and impersonal and uniform rules should be applied.
Peter Drucker (b. 1909) made an enduring contribution to understanding the role of manager in a business society. Unlike the previous Fayolian process texts, Drucker developed three broader managerial functions: (1) managing a business; (2) managing managers; and (3) managing workers and work. He proposed that in every decision the manager must put economic considerations first. Drucker recognized that there may be other non-economic consequences of managerial decision, but that the emphasis should still be placed on economic performance.
The behavioral school of management thought began late in the scientific management era, but did not achieve large-scale recognition until the 1930s. The real catalyst for the emergence of the behavioral school was a series of research studies conducted at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric between 1924 and 1932. This research became known as the Hawthorne experiments.
Elton Mayo (1880–1949) joined the Harvard faculty in 1926 as associate professor of industrial research, and two years later was asked to work with Western Electric, as part of the Harvard research group, to continue the Hawthorne studies.
Mayo was intrigued by the initial results of the early illumination studies that showed output had increased upon changes in illumination—either brighter or darker—but no one knew why. Mayo believed the increased output came from a change in mental attitude in the group as the workers developed into a social unit.
Other experiments included the piecework experiment, the interviewing program, and the bank wiring room experiments. From these experiments the Mayoists concluded that employees have social needs as well as physical needs, and managers need a mix of managerial skills that include human relations skills.
Another contributor to the behavioral school of thought was Mary Parker Follett. Follett (1868–1933) was trained in philosophy and political science, and became interested in vocational guidance and the emerging field of social psychology. She had an international reputation as a political philosopher and in 1924 published Creative Experience, a book that was widely read by businessmen of the day.
Follett advocated a business philosophy that embraced integration as a way to reduce conflict without compromise or domination. She also proposed the "law of the situation," where parties agree to take their orders from the situation instead from an individual.
Another facet of her philosophy focused on coordination as a fundamental principle of organization. Follett believed the primary leadership task was to define the purpose of the organization and integrate that purpose with individual and group purposes. In other words, she thought that organizations should be based on a group ethic rather than individualism. Thus, managers and employees should view themselves as partners rather than adversaries.
Chester Barnard (1886–1961) was a self-made scholar who attended Harvard on a scholarship, but never graduated because he lacked a laboratory science course. He joined the AT&T system in 1909 and became the president of New Jersey Bell in 1927.
Barnard's best known work, The Functions of the Executive (1938), was a collection of eight lectures in which he described a theory of organizations in order to stimulate others to examine the nature of cooperative systems. Looking at the disparity between personal and organizational motives, Barnard described an "effective-efficient" dichotomy.
According to Barnard, effectiveness deals with goal achievement, and efficiency is the degree to which individual motives are satisfied. He viewed formal organizations as integrated systems where cooperation, common purpose, and communication are universal elements, whereas the informal organization provides communication, cohesiveness and maintenance of feelings of self-worth. Barnard also developed the "acceptance theory of authority" based on his idea that bosses only have authority if subordinates accept that authority.
A quality revolution swept through the business sector during the latter part of the twentieth century. The universal term used to describe this phenomenon was "total quality management" or TQM. This revolution was led by a small group of quality gurus, the most well-known were W. Edwards Deming (1900–1993) and Joseph Juran (b. 1904).
Deming, an American, is considered to be the father of quality control in Japan. In fact, Deming suggested that most quality problems are not the fault of employees, but the system. He emphasized the importance of improving quality by suggesting a five-step chain reaction. This theory proposes that when quality is improved, (1) costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, and better use of time and materials; (2) productivity
improves; (3) market share increases with better quality and prices; (4) the company increases profitability and stays in business; and (5) the number of jobs increases. Deming developed a 14-point plan to summarize his teachings on quality improvement. These fourteen points are listed in Table 1.
Joseph Juran's experience led him to conclude that more than 80 percent of all quality defects are caused by factors within management's control. He referred to this as the "Pareto principle." From this theory, he developed a management trilogy that included quality planning, control, and improvement. Juran suggested that an area be selected which has experience chronic quality problems. It should be analyzed, and then a solution is generated and finally implemented.
The quality work of Joseph Juran and W. Edwards Deming changed the way people looked at business.
The following group of individuals have proven themselves to be great teachers and intellectual leaders in matters of fundamental concern to management history. Their leadership and research have contributed greatly to our understanding of the evolution of management.
Arthur Bedeian, a management professor at Louisiana State University, is a management historian with universal interests. He has written on a variety of management-related topics, many of which fall within the area of management history. Bedeian has made several significant contributions to management history. These include his research into specific areas of inquiry such as scientific management and his bibliographic investigations and memoriams. However, perhaps his most important contribution to the field is his editorship of the four volumes of the Management Laureates: A Collection of Autobiographical Essays.
Alfred Bolton was born in Canada in 1926. At the age of fifty-four, he began work on his doctorate at Nova University. It was during this time that he developed an interest in management history. His most significant contribution to the body of management history knowledge is his work with Ron Greenwood regarding the Hawthorne study participants. The work resulting from this collaborative effort has provided a unique glimpse into the groundbreaking experiments at Western Electric.
Daniel Wren (b. 1932) is considered one of the leading authorities on the history of management thought. He is one of the most prolific writers in this field. His textbook, The Evolution of Management Thought, focuses on describing management history by providing a conceptual framework for understanding the evolution of management. Both his research and teaching in this area have led many to consider Wren as one of the management history gurus of the twentieth century.
Revised by Patricia A. Lanier
Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000.
Duncan, W. Jack. Great Ideas in Management: Lessons from the Founders and Foundations of Managerial Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1989.
Gazell, J.A. "Drucker on Effective Public Management." Journal of Management History 6, no. 1 (2000): 48–62.
Gibson, Jane Whitney, Richard M. Hodgetts, and Jorge M. Herrer. "Management History Gurus of the 1990s: Their Lives, Their Contributions." Journal of Management History 5, no. 6 (1999): 380–397.
Lewis, P.S., S. H. Goodman, and P.M. Fandt. Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders. Cincinnati, OH: Thompson South-Western, 2005.
Robbins, Stephen R., and David A. DeCenzo. Fundamentals of Management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.
Spigener, J.B. "What Would Deming Say?" Quality Progress 34, no. 3 (2001): 61–64.
Wrege, Charles D., Ronald G. Greenwood, and R. Greenwood. "A New Method Of Discovering Primary Management History: Two Examples Where 'Little Things Mean A Lot.'" Journal of Management History 3, no. 1 (1997): 59–92.
Wren, Daniel A. The Evolution of Management Thought. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.
Wren, Daniel A., Arthur G. Bedeian, and J.D. Breeze. "The Foundations of Henri Fayol's Administrative Theory." Management Decision 40, no. 9 (2002): 906–918.
Wren, Daniel A., and Ronald G. Greenwood. Management Innovators. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998.