The Meaning of Management

By |2021-07-20T12:41:17+10:00June 30th, 2021|Categories: General, Managing Change|

The Meaning of Management

What does management mean to you? What did it mean in the past and how has it changed over time?

Social Change

Before the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700’s, most people lived and worked in small communities. The corporations or government enterprises we are familiar with today did not exist at that time. Hence, managing people and workload was not so complicated a matter.

However, industrialisation saw the establishment of many large enterprises (such as cotton mills, mining, railways, and international shipping). Most of these businesses relied on steam powered machines, which were the latest technology at the time. They also required a large workforce to operate these machines. So, there was a massive relocation of people from rural areas to the industrial cities. The age of big business had dawned. And with that dawning, how to manage people and workload became an important issue.

Management Becomes a ‘Thing’

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most people were employed as farm workers or in small businesses. There were not many large-scale employers at that time; but there was one – the military. So, it’s not surprising that the new enterprises turned to the military for inspiration.

The military managed thousands of soldiers; providing training, discipline, and structure to people and workload. So, following this model, managing businesses at that time looked a lot like a military operation. It was hierarchical, obedience was expected, roles were defined, and there was a clear chain of command.

But as the Industrial era progressed into the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the world was changing quickly. The hard sciences were flowering, new technologies were emerging, and people were beginning to apply scientific methods to social contexts.

One of these social contexts was management. These thinkers were not military men but academics and engineers. Three names are associated with the emergence of ‘Classical Management Theory’. These people are Max Weber, Frederick Taylor, and Henri Fayol.

If you’re interested to learn more about these people and their ideas, you can easily find information online. Here we need only to state their broad ideas. These are:

  • Management should take the form of a bureaucracy – it’s not about relationships; it’s about business,
  • Workload and processes should be developed along ‘scientific’ grounds – there should be evidence supporting the best way to do things,
  • Managers must do clearly identified and important administrative tasks and follow set principles.

This summary simplifies the contributions of these people, but the principles they advocate reflect the thinking at the time. There was that slow emergence from a military model of management, so it’s not surprising that the