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What can we learn about management today from examining its historical foundations? Essay

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Updated: Jan 21st, 2020


In this essay, I will present an argument that examines the anal history of management and how it assists in comprehending today’s management practices within organizations.

This paper presents and suggests two key ways in its analysis. My first argument gives an in-depth historical understanding and development of theories in all eras and succinct correlation with the present management practices.

My second analysis connects common practices and challenges in the present day management. The essay will particularly focus its discussion on current and past cohesive challenges within organizations.

The argument will present a brief history of management, including a number of theories which have been developed. I will apply (Wren, p.61) and (Jaffee, 2001) to present the chronology of events as they happened.

The second level of this essay will draw a number of connections between various stages of management and theories. I will discuss, in details, how recent development in this field has assisted in answering and addressing challenges faced by the previous practices.

These arguments are drawn from (Evans & Lindsay, p.34) and (Millar, p.75). In my final section, I present an argument on how these theories deal with the issue of cohesion in work places.

Finally, I will draw my conclusion by summarizing various issues discussed in the paper with keen consideration on one of the subjects ruminated as core in this essay. I will consider a long historical understanding in the issue of cohesion and conflicts and how it can negatively impact the performance within an organization.

The paper addresses and suggests some of the ways which organizations can apply to reduce incidences of chaos and bring a sound environment within organizations.

According to (Knights & Roberts, p.132), Management, which is defined as getting various chores handled by people, is a very important subject for the success of most organizations.

Various managerial practices adopted by businesses usually dictate their success and expected revenues.

Management involves optimization of human resource in as far as material and financial contributions to the organizations’ set goals and objectives are concerned. It is the wish of every firm’s wish to increase its revenue and therefore proper management is a key tool.

History of management can be traced to 5000 BC when the Sumerians, the first areas to be civilized, started adopting record keeping. (Jaffee, p.89) They influenced the adoption of planning, organizing and written request within organizations.

Various inventions then followed. These include: controls and written documents by the Hammurabi in 1800BC, wage incentives and production control by the Nebuchadnezzar in the 600 BC, strategy development by the Sun Tzu during 500 BC, adoption of management as a separate art by the Xenophon and study of human and motion study during the 400 BC.

In 175 the Cato developed job descriptions while the Diocletian came up with delegation of authority in 284.

The Alfarabi listed leadership traits in 900 while the Ghazali listed managerial skills in 1100. 1418 marked the climax with the Barbrigo adopting and practicing different organizational forms/structures (Millar, p.18).

These developments ignited the development of theories as discussed below.

Scientific Management Theory

Between 1890 and 1940, only large and industrialized companies could be noted. They were mainly involved in manufacturing of various products. As the demand of their products increased, there was a need to come up with a model that could measure all organizational tasks.

Fredrick Taylor developed this theory to address the concerns. The theory proposed various mechanisms of measuring and standardizing various organizational tasks. (Thompson &McHugh, p.76)

Bureaucratic Management Theory

This theory was developed by Max Weber who advanced Taylor’s. Max Webber emphasized on hierarchies that defined reporting channels necessary for the smooth running within organizations.

According to (Waddell & George p.136) the theory explains that the need for the organizations to identify various procedures to promote cohesion within the organization.

Human Relations Movement theory

The above theory ignited the workers union to react to the poor treatments they were facing. The theory proposed creation of departments to handle the concerns of the employees.

The department provided a strong role in understanding the needs of the clientele vis-à-vis those of the company. A myriad of theories were developed as a result of these findings.

Despite the development of these theories most organizations still face the problem of conflicts. Therefore, there is a need to identify some proper mechanisms to address this.(Bateman & Snell p.29)

Contingency theory

This theory stresses the need for the management to focus on current affairs when making decisions. It suggests adoption of diverse customized management styles.

For instance, a leader within a hospital setting or a learning institution may apply a participative and a facilitative leadership style whereas a troop’s leader within Persian Gulf would apply an autocratic style. (Cooke, p.57)

Systems theory

This theory looks at management as a system which has got interrelated parts which cannot operate in isolation. (Klein, p.115) A system has got inputs, internal process, outputs and outcome.

This theory can be a relevant tool applied by educators, managers and writers in giving a broader view of the organizations’ performance. It gives an in-depth understanding of the events and patterns within the work place.

The theory appreciates various inter-relations within the organization. This was a major development in the field of management as compared to the past when management only focused on one part of the system.

Therefore, synchronization within the organization was challenging despite good results from specific departments.

Chaos theory

Chaos appear to be common everywhere and has therefore affected the operations within organizations and are rarely controlled. (Cooke, p.87) Chaos theory advanced the opinions of the system theorists.

The theory advances that the organization’s complexity rises as it experiences expansion. As this happens, it is likely to be susceptible to collapse, leading to conflicts and tensions between the employees and the employer.

The chronology of events reiterates the importance of management as a subject from 5000 BC. As explained, management has undergone various stages which I believe have enhanced operations within the organizations.

When Sumerians invented record keeping, efficiency and accuracy in data and records management improved. One wonders how various businesses operated without record keeping.

It has since been enhanced with the introduction of computerized technology. Various professionals have developed systems which can handle the records electronically.

With the advent of technology, it is possible to hire a freelancer in another country to handle the assignment.

Planning and events organization became more important as various firms expanded and went scientific. As explained in the scientific theory, planning within organizations was enhanced.

With the expansion of the organizations, it was necessary to adopt more succinct planning methods to enhance the level of cohesion which was going on. This stage of development and theory formulation has played a vital role within organization’s management.

One of the key principles within management is planning and without which the organization’s achievements and goals cannot be realized. (Cummings et al p.167)

Bureaucratic management theory was a key step towards adopting and ensuring controls within organizations. (Klein, p.74) Previously, there used to be a lot of mismanagement, with no mechanisms to deal with the issue of employees’ grievances.

I believe Marx Webber’s theory assisted in developing various hierarchies which assisted the understanding of this subject. For instance, the horizontal and the vertical reporting levels were perceived to be of help in knowing where to report an incidence.

I strongly suggest that this stage in history cognate with the theory still assists a number of companies to ensure that structured bureaucratic controls are followed.

No one can deny that wage controls have been an issue within the work force for so many years. Previously, employees’ unions could demand for any pay hike, without considering their inputs to the organization.

(Waddell et al, p.113), as companies yearned to ensure employees get good wages, they could not forget that the main reason for being in business is to make profit. Therefore, a more unified mechanism that assisted in the understanding between the union’s officials and the company was ideal.

The adoption of human resource movement theory was important as it ensured that besides respecting human capital, it was necessary to give organizations room to make profits.

The leadership traits conjoined with managerial skills explains why a good manager should keenly look at the current situations within the organization’s setting.

This stage of development is arguably very important, as success of organizations is defined by their financial quagmire and economic status. For example, during the internet bubbles, companies could only survive collapse by being focused and predictive.

The understanding that an organization should operate like a system is unarguably a concept that has been applicable to date since its inception. This relates to the stage in managerial skills where various roles were developed.

Before its inception, most people within the organizations could not decide on their specific duties. It is necessary that organizations operate as a unit. I believe one of the key reasons behind the fall of an organization is failure to adopt key practices.

For instance, a critical look at the collapse of Lehman investment bank during the economic recession in 2007/2008 reveals that poor coordination between the management and the auditor (Ernest and Young Auditors) was responsible for its collapse.

Though some observers have questioned the role played by the government and other stakeholders.

One of the serious problems which a number of organizations faced was the issue of constant conflicts; there was no cohesion. (Thompson & McHugh, p.119) Either communication was disjointed or the system was non operational.

There was a constant conflict between employees and the employer; employees wanted a constant pay hike while the employer’s goal was to increase the company’s profit.

These conflicts interfered with the performance within organizations, therefore igniting a need to address them. I believe that the above theories have helped in development of management.

Systems theory, as discussed, explains that an organization should be treated as a single unit. It works like a car engine that is interconnected.

Through this theory, most organizations have been in a position to address the issue of cohesion. Success within organizations cannot be achieved when there is no cohesion.

When operations within the organization are disjointed then the laid objectives cannot be fulfilled despite the success stories associated with a particular department. (Knights & Roberts, p.79)

Human relations management theory explains the need to identify various roles for specific employees. In my understanding, this theory brought a lot role differentiation.

Everyone knew what was expected of him/her and therefore a peaceful and coherent environment was experienced within organizations. Previously, employees used to complain that some roles were being assigned to them without considering their experiences and expertise.


In a nutshell, I assert that the efforts of a successful manager cannot pay without the understanding of the history and the theories of management. A myriad of issues which affect organizations today are discussed in this essay.

The issue of organizational conflicts cuts across almost all organizations. It calls on a leader with superb managerial skills to adapt to it. An organization should work as a system and any level of differences, either internally or externally, should be minimized as possible.

When there is no cohesion the management may concentrate on this (skills) instead of concentrating in organization key objectives and goals.

I cannot shrink on the successes which have been experienced since the inception of management but would rather suggest more radical, complex and technological skills to address some of the technical concerns that develop with the advancement of humanity.

Organizations should create specific departments that handle relevant current affairs to enhance smooth operations within firms.


Bateman, T. S. & Snell, 2011, Management: leading & collaborating in a competitive world; McGraw-Hill/Irwin, Boston.

Cooke, B 2003, ‘The denial of slavery in management studies’ Journal of Management Studies 40(8): 1895-1918.

Cummings, T. G. & Worley, C. G 2009, Organization development & change; South-Western/ Cengage Learning; Australia

Evans, J. & Lindsay, M 2002, The management and control of quality. South-Western: Australia

Jaffee, D 2001, ‘The rise of the factory system’ Organization Theory, McGraw Hill, pp 42-63 Boston,

Klein, N 2001, No Logo, Flamingo, London

Knights, D. & Roberts, J 1982, ‘The Power of Organization or the Organization of Power?’ Organization Studies 3(1): 47-63

Millar 2010, Archives: principles and practices; New York; Neal-Schuman Publishers

Thompson, P. & McHugh, D 2002, Work Organizations: A Critical Introduction Third Edition, Basingstoke, Palgrave. Chapters 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12

Thompson, P & McHugh, D 1995, Work Organizations: A Critical Introduction Second Edition, London: MacMillan Business. Chapter Four.

Waddell, D, Jones, G and George, J 2011, Contemporary Management 2e, McGraw-Hill, Australia, Chapter Two

Wren D. A. 2005, The history of management thought: Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.

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