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History of management

management, history of management, administration, business, organization, planning, organizing, controlling

Many different perspectives on the practice of management have been advanced suggesting how managers should approach, diagnose, and solve organizational problems. Some perspectives attempted to solve problems of current interest to managers of that day. Other perspectives attempted to develop rules and guidelines for managers that could be useful in many different organizational settings. Regardless of the managerial issue or problem that was of central concern to these perspectives, it is fair to say that each differed in its assumptions and in the methods it recommended to managers for reaching a solution. A careful understanding of the events and issues that confronted managers in the past enables us to understand why different approaches have been recommended for solving managerial problems. The development of management theory and practice is best understood in the context of history.

Preindustrial Societies

While techniques of management have been around for a long time, the practice of management is relatively new. Prior to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 17th-century England, several forms of organization had emerged requiring the use of "managers" to successfully achieve organizational objectives. Most prominent among these organizations were the state, the church, and the military. It is in these organizations that we can identify early notions about how management is to be practiced.

With the emergence of villages and cities in ancient civilizations, as represented by Greek, Roman, and Chinese societies, came the need to administer the building of roads; to establish judicial principles to oversee commerce and settle disputes; to provide means to distribute food supplies; to control the collection of taxes; and to supervise military activities both within the state and among conquered territories. We find in the writings of early Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans expressions of the need for effective managers with explications of the duties and responsibilities assigned to their position, the need for training, and the need for control over activities in the hands of a centralized authority such as the emperor.'

Religious institutions, most notably the Catholic Church, also contributed to the body of knowledge concerning managerial principles. While the objectives of the church differed from those of the state, the church incorporated many of the same principles of management. In addition, the church developed methods and techniques directed toward commitment to values and attitudes, provided social support to the populace, and established conditions for membership.
Perhaps the most advanced form of organization was the military. Indeed, many of the more sophisticated principles created and developed by the military, from the Roman to the Prussian armies, are still applied by managers of modern businesses. Most notable of these principles are the following:

•Chain of command. The chain of command established clear, unbroken lines of authority and responsibility from the highest to the lowest level in the organization.
•Delegation of authority. Because of the length of the chain of command, it became essential that decision-making authority be granted to those in middle- and low-level positions. Without this provision, the individual occupying the senior position would be overwhelmed by the task of having to approve each activity necessary to the efficient functioning of the military units.
•Staff. As warfare became more sophisticated, those in command could not be fully aware of every tactic available in a given situation. Thus the need developed for a group of officers, called staff officers, who were recruited and trained to serve as advisers to managers faced with critical decisions. While staff officers accrued power because of their expertise, the final decision was the responsibility of the commanding officer.
•Unity of command. The principle that no individual has more than one supervisor is known as unity of command. Receiving orders or directives from two or more superiors can lead to confusion, contradictory requests, and instability in military operations.

The importance of these principles in military organizations cannot be overemphasized. As we will see later, organizations operating in threatening environments must reduce errors and plan their activities to a greater extent than organizations operating in non-threatening environments.

Published: 2007-05-06
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

www.martin-hahn.net

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