The systematic study and practice of management has been in existence for over 100 years. During this time, our knowledge and understanding of managerial issues and problems have evolved from an approach concerned primarily with establishing principles to increase efficiency in the workplace to those approaches that attempt to understand the total organization by examining the interrelationships among the contextual, organizational, and human dimensions of the workplace. The various theories each offer a different perspective for addressing managerial problems. Many of the differences between the theories are due to the types of problems that have historically emerged to confront managers.
As a manager, you should realize that no one method or technique is to be applied to all problems or situations. Rather, you should strive to develop a contingency perspective in your application of managerial techniques. This perspective will enable you to assess the different probable causes of a problem and to recognize which application is most appropriate. For instance, a contingency perspective would inform you that increasing work efficiency may speed up the flow of work, but may also lead to greater levels of worker dissatisfaction. As a result, you may incur greater turnover, absenteeism, and carelessness in the workplace.
A contingency perspective also enables you to weigh factors that exist in the environment of the organization and to understand how changes in one area of the organization may require changes in other areas as well. For instance, a- decrease in sales may be the result of a devaluation in foreign currency, thus making goods or services produced by foreign competitors cheaper in price. An increase in production will, in many instances, require an increase in the sales force, an increase in budget, and perhaps the need to redefine organization goals.
Your understanding of the strengths and limitations of historical perspectives will provide you with the knowledge needed to perform your managerial tasks effectively. We have much to learn from the past in order to be successful in the future.