Throughout history, leaders have continually faced challenges in managing effectively. For example, as far back as the building of the Great Pyramids in ancient
Egypt, Egyptians encountered difficulties making decisions and solving problems on a daily basis. It took the Egyptians over 20,000 workers and 23 years to complete the
Great Pyramids. Planning, organizing, scheduling, and controlling the project all had to be done without the use of computers, cell phones, and fax machines. In the 1940’s during the Second World War, problems arose from a shortage of workers to produce high volumes of war-time materials and supplies. Management practices were necessary to fill the gaps left by the reduction in the labor force and were used to create production efficiencies. These practical management problems marked the beginning of the management principles we still use today.
The environment in which people work is very different today than in the past. In the past, people did not always commute to work. Mostly, they worked from home or close to home as farmers, tradesmen, and ranchers. In 1790, two thirds of the United
States’ population worked in agriculture, harvesting fruit and vegetables from their own land. This work environment provided people with more task identification and control over their output. People were expected to participate in both the planning and executing of the work. In our modern environment, there are individuals who plan the work and executers who complete the work.
Division of Labor
In 1750, labor changed dramatically. The availability of power and low wage workers initiated the building of factories. Employers began replacing specialized workers with several low skilled workers, commonly known as division of labor. Division of labor initiated an increased need for managers to help coordinate the large quantities of employees working on individual tasks in support of the project. Because of specializing work efforts, productivity increased. For example, at Ford Motor Company, the time to produce a car typically took 12.5 hours. After implementing the division of labor theory, Ford reduced the time to produce a car to only 93 minutes. Each assembly line task was broken down into smaller, more specialized tasks. If possible, each task was automated to ensure maximum productivity. However, if the task was unable to be automated, employees would focus on that one task and repeat it over and over to improve efficiency. Productivity improvements, such as the ones incorporated at
Ford, fueled the beginning of large, formal organizations using divided labor tasks.
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Economist Adam Smith supported the division of labor theory and claimed growth was rooted in the increasing of division of labor. Smith argued that as workers became experts in specialized tasks, efficiency improved. Overall time and money were saved from workers switching tasks during the day. Smith conducted a pin production study to emphasis the positive impact on production when tasks were specialized.
When division of labor was implemented with 10 workers, 48,000 pins could be produced per day. Otherwise, only 200 pins were produced with specialized workers.
In the early twentieth century, the first organized studies of management were formalized. These studies became known as the classical approach to management.
Two major theories encompass the classical approach: scientific management and general administrative.
Scientific Management Theory
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published the book Principles of Scientific
Management, outlining the scientific management theory. This theory describes the use of scientific methods to identify the one best way for a job to be done. Taylor’s theory created a mental revolution by defining guidelines for improving production efficiency.
Taylor defined four