Historical perspective on management refers to how management thinking and practices have evolved over a period.
Though the function of management has existed for thousands of years, the function of management came to be recognized as a distinct discipline only around late nineteenth century. Since then the discipline of management has developed rapidly, and undergone several transformations.
One scheme of historical perspective of management has classified following four successive stages in development of management.
- Classical Management Approach
- Human Resources Approach
- Quantitative Approach
- Contingency Approach
The classical approach to management developed towards the end of nineteenth century and continued to dominate the thinking on management up to first few decades of twentieth century. This Approach can be further classified in two broad categories - scientific Management and Administrative Management.
Scientific management, represented by ideas of pioneers of management like Taylor and Gilbreth, emphasized on improving the operational efficiency work by using scientific methods for study and design of operations.
Administrative management, championed by people like Henry Fayol and Max Weber, concentrated on the overall management aspects such as teamwork, leadership, and management control.
With the interest that was generated in management function and process people from other scientific discipline like psychology and sociology also began to take interest in this field. This led, in 1920's and 30's. to the beginning of human relations approach to management. Pioneers who made major contribution to this approach include Mary Parker Follet and Chester I Bernard. However, biggest boost to this approach was provided by Hawthorn Studies conducted from 1927 to 1932.
After this the center stage from late 1940's onward was occupied by the quantitative approach. Development of this approach can be attributed directly to the work on operations research (OR) conducted to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of war efforts during the Second World War. This approach applied the discipline of mathematics and other theoretical models to optimize management decisions. This approach included use of methods such as linear programming and queuing theory for decision making. Use of statistics for quality control is another major contribution of the quantitative approach to management.
By 1960's the discipline of management had gained tremendously in terms of general awareness as well as research by scholars and experts. there were supporters and practitioners of all the three approaches. Usually managers adopted methods, which borrowed from all these three approaches as well as other emerging ideas, but management experts, vied with each other to prove superiority of their own chosen approach. In such situation, in mid 1960's, Fred Fiedler came out with his Contingency approach, which aims to build bridges between all different, and at times conflicting approaches to management. The contingency approach holds that there is no single best approach to management applicable in all situations. Rather, depending on requirement of each situation, different approaches or their combinations will be most appropriate.
As is indicated by the contingency approach, any company today, stands to benefit most by using a combination of all available approaches, in lie with its specific requirements and situations faced fro time to time.