Role of theory and history in management

The role of theory and history in management

The text goes to some trouble to explain why theory and history are relevant to contemporary managers. Theory is a conceptual framework for organizing knowledge and providing a clean print for action. Given this, any manager must develop some theory of management to be able to operate. It is therefore counterproductive to dismiss theory as irrelevant. A manager needs to seek to understand various theories and adapt and utilize those components that he or she believes are of value to a particular situation. The same logic applies to the value of studying the historical developments in management. Ignoring the insights available from the rich source of historical management thinking and experience may cause managers to spend time solving problems to which solutions already exist.

Management thinking is directly related to the social norms, economic conditions and political forces of the time and place. It follows, therefore, that in understanding management theories of the past and present it is useful to gain an appreciation of the social, economic and political context in which they were developed. All past human civilizations that left evidence of their existence — from ancient Egyptians to the Hebrews in the time of Moses — demonstrated management practices, and many left detailed descriptions of their management practices. It would appear that management is a natural outcome of human beings interacting to achieve a common goal. Management as a recognized discipline of commerce emerged fully in the late 1800s and the early 1900s with the development of large corporations. The scientific study of management developed in the 1800s, through the thinking and activities of pioneers such as Robert Owen, Charles Babbage and Andrew Urea. This era was characterized by a focus on the technical aspects of managing organizations by management practitioners. Frederick Taylor was the first to shift the focus to include a theoretical approach.

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