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Classical Management Theory (1900-1930): Definition

  • 0:10 Classical Management…
  • 1:34 The Typical Classical Manager
  • 2:40 Expansion of Classical…
  • 3:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

It was the rise of the Industrial Revolution and factories were becoming more common. Inside these factories, managers were constantly look for ways to improve productivity and efficiency. As time moved on, it became apparent that searching for the single best way to do things was the most important thing for managers to do. Thus, classical management theory was born. This lesson will discuss the evolution of classical management theory.

The Evolution of Classical Management Theory

The Industrial Revolution was a time where innovation really began to change the way that products were produced and sold. The invention of machines to produce goods in the 19th century drastically improved productivity, which in turn lowered the cost to the consumer. The lower price resulted in a greater demand for products and thus a greater need for more factories and workers.

As factories increased in number, managers continued to search for ways to improve productivity, lower cost, increase quality of their products, improve employee/manager relationships and increase efficiency. The focus shifted from using machines to increase productivity to how they could increase employee productivity and efficiency. When they did this, they began to notice some new problems inside their factory systems. Employees were dissatisfied with their current working conditions, and many lacked the necessary training for how to do their work efficiently. Managers then began to formulate and test possible solutions, one of which was to find the best possible way for workers to perform and manage their tasks. The research resulted in the development of classical management theory.

The Classical Manager

To better understand classical management theory, let's take a peek into this 19th century factory and see what's going on. Ahh, there he is: Calvin the Classical Manager. Let's look a bit closer and see what he's up to. It looks like Calvin is working on a work-flow chart. It seems he's trying to figure out the best possible way to complete work at his factory.

As a classical manager, Calvin must have a good understanding of business functions at his factory so that he can structure the organization according to task and assign workers in view of that. For example, I can see that Calvin has broken down the process for producing the product this factory makes into three stages. In each stage, he has listed out what work needs to be completed and the type of skills a worker will need to complete that work. Now all Calvin has left to do is assess his current workforce for the appropriate individuals and place them in the suitable job role. If training is needed, Calvin will need to identify that so that he can ensure his workers understand the manner in which the work should be completed.

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