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Encyclopedia > Business management

"Management" (from Old French ménagement "the art of conducting, directing", from Latin manu agere "to lead by the hand") characterises the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible). One can also think of management functionally, as the action of measuring a quantity on a regular basis and of adjusting some initial plan, and as the actions taken to reach one's intended goal. This applies even in situations where planning does not take place. Situational management may precede and subsume purposive management.


Historical development

Some writers trace the development of management thought back to Sumerian traders and ancient Egyptian pyramid builders. Slave-owners through the centuries faced the problems of exploiting/motivating a dependent but sometimes recalcitrant workforce, but many pre-industrial enterprises, given their small scale, did not feel compelled to face the issues of management systematically. But innovations such as the spread of Arabic numerals (5th to 15th centuries) and the codification of double_entry book_keeping (1494) provided tools for management assessment, planning and control.


19th century

Modern management as a discipline began as an off_shoot of economics in the 19th century. Classical economists such as Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill provided a theoretical background to resource allocation, production, and pricing issues. About the same time, innovators like Eli Whitney, James Watt, and Matthew Boulton developed technical production elements such as standardization, quality control procedures, cost accounting, interchangeability of parts, and work planning.


By the middle of the 19th century, Robert Owen, Henry Poor, and M. Laughlin and others introduced the human element with theories of worker training, motivation, organizational structure and span of control. Compare the analyses of Karl Marx and of Friedrich Engels.


By the late 19th century, marginal economists Alfred Marshall and Leon Walras and others introduced a new layer of complexity to the theoretical underpinings of management. Joseph Wharton offered the first tertiary-level course in management in 1881. By about 1900 we find managers trying to place their theories on a thoroughly scientific basis. Examples include Henry Towne's Science of management in the 1890s, Frederick Winslow Taylor's Scientific management (1911), Frank and Lillian Gilbreth's Applied motion study (1917), and Henry L. Gantt's charts (1910s). J. Duncan wrote the first college management text book in 1911.


20th century

The first comprehensive theories of management appeared around 1920. People like Henri Fayol and Alexander Church described the various branches of management and their inter-relationships. In the early 20th century, people like Ordwat Tead, Walter Scott and J. Mooney applied the principles of psychology to management, while other writers, such as Elton Mayo, Mary Parker Follett, Chester Barnard, Max Weber, Rensis Likert, and Chris Argyris approached the phenomenon of management from a sociological perspective.


Peter Drucker wrote one of the earliest books on applied management: Concept of the Corporation (published in 1946). It resulted from Alfred Sloan (chairman of General Motors until 1956) commissioning a study of the organisation. Drucker went on to write 32 books, many in the same vein.


H. Dodge, Ronald Fisher, and Thorton C Fry introduced statistical techniques into management. In the 1940s, Patrick Blackett combined these statistical theories with microeconomic theory and gave birth to the science of operations research. Operations research, sometimes known as "management science", attempts to take a scientific approach to solving management problems, particularly in the areas of logistics and operations.


Some of the more recent developments include the theory of constraints, reengineering, and various information technology driven theories such as agile software development. The theory of constraints approach describes management decision-making as a continuous cycle of three basic questions —

  1. What to change?
  2. To what to change?
  3. How to make the change happen?

As the general recognition of managers as a class solidified during the 20th century and gave perceived practitioners of management a certain amount of prestige, so the way opened for popularised systems of management ideas to peddle their wares. In this context many management fads may have had more to do with pop psychology than with scientific management theory.


Towards the end of the 20th century, management came to consist of a number of separate branches, including:

21st century

In the 21st century we find it increasingly difficult to subdivide management into categories in this way. More and more processes simultaneously involve several categories. Instead, we tend to think in terms of the various processes, tasks, and objects subject to management.


Areas of management

Related topics

See also

External links







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