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Theres been many an argument that Managers have become lost in a world of unease and that there appears to be no new innovative Management models to give guidance and help them follow some structure. We all so far, fall back on the old faithful’s, the Gurus who set the scene on which many other Management models were then adapted on and developed.

Have we run out of ideas of how best to Manage? Or did the originals get it right and so it doesn’t need fixing?

Certainly we can see how early Management models have very much been focussed on performance and efficiency and as industry progressed and changed so have the models adapted in a slightly new form. We can see this in the early model of Frederick Taylor. Bare in mind no one model is going to fix everything. Often you will find you use part of a model or multiple parts of models. Its good to practice with these, they do help, honest!

1 Taylors Scientific Management

The‘father of scientific management’ Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) an American Mechanical Engineer who started his career at the bottom on the shop floor of a Steel Works. Working his way up to Director and authoring his famous book, ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ Taylor has become known as being one of the first gurus in Management.

C Watson 2022

You can read about one of his contributions to performance management here.. but for the purpose of this subject we will stick to an overview of his approach.

Taylor was of an engineering background and you can imagine from his life dates that this was a time of industrial revolution. Previously there was very little guidance on how employees should undertake a task and skills training was something to be picked up along the way as a ‘rule of thumb’. Taylor believed that every task should be analysed so it could be approached in the most efficient way and then Employees trained this way. Seems pretty obvious to us now I know but his ideas were significant at that time and we can see how much of this has been taken on and enhanced later by others. For me, coming to mind, Davenport and Hammer’s Business Process Re-engineering in the 1990’s adopts the same principles but modernises it fit for purpose in a world of work that was switching over from manufacturing to technology.

There are 4 Principles to Taylors approach

  • Principle 1:

Each element of a task should be scientifically developed so that it has been examined and analysed to ensure it is conducted in the most efficient way possible. Principle 1 replaced the considered ‘common sense’ attitude of ‘this is how its done as a rule of thumb’. This suggests that workers will have completed the same tasks but in different ways, some preferring one way to another. You can probably imagine the problems this could cause in quality management of the finished task.

  • Principle 2:

To then scientifically select, train and teach the best workmen for the task. Principle 2 replaced the worker doing the best they could with the resources they had, picking up skills from others and then developing their own ways. Workers weren’t allocated jobs based on their expertise, work was simply delegated out to all regardless of skill.

  • Principle 3:

To monitor, collaborate and engage with the worker to ensure the tasks are completed in the way that was set out in principle 1 and encourage ongoing training. Principle 3 replaced the practice where previously workers would not be engaged with to offer support and instruction and were simply left to get on with it.

  • Principle 4:

Division and allocation of work and responsibility is delegated appropriately between workmen and Managers. Principle 4 workers were expected to do everything and the balance of work between Manager and worker was unequal.

It wont take much to think about how this model can be applied in real terms as we have adopted these principles over time and now feel like its an obvious choice. We recruit and promote based on suitability to a role, we then train, monitor and support employees and we look for better ways to complete tasks and improve on what we do. Managers take on equal work responsibility rather than delegating everything out.

It isn’t without critique however but we are looking back at what was one of the first management models of its time. The attitude that there is only one way to do a task and that is decided by the Manager is a little short sighted. The input of those skilled in the task has to be considered for the best way forward.

2 Peter Drucker and The Functions of Management

One of my favourites and probably the most popular of models. We are moving into the 1940s with Druckers model, although he was contributing to Management and Leadership literature and teaching up until his death at 95.

Druckers model focuses strongly on Management by Objectives and states that Managers are responsible for:

  • Setting the objectives of the Organisation and teams
  • Ensuring sufficient resources are available to meet the objectives
  • Encouraging and motivating the team to succeed in meeting the objectives
  • Monitoring the teams performance against the objectives
  • Managing the continuous improvement of both the team and themselves through training and development.

Its short, simple and effective laying out the role and responsibility of the Manager. I can see the Plan Do Check Act model embedded in this model.

3 McGregor’s X and Y theory

A popular well known model with 2 extreme ends of management. On first viewing you might feel the theory too strong but its designed to consider the degrees in between. This comes into development by Douglas McGregor in the 50’s and 60’s.

The X Manager

At the hard end of X, this Manager believes all workers are lazy, unmotivated and need to be controlled through a strict regime of monitoring and punishment. Assumptions are the workers are there purely to be paid and have no ambition or desire to do well. This type of Manager supervises closely, constantly looks for errors and intimidates workers through fear or reprimand. A little harsh right?

At the soft end of X the Manager is less controlling and rules are lessened but the beliefs are still there.

McGregor recognises there is a spectrum and that this theory is best used somewhere in the middle. You may not like the idea of the X Manager at all feeling it isn’t suitable for todays workforce but there will be instances when a Manager does need to take a firmer stance and lets face it, we have all at some point worked with someone who fits the ‘lazy worker’ who isn’t interested in anything but a pay packet. There are also different industry sectors that need different types of Managers. Production lines come to mine where work maybe on the mundane side and high results are expected. You can see here how a hands on approach might be useful.

The Y Manager

Opposite to the prior style the Y Manager believes that all workers are motivated and want to do well and are not purely there for financial gain or reward but that they want to progress themselves and take pride in what they do. The Manager with this attitude is relaxed in their approach and happy to allow workers to take responsibility for getting their work done to standard in a timely fashion. You can probably see the pitfalls here. Quality could be a problem for a start and meeting targets by deadline poses a problem. Workers are however more likely to have respect for a Y Manager and feel empowered by trust and responsibility. It can also go the other way for workers who see this as an easy ride.

You might be thinking here then that X is at one end and Y is at the other end of the spectrum but this isn’t what McGregor had in mind. He puts both X and Y separately and notes that each have their own degree spectrum and it is for the Manager to adopt the right degree from each depending on the task and situation.

Think about an example of a task that a Manager knows is critical and has to be done to the highest standard right on time. This would require a degree or X. Then imagine the same Manager monitoring a project that isn’t critical and has a slow pace, here a degree of Y could be adopted.

If you think of the different workers in a team, there will be those that require a little X sometimes and others that enjoy a little Y.

I can see McGregors point here but feel the model has little guidance on how a Manager develops the skill of knowing when to use each theory and to what degree. Mostly this would call for common sense and intuition which we would hope every good Manager has anyway!

4 Management By Walking About (MBWA)

Probably the most simple theory of Management there is, it is to do exactly that…. Go Walk About. Although popularised by Tom Peters as a defined model in the 70’s this is an exercise that potentially goes back to year dot. The concept and principles however are designed to remind Managers to not lose touch with their team and department.

  • Be Proactive

MBWA is a reminder to get up and get things done. Sitting around behind a desk waiting for tasks to occur and then dealing with issues as they arise is considered a reactive approach to be avoided.

  • Be visible

I would hope the days are gone where the Manager would enjoy their swish private office with door firmly closed and rarely approachable by their team. Most environments now offer the open door in that their isn’t one. Open plan is now considered preferable with Managers  with the team or within visible distance encouraging engagement and communication. A worker is far more likely to ask for help or ask a question than they would if they had to knock on a door and await summons. I know this isn’t always feasible such as a noisy environment if the Manager needs quiet but you get the point.

  • Be ‘open all ears’

Learn to listen to the team and take on board anything that appears to be a trend or issue. Hearing the same problem repeated raises alarm bells for a problem to be addressed. Similarly, listen to ideas and take them seriously. Those working the job everyday are more likely to have ideas on how to address ongoing problems or to improve on what they do. Don’t just wait for workers to come to you. Go to them, find out what motivates them or what frustrates them.

All of the above is designed to build trust within a team environment but also to keep the Manager in touch with whats happening everyday and what potentially needs fixing. A Manager who knows their team, understands the operations and gets stuck in using this model will be second nature.

You’ve probably noticed I have been following a timeline and there are others Ive skipped for the purpose of keeping the post down to 4 models. I will of course reference future posts that cover these other models here. Henri Fayol for example developed quite a significant model at a similar time to Frederick Taylor and this really needs a post all by itself.

Learners undertaking the Level 4 and 5 Diploma in Management will find this post assists with the following criteria:

Unit 400 ML26 1.1 Analyse how leadership and management theories may be applied