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Classical and Scientific Management Theory

Lea Terry

Enlist classical management theories to boost efficiency and worker productivity.

Scientific management theory, also called classical management theory, entered the mainstream in the early 1900s with an emphasis on increasing worker productivity.

Developed by Frederick Taylor, the classical theory of management advocated a scientific study of tasks and the workers responsible for them. Although its goal was providing workers the tools necessary for maximizing their efficiency and output, it is also criticized for creating an "assembly-line" atmosphere, where employees do only menial jobs. For this reason, it has fallen out of favor among many companies and schools of thought, but could still be a valuable tool for your organization, provided you carefully examine all of its principles. For example, the scientific theory of management is considered better suited to businesses based on repetitive tasks, such as a factory.

To understand if it's best for your organization, you need to know the foundation of classical management theory. Classical and scientific management theory is based on four main principles:

  1. Company leadership should develop a standard method for doing each job using scientific management.
  2. Workers should be selected for a job based on their skills and abilities.
  3. Work should be planned to eliminate interruptions.
  4. Wage incentives should be offered to encourage increased output.

Before implementing classical management, assess your current management style

Prior to making any changes in your company's leadership style, review your current management methods and their effectiveness. You may find strengths, weaknesses or issues you weren't aware of, and these could affect what kind of management theory is most appropriate for your organization. And with a thorough understanding of how your company operates, you can more smoothly and quickly implement a new method.

Prepare for the shift to classical scientific theory by providing management training to leadership

A key part of adopting any new management style is understanding the basics of managing employees, and the complexities of change management. Lay a solid foundation for your change to the scientific school of management by helping your leadership refine their management skills.

Hire a consultant to help you implement the theory of scientific management

Any change made at the management level requires careful planning, and constant communication with employees to help them understand the transition. And shifting from one management style to another involves a complete overhaul of how your company functions. Rather than tackle all of this on your own, you may want to consult a management trainer or consultant, who has been the process before at several other companies, and who has an in-depth understanding of the management style you've chosen.

When implementing any new management style, including scientific management theories, educate all employees, not just management, about how the method works and what it means for them. This will help the entire organization transition more quickly, and promote teamwork by making all employees feel they are an important part of the success of the new process.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Polyploid
Lea Terry