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The Evolution of Management Thought and the Evolution of Management Theories

Knowing the story behind the evolution of management thought and the evolution of theories is essential. If you are familiar with them, including the development that brought about the current practices in business, then you will have a better understanding of management principles that can help you to manage people more effectively.

The Evolution of Management Thought and the Evolution of Management Theories

The point is that a lot has changed about management. Emphasis on structure and authority is no longer as strong as it used to be in the past. Now the focus is on employees. However, there are theories on the factors that motivate employees, but understand that knowing how these theories came about can give you the needed knowledge to manage your employees appropriately. Read to understand the evolution of management thought and management theories.

Evolution of Management Concept

The evolution of management thought is a process that started in the early days of man. It began since the period man saw the need to live in groups. Mighty men were able to organize the masses, share them into various groups. The sharing was done accord to the masses’ strength, mental capacities, and intelligence.

The point is that management has been practiced in one way or the other since civilization began. If you want a good example where advanced management principles were applied, consider the organization of the olden days Roman Catholic Church, military forces as well as ancient Greece. These are all excellent examples. But the industrial revolution brought drastic change. And suddenly, the need to develop a more holistic and formal management theory became a necessity.

Explain the Evolution of Management Thought

Stages of the evolution of management thought

This topic is broad, and it also requires careful explanation and thought process. One cannot understand what it entails or appreciates how it happened without looking at the various areas where the said evolution occurred. For better understanding, the evolution of management thought will be shared into four different stages. These include:

  • Pre-scientific management period
  • Classical theory
  • Neo-classical theory or behavior approach
  • Bureaucratic Model of Max Weber

The Pre-Scientific Management Period

The industrial revolution that took place in the 18th century had a significant impact on management as a whole. It changed how businesses, as well as individuals, raised capital; organize labor and the production of goods. Entrepreneurs had access to all the factors of production such as land, labor, and capital. Theirs was to make an effort to combine these factors to achieve a targeted goal successfully.

However, the new dimension that management took following the industrial revolution cannot be discussed without mentioning notable personalities who contributed their quarter. They were able to introduce useful ideas and approaches to give management a precise and universally acceptable direction. Here are some of them.

  • Professor Charles Babbage – United Kingdom (1729 – 1871)

Prof Babbage, a renowned professor in mathematics at Cambridge University discovered that manufacturers were relying on guesswork and suggestions and urged them to utilize mathematics and science to be more accurate and productive.

  • Robert Owens – United Kingdom (1771 – 1858)

Robert was regarded as the father of personnel management because of his approach and focus on employee welfare. He introduced co-operation and trade unions. Robert believed that employee welfare could determine their performance to a large extent. He encouraged the training of workers, education for their children, canteens in the workplace, shorter working hours, among others.

Other Contributors to the Pre-Scientific Management Period Include:

  • Henry Robson Towne – USA
  • James Watt Junior – United Kingdom
  • Seebohm Rowntree – United Kingdom

The Classical Theory

Prof Babbage, Robert Owens, and other names earlier mentioned can be regarded as the pioneers of management. But their contribution to the evolution of management is little. The beginning of what is known as the science of management started in the last decade of the 19th century. Names like Emerson, F.W. Taylor, H.L. Grant, and others, paved the way for the establishment of what is called scientific management.

During the classical period, management thought was focused on job content, standardization, the division of labor, and a scientific approach towards the organization. It also was closely related to the industrial revolution as well as the rise of large-scale enterprises.

The Neo-Classical Theory

This period of evolution of management thought is an improvement of the classical theory. In other words, it modified and improved upon the classical theory. For instance, Classical theory focused more on the area of job content, including the management of physical resources, while neo-classical theory gave more profound emphasis on employee relationships in the work environment.

The Bureaucratic Model

A German Sociologist called Max Weber proposed this model. And it includes a system of rules, division of labor hinged on functional specialization, legal authority, and power, the hierarchy of authority, and placement of employees based on their technical competence.

The Evolution of Management Theories

Organizations have been shaped and through the writings of several writers. Their write-up consisted of governance of kingdoms and management of humans. And these formed the literature that helped in the development of management theories. And these management models were also offered by the military, political and religious organizations.

For instance, Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” was written in the 16th century BC. Sun was also a Chinese army general. However, the writings in Sun’s book were also used for managerial purposes.

The book highlights that it’s possible to achieve success by using the strength of the organization to exploit the weakness of rivals. Another great book was Chanakya’s Arthashastra. It was written in the third century BC and focused on the governance of the kingdom concerning the formulation of policies of governance and management of people.


The evolution of management started from civilization. So, what we have now is refined and improved management thoughts and theories. But knowing how this evolution came about is vital. It will help to improve one’s knowledge of the process and effectively utilize management principles for the betterment of the organization.

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About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.