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The Development Of Administration Theories

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The development of administration theories has been influenced by periodical developments in the discipline. The search is therefore a continuous one that has moved from the classical, to the neo-classical and onto the contemporary era.

The term “administration” relates to the group of people who are in charge and are tasked with the creation and enforcement of rules and regulations. The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa and the individuals he has appointed to support him, his cabinet, are an example of administration. Below, we will discuss the ways in which the theories we today know and understand as administration, came about.

The Classical Theory of Management

The word “classical” refers to something that has been traditionally accepted or has been established for a long time. This does not, however mean that classical view are static and time bound.

The classical theory of administration was developed during the second half of the 19th Century. It reached its highest point in 1937 when the ‘Papers on the Science of Administration’ by Gulick and Urwick was published. This book is the most persuasive exposition of the classical approach. The classical theory focuses on the organisation as a whole with its characteristic features being division of work, hierarchy, impersonality, order and structure etc. However, ‘division of work’ is the central tenet of the classical theory. It also strongly advocates for the concept of the “Economic Man”. “Economic Man” simply means that man as a human-being is only motivated by monetary factors and not by social, psychological or any other factors.

The classical thinkers firmly believed that the efficiency and economy of the organisation can be maximized when it is established in accordance with certain ‘fundamental principles’. The formulation of certain principles of organisation became their most important concern. They also believed that administration is the same everywhere – administration is administration irrespective of the nature, type or content of work. Hence they concluded that the principles of organisation have universal validity.

This then brings us to our first question. What are the three types of theories in the classical approach? The classical theory developed in three streams:

  • Bureaucracy
  • Scientific Management and
  • The Administrative theory.

1. Bureaucracy

This theory came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution (late 1700’s to late 1800’s). Three main questions arose after people started flocking to factories from farms and leaving small shops to join large companies. These questions were:

Max Weber (1864 – 1920) made many contributions to the area of organisational studies, management and organisational communication, with the main contribution being around the theory of bureaucracy. The term bureaucracy implies and organization which is characterized by rues, procedures, impersonal relations and fairly rigid hierarchy of authority-responsibility relationships. The elements of bureaucracy are a very important part of modern business, governmental and other complex organisations. The bureaucratic structure is explained below:

  • Fixed division of labour among participants – division of work based on competence. A maximum possible division of labour makes it possible and easier to use all links of the organisation experts who are fully responsible for the effective fulfilment of their duties.
  • Hierarchy of offices – each lower official is under the control and supervision of a higher one with each sub-ordinate being accountable to his superior for his own decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of his sub-ordinates in turn.
  • Set of general rules that govern performance – a system of procedures dealing with work situations should be put in place. The procedures must be time-tested and must apply equally under the same or similar work situations.
  • Rigid separation of personal life from work life -
  • Selection of personnel on the basis of technical qualifications and equal treatment of all employees
  • Participants view employment as a career; tenure protects against unfair arbitrary dismissal.

The advantages of bureaucracy are as follows:

  • It results in consistent employee behaviour due to the fact that the rules and policies that are put in place apply to all the employees equally. Due to the predictability of the behaviour, management processes are implemented more easily.
  • It does away with conflicting job duties, in that the duties and responsibilities of employees are very clearly defined.
  • The organisation is able to utilize human resources to the best of their ability. For example, promotions are based on merit. As a result, the right workers are matched with the correct job which makes the use of human resource more favourable. Also, as employees gain expertise and experience, they are able to move up the hierarchy.
  • The workers become specialists in their field due to the division of labour, ensuring their skills are further polished and resulting in them performing effectively.
  • There is a continuance of the organisation even if certain individuals leave their position as the position is emphasised, rather than the person.

The disadvantages of bureaucracy:

  • There is too much paperwork and red-tape.
  • Because of the impersonal nature of the work, the employees do not really care about the organisation because there is no sense of belonging and devotion.
  • Due to the overemphasis on structure, rules and regulations, the employees are unable to take initiative and grow. This also slows down or in some cases prevents needed action.
  • Workers become so accustomed to routine that they resist the introduction of new operation techniques and change. “Iron Cage” where people were trapped in calculated systems that pursue efficiency and control that threatened individual freedom.

2. The Scientific Management Theory

Scientific management was vigorously supported by F. W. Taylor (1856 – 1951) who eventually became acclaimed as “the Father of Scientific Management.” He focused on analysing jobs and redesigning them so that they could be accomplished more efficiently. During the search for the best possible way to maximize performance, he developed the following scientific management principles:

  • Each task must be designed in such a way so that it can replace the old, rule-of-thumb methods.
  • In order for workers to be more productive in their jobs, they must be scientifically selected and trained.
  • Scientifically designed jobs and workers should be brought together in order for there to be a match between them.
  • There ought to be separation of duties and collaboration between the managers and workers.

Taylor emphasised the importance of employee well-fare as well as production efficiency. Wage incentives based on performance were introduced as a way to boost up productivity. The emphasis was put on maximum output with minimum effort through the elimination of waste and inefficiency at the shop floor level.

Techniques of scientific management

  • Scientific Task Planning - this is the amount of work that an average worker can perform during a day under normal working conditions. Management should decide in advance as to what work is to be done, how, when, where and by who. The main objective is to ensure that the work is completed in a logical sequence which promotes maximum efficiency.
  • Time and Motion Studies - the time study indicates the minimum time required by an employee to complete a certain job or task. The time taken is recorded and this information is then used to develop a time standard.
  • Motion study is undertaken to find out the best arrangement of motions to do a job. As a result, the managers are then given the task of planning the work through the results of the above studies and workers are expected to do the same.
  • Standards should be set in advance for the task, materials, work methods, quality, time and cost, working conditions, etc. This helps in making the process of production simpler, reducing wasteful use of resources, improving quality of work etc.
  • Taylor advocated for the differential piece rate system which was based on the actual performance of the worker. Here, a worker who completes the normal work gets wages at higher rate per piece than a worker who fails to complete the same within the time limit set by management.

3. The Administration Theory.

Fayol’s 14 principles of management:

  • Division of work
  • Authority and responsibility
  • Discipline
  • Unity of command
  • Subordination of individual interest to the common good
  • Remuneration of personnel
  • Order
  • Centralization
  • Scalar chain
  • Equity
  • Stability of tenure
  • Initiative
  • Esprit de corps

He also divided the totality of industrial undertaking activities into six groups:

  • Technical activities
  • Commercial activities
  • Financial activities
  • Security activities
  • Accounting activities
  • Administrative/Managerial activities

Fayol also emphasises the fact that these steps are always present, irrespective of the nature of the organisation.

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The five main elements of administration, according to Fayol are:

  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Command
  • Coordination
  • Control

The attributes of a manager or administrator are as follows:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Morality
  • He must be generally acquainted with matters that do not exclusively belong to the function in which he is performing
  • Special knowledge of the function in which he is performing, whether it is technical, commercial or financial etc.
  • He must be experienced in his field of work.

The Neo-classical Theory of Management

This is the extended version of the classical theory where behavioural sciences are added to administration/management. In this theory, the social system and it’s performance is affected by human action.

The behavioural science approach emerged since the classical approach did not adequately achieve production efficiency and harmony in the workplace. As a result, there was more interest in helping the managers effectively deal with the people side of their organisations. This theory emphasised the understanding of human behaviour, needs and attitudes in the work environment.

The Human Relations Movement

This was an effort to make managers more sensitive to the needs of their employees. It arose out of the threat of unionization, Hawthorne studies and the influences of the philosophy of industrial humanism. It emphasised the satisfaction of the basic needs of the employees as the key to increased worker productivity. This particular theory also suggests that jobs should be designed to meet higher-level needs by allowing the workers to use their full potential.

Elton Mayo believed that not only the operations, machinery and finances affected the overall performance of the organisation, but also the feelings of these employees, the associations of these employees and also the relationship between managers and employees, brought about lots of changes in performance and productivity.

The Hawthorne studies were carried out in the 1920’s with the main research focus being on the relation of quality and quantity of illumination to efficiency in industry. Four important studies were undertaken:

  • Illumination study – this was the practice of observing people’s behaviour to see if it in any way altered their behaviour. This was called the Hawthorne effect and indicated that productivity did, indeed, increase when studies were on and took a slump when the study was over.
  • Relay assembly test room study – this was the assembly of telephone relays (35 parts – 4 machine screws). Here, researchers spent five years measuring how different variables had an impact on the productivity of groups as well as individuals. Some of the variables were the provision of food during breaks, shortening the days by 30 minutes or more and by returning to the first condition (where the output actually peaked). Overall production was found to have increased due to favourable working conditions.
  • Interviewing Program – here, management basically started communicating with employees. It was not an interview, as such, but employees were asked to give suggestions during decision-making processes. The results proved that upward communication actually created a positive attitude in the work environment.
  • Bank-wiring room observation study – the aim of this study was to find out how remuneration and payment incentives would affect productivity the surprising result was the fact that productivity actually decreased due to various reasons (fear that the company would lower the base rate and the existence of informal groups/cliques etc).

It was further found that social groups are able to influence production and individual work behaviour.

Some very important aspects of the behavioural science approach are:

  • Communication
  • Employee development
  • Leadership
  • Employee motivation and
  • The organisation as a social system.

Some key lessons from the behavioural approach:

  • People are the key to productivity
  • Success depends on motivated and skilled individuals who are committed to the organisation.
  • Managerial sensitivity is very important in fostering the cooperation needed for high productivity levels.

Modern Management Theory

These are the theories that emerged in the late 90’s and have, to date, transformed the way in which managers view and handle different situations in the workplace

The main modern theories are:

  • The quantitative management theory which encourages managers to look into different sciences (like mathematics, physical sciences, etc) and then use these techniques to solve various managerial problems. Mathematical forecasting, for example, helps to make projections that prove to be useful in the planning process. Inventory modelling and the queuing theory can also be used.
  • The Systems Approach – what this approach basically means is that it is important for one to understand major departments of an organisation, as well as the sub-units of these departments and also how all of these departments are related to one another. Under the systems approach, managers have a good view of the organisation. It also gives importance to the interdependence of the different parts of an organisation and its environment.
  • The contingency view basically emphasises that there is no specific or best way to manage. Every organisation is different and faces different challenges and as a result, deals with its challenged in its own way.

It is seen in the explanation above, how the search for the true meaning and definition of administration truly is a continuous one. To some extent, it can be deduced that the principles of administration border on the same lines universally. We have also learnt that work and interpersonal behaviour of the people in organisations is influenced by many factors.

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