CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES – (BY ROBERT PHILIP ACQUAH)
“(We can) conceive of twentieth-century management theory as being involved in a double movement of constructing organizational reality and rationality while effacing the process of construction behind a mask of science and naturalness, we can see Critical Management Studies as being engaged in a project of undoing this work, of deconstructing the reality of organizational life or truthfulness of organizational knowledge by exposing its un-naturalness or irrationality.”
Delbridge and Keenoy, 2010.
Following on from the latter part of the 19th century, the turn of the 20th century ushered in a management paradigm ...view middle of the document...
Heralded by the contingency movement, critical management studies (CMS) emerged. Based on a premise of promoting human enlightenment and emancipation, critical theorists argue that knowledge is multidimensional (Ogbor, 2001), debunking established assumptions and practices of the classical (conventional) movement. These arguably find expressions in the modernist and post-modernist discourse.
Classical management theory
Rationality and the “rational organization”, arguably the most influential management thought in the twentieth century gained momentum from Frederick Taylor and Max Weber’s theories of scientific and bureaucratic management respectively (Rutgers, 1999). The concept of rationality became the cornerstone of management praxis that is structured, mechanistic, functional and hierarchical concerned with production efficiency by managing available resources in a static and stable environment (Khalil, 2000).
Whilst there is a general consensus that organizational theory fuelled by the classical movement has evolved through rationality to establish a coherent system of management practices and thought, the main criticism that characterize the classical thought (namely scientific management, administrative principles and bureaucratic organization) is its emphasis on the economic rationality of management and organizations (Sridhar, 2009). It is argued that the classical thought ignores or takes a dim view of human aspects of the organization. Furthermore, the prescription of one best way of doing things, the belief that economic incentive is key to worker motivation and the monotony of work specialization are some of the key criticism of the classical view.
In spite of these criticisms, the classical paradigm is credited with making major contributions to the development of management functions, alongside the application of science to management and the articulation of specific principles to management (Sridhar, 2009).
Frederick W. Taylor’s principles of scientific management whilst replacing the “rule of thumb” philosophy, established scientific application to work processes and functional divisions which has widespread applications in modern management. Taylor’s “time and motion study” at the Bethlehem steel plant convinced him that work was more efficient when broken down into constituent parts whilst planning and decision making functions became the remit of management. Jean-Louis Peucelle (2000) contends that there are a number of Taylor’s prescriptions such as the formalization of prescribed work still present in modern enterprises today and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Max Weber’s contribution to organizational theory stems from his ideological prescriptions of a bureaucratic type of organizational structure with hierarchical authority and responsibilities that prescribes a controlled structure imbued with specialized functions, rules and regulations also in the name of efficiency.