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Discovering management
Discovering management

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1.1 General theories of management –contrasting approaches

This section provides a summary overview of two contrasting general theories of management. They are based on the writings of two management thinkers – Fayol and Urwick – who can be taken to represent the classical traditions of management theory, and two management thinkers – Follett and Likert – whose basic approach was very different and who can be taken to represent a human relations approach.

Section 1, together with the associated questions below, introduce a more general consideration of ways of drawing on general theories and ideas about management in your study, your development and your routine practice as a manager. You may like to make notes as you read. You might find it a quick and convenient way of getting your thoughts down. Even if they’re only rough, they can be interesting to refer back to.

This section (Section 1.1) summarises the ideas about management of four writers on organisations – Henri Fayol, Lyndall Urwick, Mary Follett and Rensis Likert – from the period 1900–1970. The reading presents their respective ideas as contrasting contributions to an ongoing debate about the nature of management.

Section 1.2 is a short extract from a book written by Donald Schön in the mid-1980s – The Reflective Practitioner. This was a study of the behaviours of people in a range of professions – doctors, architects, engineers, managers – and he explored particular features of those professions and the nature of professionalism in general. The book has become a modern classic and has been influential in setting up approaches to professional learning.

Activity 1 Theories of management - Task A The nature of management

Read the rest of this section and keep the following questions in mind:

  • What are the similarities and the differences between the two broad positions on management of the four writers?
  • Where have you found echoes of these general theories of management in your own experience?
  • How far do they reflect some of your ideas and assumptions?
  • Which do you prefer, and why?

While you read, keep a note of your thoughts on the questions above, together with your response to a further question which is more about the application of theory:

  • What do you see as the implications and benefits of engaging with these theories for practising managers?

Feedback will follow Task B.