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Discovering management
Discovering management

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1.2 Management as a science versus management as an art

In 1983, Donald Schön published a seminal study of how professionals think in action. The Reflective Practitioner was based on a study of the way in which a range of professionals – managers, doctors, architects, planners – actually approached their work. He gave particular attention to the huge discrepancies between the official accounts professionals give of their professional practice and the actual way in which they work; between the formal, rational dimensions of their working methods and the less formal, more intuitive and emotional dimensions.

The following extract from Schön’s book is taken from the start of the chapter specifically on management. Following on from the issues identified in reading 1, this extract laid some of the main foundations for the ways in which managers understood their role in the last years of the twentieth century and into the current century. Schön also played a key role in shaping the ways in which managers learned their trade – and you will have a chance to look further at his ideas in later sections of the module.

Task B Management as a science versus management as an art

The next section helps you address another big question posed in this course:

  • Is managing a science or an art?

In the light of this section on general ideas about management as a science versus management as an art’ as you read make on the following questions:

  • Do Schön’s distinctions between management as a science and management as an art or craft reflect your own experiences?
  • Does he challenge your ideas about management, or those of managers you have known, or the assumptions about management you have encountered in different organisations and contexts? If so, how?
  • What do you see as the implications of Schön’s ideas here for practising managers?
  • Is management, for you, primarily a rational or an intuitive/creative profession?

As before, it would also be very helpful if you could consider the following questions, which are relevant to all general theories and ideas about management, not just those you have been considering here:

  • Do you think academics, researchers and writers on management differ in their approaches to ideas and theories about management from practising managers?
  • If they do, how do you see those differences?