For decades the question, ‘What is the nature of management?’ has been a preoccupation for, writers and practitioners. To many, management is seen as a set of tools and maybe a ‘science’, to others it is defined as the ‘art’ of getting work done, yet to most people management has been surrounded by ambiguity and confusion.
It is therefore, not surprising if critics of one camp or the other eventually resort to the claim that management is about a set of knowledge, skills and beliefs and that what works in one situation may not work in another. While this is partially true, it gives emergence to the belief that there has been throughout the short life of management, bursts of ideas which are essentially unconnected to one another and which form a collection of ways of dealing with people, tasks and situations.
Such uninformed opinion ignores the most fundamental issue related to the development of concepts, theories and approaches which have been and are utilised in the world of organisations today: in that, management, like any other discipline, has gone through stages of development each of which has been critically tested and rigorously examined in order to ensure its claim of ‘workability’. Moreover, it is imperative to realise the evolutionary nature of the development of managerial concepts and its parallels with the revolutionary trend of other disciplines, such as mathematics, astronomy, economics and even art and their development as a means of experiencing and expressing how the world around us functions, operates and exists.
It is vital for scholars, students and practitioners in management to understand the ‘evolutionary’ nature of the development of management no matter how revolutionary they may seem in a particular time or in a particular country or culture. Management has been inspired by many who wished to improve the way things can be done and in a more effective way than their predecessors or their counterparts. Therefore, management as it is known today has gone through stages of being a new idea, a challenge to the old ways of doing things, becoming guidance as to the appropriate concerns and relevant practices; becoming acceptable as a norm, being critically studied and dealt with and ultimately being replaced by another idea which requires further development.
For practitioners in the world of managing people and organisations it is of great importance to view management as what it is, a product, a set of good practices acceptable in a community with values and beliefs which are in a ‘transitory state’. In other words, in the same way that other paradigms in management have been put forward and challenged over time, the present state of development of management will also be subjected to inherent and inevitable process of change and development. To claim that management has developed to its full potential and has arrived at it final destination of effectiveness and efficiency is a folly.
What follows in these chapters enables managers, administrators and project managers alike, to gain a basic understanding of how the dominant views and concepts in management have been developed, what is their relevance for effective operations of work in the context of project or otherwise and how these techniques, guidance and skills can best be put into practice.
To this end, while it would be unnecessary to follow every detail of the evolutionary process of how management as it is today was created and established, it is essential to become familiar with the milestones in the process: each of which reveals the philosophy, value structure, beliefs and most importantly the dominant assumptions which were held by scholars, theorists, developers, trainers and practitioners at different points in time.
Each milestone in the development of management is marked by a new or rather a different set of assumptions about the nature of the work, organisations, people, clients and other concepts such as motivation, reward and the like. Although, at first glance to the practitioner there seems to be almost no unifying structure for relating the various ideas, concepts and skills in management, the underlying presuppositions and practices provide the basis for rather distinctive perspectives on management. The stress ought to be placed on the overlapping nature of schools of thoughts and perspectives from which the world of work, people and organisations have been looked at and that each perspective in management provides a basis for the development of the next.
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