Management is defined as the art of getting things done by making the best use of available resources. Over the passing centuries, organisational structure has undergone radical changes, and simultaneously the process of management as well. Hence, several theories were propounded over centuries which were considered crucial for understanding business operations. These, when clubbed together, are called Management Thought.
Management thought has evolved over the centuries and can be classified as follows:
1. Classical School
2. Behavioural School
3. Quantitative School
4. Systems School
5. Contingency School
The Classical School of Management Thought refers to the pre Scientific Management Period (before 1880) whose cornerstone belief was that employees have solely physical and economical needs. Social needs such as career growth, job satisfaction, work-life balance are non-existent and therefore, not important. Hence, this management thought practiced division and specialisation of labour, organisational hierarchy and centralised decision making process and focused on profit maximisation. The 3 pillars of Classical school were Scientific Management Theory by F.W. Taylor, Administrative Theory by Henry Fayol and Bureaucratic Management by Max Weber.
With the human relations movement, the management thought started changing and this led to the Behavioural School, which focused on individual employees. It was aimed at understanding the human behaviour in an organisational setting. This was followed by the Quantitative School which relied heavily on application of Operations Management and Management Information Systems. During the period of 1940s to 1970s, the focus was shifted to use of statistical and mathematical models for increasing accuracy and effectiveness of managerial decision making. The Systems School and Contingency School of Management thought became popular in the latter half of 20th century. The systems school modelled the organisation as a system for transforming inputs into outputs. The organisation is affected by both internal and external factors and seeks to achieve equilibrium. It was considered too complex but laid the foundation of Contingency School of management thought, which considers that there is no one best way of management. Hence, application of management principles has to vary as per the situation at hand. It is determined on the basis of several factors like position-power, organisational hierarchy and task structure.
Apart from these, there also exist contemporary schools of management thought such as Total Quality Management and Learning Organisation.