Classical Organizational Theory


Classical Organizational Theory deals with the “systematic processes necessary to make bureaucracy more efficient and effective.” Two scholars (Weber and Taylor) are credited with the development of classical organization thought. What were the basic arguments articulated by each in their contributions to the development of Classical Organizational Theory?

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Classical Organizational Theory

In recent years, organization leaders and managers have extensively used the principles of classical organization theory as they attempt to enhance the performance, effectiveness, and efficiency of individual organizations. For managers and investors to effectively coordinate and monitor the activities of employees in the organization, they need to understand the history of management and current development in management to avoid mistakes of the past.  The understanding of the past mistakes and current development gives them an opportunity to equip members of the workforce with enough skills and knowledge to improve the efficiency of an organization (Shafritz, Jang, & Ott, 2016). Classical organization theory comprises of scientific management approach, bureaucratic theory, and administrative theory. Classical theories of management highly borrow from the concept of the developing a work plan, normalization, job division, and simplification.  Classical theories assist managers in organizing information to help in execution of management obligations and responsibilities (Du & Vikkelsø, 2017). This study will attempt to analyze the scholars and their contributions towards the classical organizational theory.

Frederick Taylor, who is largely regarded as the father of scientific management exploited his engineering and scientific skills in administration as he developed a theory to help managers improve efficiency and effectiveness in their organizations. He strongly advocated a change in production programming, controlling production, designing organizational processes, quality control, cost accounting, and ergonomics. Taylor’s principles of management have been applied in almost every modern organization.  Principles of scientific management as proposed by Taylor include:

  1. Actively collect, evaluate and concerning information and data to rules and regulations and even mathematical formulas for completing tasks in the organization (Du & Vikkelsø, 2017).
  2. Employing a scientific approach in the recruitment and training of employees
  3. Integrating science and employees so that the workers can apply the scientific knowledge to complete their duties and responsibilities effectively
  4. Equally distributing organization responsibilities between employees and managers where management utilizes planning techniques and the employees’ tasks according to the plans(Shafritz, Jang, & Ott, 2016).

Fredrick w. Taylor found that for factories to expand productivity there was the need to look for ways to enhance the efficiency of the employees.  Management faced questions such as whether there was one best way of doing the task in answering these challenges, Taylor developed principles that constituted the essence of scientific management.

On the other hand, Weber believed that the bureaucracy was the most efficient way to organize an organization compared to traditional organizational structures.  According to his theory, Weber was of the opinion that to get the best out of employees and to ensure that they were fully motivated and committed to the organization, there was the need to treat them equally.  Additionally, he felt that the division of labor is described for each employee which in turn improves collaboration(Du Gay & Vikkelsø, 2016). Bureaucracy in an organization is characterized by many rules, standardized processes, and procedures as well as both personal and impersonal relationships in an organization. Weber was sensitive to the conditions in which employees were treated in an organization and companies, particularly by those in managerial positions.  As a result, Weber proposed an organizational system that would be run by rules and regulations known as bureaucracy. For an organization or company to be described as bureaucratic, they are a need for the organization to have defined rules and regulations as well as a hierarchical structure based on the formal authority and where reasonable regulations guided employees instead of arbitrary acts by those in power (Pershing & Austin, 2017).

In conclusion, it is correct to say that classical organizational theory has significantly changed the concept of management to improve efficiency and effectiveness of an organization. Despite the fact that it was developed at the turn of 20th century, it is still used in the world.


Du Gay, P., & Vikkelsø, S. (2016). The Idea of a ‘Classical Stance’ in Organization Theory. For Formal Organization, 27-52. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198705123.003.0002

Du, G. P., & Vikkelsø, S. (2017). For formal organization: The past in the present and future of organization theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pershing, S. P., & Austin, E. K. (2017). Organization theory and governance for the 21st century.

Shafritz, J. M., Jang, Y. S., & Ott, J. S. (2016). Classics of organization theory. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


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