Reflection One – Classical Management

Though many of Benjamin Franklin’s pithy quotes appear in one form or another on Pinterest sites and tchotchke catalogs – “there are no Gains without Pains”, “God helps those that help themselves”, and “Early to Bed, Early to Rise” – the notion of those sayings being posted in the break room of most modern day American workplaces is unimaginable (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey, 2014, p.66). In many organizations, Weber’s idea of bureaucracy, though welcomed by workers in the early twentieth century to protect employees from particularism, has morphed into piles and piles of red tape that often times, unproductively consumes the precious time and energy of both management and employee (Eisenberg, et al., 2014).

In the early 1900s, Taylor’s theory of Scientific Management provided a blueprint for managers and employees that laid out precisely the roles and responsibilities of each individual in the corporation. Following Taylor’s plan would ensure who was to do what task, how it should be done, and that there would be no crossing of roles between worker and manager (Eisenberg, et al., 2014). Around the same, Fayol was fine tuning his theory of administrative science that defined how management should operate, created a distinct vertical chain of command, and, while recognizing the importance of worker retention and fair pay for a job well done, still advocated that workers should put the needs of the organization above their own interests (Eisenberg, et al., 2014).

But while these theories seem outdated when read through an enlightened 20th century lens, our text tells us that many of these ideas are in practice today, just cloaked in new terminology. For instance, “the classical management objective of fitting the right person to the right job is now called ‘individualizing the organization’ and in applications ranging from software design to fast-food sales . . .the goal of reducing the number of steps involved to reliably produce a quality result is still paramount” (Eisenberg, et al., 2014). Grow, Brady and Arndt tell us that Home Depot is still run with a classical management approach with dictates coming from the top down. Lower level managers and employees are given very little leeway over day-to-day operations and there is even a manual entitled “How to Be Orange Every Day” full of Franklin style advice that employees are expected to keep in their apron pockets (Grow, Brady, and Arndt, March, 2006).

Though this sort of management seems unnecessarily rigid, demeaning and demoralizing in modern times of employee rights and respect, the operations of some organizations necessarily depend on a strict chain of command and scientific design of every aspect of every task. A fire department is a good example of this type of organization. A strict hierarchy of command is necessary for both the rescuers and those needing help when the department is called to a scene. There is no time for debate or indecision, as firefighters must act as a seamless unit. Everything on the truck has to be in the proper place, used the proper way, and many hours are spent in training drills to analyze the quickest, most efficient way to attach and pull hoses, use the jaws of life to open a car, administer first aid, etc. Time is of the essence and can mean the difference between life and death – for both the rescuer and the victim – and it is important that firefighters follow tried and trusted rules and procedures that have been practiced until they are practically second nature.

For most of today’s organizations, I believe that the classical management approach is not the best approach. The workday is no longer dawn to dusk, the country’s workforce is diverse, and most employees expect employers to respect a balance between work and down time. Certainly the Home Depot method of management, patterned after the military, is out of step with current theories and practices (Grow, Brady and Arndt, March, 2006). However, as stated in the previous paragraph, there is still a need for many of the structured elements of the classic management approach in organizations, like fire departments, where life and death oft times hang in the balance.

I understand why the firefighting field is extremely competitive as there are many more candidates than positions to fill and the job comes with its own rewards far beyond financial compensation. But with a national unemployment rate hovering just below 5 percent, how do companies, like Home Depot, that seem to use the classical management approach to the extreme by treating employees more like robots than civilians, continue to maintain the staffing necessary to remain in operation?

References:

Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall, H. L. Jr., and Tretheway, A. (2014) Organizational Communication Balancing Creativity and Constraint (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford

Grow, B, Brady, D. and Arndt, M. (March, 2006). Renovating Home Depot. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2006-03-05/renovating-home-depot

3 thoughts on “Reflection One – Classical Management

  1. Thank you for your reflection on classical management, Melinda! I enjoyed reading your comments and thoughts throughout. I think that companies like Home Depot, who run their organization through classical management approaches, maintain staffing to remain in operation strictly because of our economy. In today’s economy people need jobs. There are so many people who are unemployed. Training an employee for a job at Home Depot is completely different than training an employee to become a fire fighter. Working for an organization like Home Depot consists of an environment “modeled after efficient machines” (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey, 2010, p. 65). I also believe that once individuals are hired they get into the swing of working as robots. I also enjoyed reading your opinion about how you are opposed to classical management approaches in the work environment. I agree with you that classical management is not the only way to gain success in an organization. Giving individuals freedom to work when they please and use their creativity sometimes brings out the best employee in themselves.

    References:

    Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication balancing creativity and constraint (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford

    Like

  2. Hi Melinda—very informative and well-organized post! I agree with you that classical management is still the most appropriate approach for certain organizations—you mentioned fire departments; in my post I mentioned the military and restaurants. I noticed that the Home Depot article we read was from 2005. I wondered if the company still manages employees in this way, and I found an article from 2014 that suggests it doesn’t—it says that Bob Nardelli, the CEO in the article we read, “managed to alienate investors, the board, and employees” (Reingold, 2014). His successor had a much different management style, putting more focus on employees and their concerns. So maybe the answer to your question– “How do companies, like Home Depot, that seem to use the classical management approach to the extreme by treating employees more like robots than civilians, continue to maintain the staffing necessary to remain in operation?” –is that they don’t.

    Source:
    Reingold, Jennifer. (2014, October 29). How Home Depot CEO Frank Blake kept his legacy from being hacked. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2014/10/29/home-depot-cybersecurity-reputation-frank-blake/

    Like

  3. Hi Melinda, and thank you for your post! I agree with what you said about Home Depot and how its classical management/militaristic approach is not the best fit for companies in our current day and age. I wrote in my blog post about how with a new generation of people graduating college and entering the workforce, there really needs to be more of a balance of constraint and creativity. I believe what Eisenberg, Goodall Jr. and Trethewey stated is applicable: “This dichotomy (between constraint and creativity) has obvious implications for organizational communication, depending on whether the emphasis is on how employees communicate to create and shape organizations or on the constraints organizations place on that communication” (2010, p. 38).

    I also agree with what you said about how it is not the correct approach to treat employees like robots. It’s almost as if that is exactly what management strives for. Like I mentioned in my blog post, it is the scientific management approach that dictates this idea that “some employees are better suited to ‘thinking’ work and some to ‘doing’ work (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, p. 70-71). It seems the preference is for their stores to be staffed with those that “do” work. Meanwhile, their customer-service is consistently ranked as sub-par, according to Brian Grow, in his article Renovating Home Depot. Thank you again for your post, I thought it was well done!

    Works Cited

    Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall, H., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational Communication: Balancing Creativity and Constraint (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

    Grow, B., Brady, D., & Arndt, M. (2006, March 6). Renovating Home Depot. Retrieved September 11, 2016, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2006-03-05/renovating-home-depot

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s