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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Historical Evolution of OB as A Discipline - Foundations of Organizational Behaviour

A large number of people have contributed to the growth of OB as a discipline. The most important ones have been described below:

A. Early Theorists

Adam Smith’s discussions in the Wealth of nations published in 1776 stated that organizations and society would reap from the division of labor. He concluded that division of labor increased productivity by raising each worker’s skill and dexterity, by saving time otherwise lost in changing tasks. The development of assembly line production process in the early 20th century was obviously stimulated by the economic advantages of work specialization (arising out of division of labor) as stated in the work of Smith.

The other significant work which influenced this philosophy was that of the work of Charles Babbage in 1832 titled On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. He added the following to Smith’s list of advantages that can be accrued from division of labor:

1. It reduces the time needed to learn a job
2. Reduced wastage of material during the learning process
3. Allowed attainment of increased skill levels
4. Careful match of people’s skills and physical abilities with specific tasks
Thus in the writings of these writers the benefits of division of labor were being highlighted where the maximum emphasis was on raising productivity and minimizing wastage of resources and time. Very little consideration was given towards the human elements in the workplace.

B. The Classical Era

We see this trend to continue in what is called as the classical era which covers the period between 1900 to mid 1930s. the first general theories of management began to evolve and the main contributors during this era were Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol, Max Weber, Mary parker Follet and Chester Barnard.

Frederick Taylor’s main emphasis was on finding one best way of doing each job. He stressed on selecting the right people for the job, train them to do it precisely in one best way. He favored wage plans to motivate the workers. His scientific principles of management stressed the following principles:

1. Shift all responsibility for the organization of work from the worker to the manager; managers should do all the thinking relating to the planning and design of work, leaving the workers with the task of implementation.
2. Use scientific methods to determine the most efficient way of doing work; assign the worker’s task accordingly, specifying the precise way in which the work is to be done.
3. Select the best person to perform the job thus designed.
4. Train the worker to do the work efficiently.
5. Monitor worker performances to ensure that appropriate work procedures are followed and that appropriate results are achieved.

Taylor was one of the first to attempt to systematically analyze human behavior at work. He insisted the use of time-and-motion study as a means of standardizing work activities. His scientific approach called for detailed observation and measurement of even the most routine work, to find the optimum mode of performance.

The results were dramatic, with productivity increasing significantly. With passing time, new organizational functions like personnel and quality control were created. Of course, in breaking down each task to its smallest unit to find what Taylor called „„the one best way‟‟ to do each job, the effect was to remove human variability. Hence he lay the ground for the mass production techniques that dominated management thinking in the first half of the twentieth century.

Henri Fayol, a mining engineer and manager by profession, defined the nature and working patterns of the twentieth-century organization in his book, General and Industrial Management, published in 1916. In it, he laid down what he called 14 principles of management. This theory is also called the Administrative Theory. The principles of the theory are:

1. Division of work: tasks should be divided up with employees specializing in a limited set of tasks so that expertise is developed and productivity increased.
2. Authority and responsibility: authority is the right to give orders and entails enforcing them with rewards and penalties; authority should be matched with corresponding responsibility.
3. Discipline: this is essential for the smooth running of business and is dependent on good leadership, clear and fair arguments, and the judicious application of penalties.
4. Unity of command: for any action whatsoever, an employee should receive orders from one superior only; otherwise authority, discipline, order, and stability are threatened.
5. Unity of direction: a group of activities concerned with a single objective should be co-coordinated by a single plan under one head.
6. Subordination of individual interest to general interest: individual or group goals must not be allowed to override those of the business.
7. Remuneration of personnel: this may be achieved by various methods but it should be fair, encourage effort, and not lead to overpayment.
8. Centralization: the extent to which orders should be issued only from the top of the organization is a problem which should take into account its characteristics, such as size and the capabilities of the personnel.
9. Scalar chain (line of authority): communications should normally flow up and down the line of authority running from the top to the bottom of the organization, but sideways communication between those of equivalent rank in different departments can be desirable so long as superiors are kept informed.
10. Order: both materials and personnel must always be in their proper place; people must be suited to their posts so there must be careful organization of work and selection of personnel.
11. Equity: personnel must be treated with kindness and justice.
12. Stability of tenure of personnel: rapid turnover of personnel should be avoided because of the time required for the development of expertise.
13. Initiative: all employees should be encouraged to exercise initiative within limits imposed by the requirements of authority and discipline.
14. Esprit de corps: efforts must be made to promote harmony within the organization and prevent dissension and divisiveness.

The management functions, that Fayol stated, consisted of planning, organizing, commanding, co-coordinating and controlling. Many practicing managers, even today, list these functions as the core of their activities. Fayol was also one of the first people to characterize a commercial organization’s activities into its basic components.

He suggested that organizations could be sub-divided into six main areas of activity:

1. Technical
2. Commercial
3. Financial
4. Security
5. Accounting
6. Management.

In defining the core principles governing how organizations worked and the contribution of management to that process, Fayol laid down a blueprint that has shaped organization thinking for almost a century.

Max Weber developed a theory based on authority relations and was the pioneer in looking at management and OB from a structural viewpoint. His theory is also known as bureaucratic theory in management. He described ideal types of organization and called it a bureaucracy. This was a system marked by division of labor, a clearly defined hierarchy, detailed rules and regulations and impersonal relationships. He wanted this ideal types construct to be taken as a basis for creating organizations in real world. The detailed features of Weber’s ideal bureaucratic structure are a follows:

1. Jurisdictional areas are clearly specified, activities are distributed as official duties (unlike traditional form where duties delegated by leader and changed at any time).
2. Organization follows hierarchical principle -- subordinates follow orders or superiors, but have right of appeal (in contrast to more diffuse structure in traditional authority).
3. Intention, abstract rules govern decisions and actions. Rules are stable, exhaustive, and can be learned. Decisions are recorded in permanent files (in traditional forms few explicit rules or written records).
4. Means of production or administration belong to office. Personal property separated from office property.
5. Officials are selected on basis of technical qualifications, appointed not elected, and compensated by salary.
6. Employment by the organization is a career. The official is a full-time employee and looks forward to a life-long career. After a trial period they get tenure of position and are protected from arbitrary dismissal.

C. The Human Relations Movement

Since the industrialists of the early decades of the twentieth century followed Tailor’s lead and put the emphasis on efficiency. One of the early pioneers of a view that actually people were central to the world of business was Mary Parker Follett. With this started the beginning of what may be termed as the Human relations Movement as contributor to the field of OB.

Follet believed that organizations should be based on a group ethic rather than on individualism. The manager’s work was to harmonize and coordinate group efforts. Managers and workers need to look at each other as partners. Therefore managers should rely more on workers‟ expertise and knowledge than on formal authority of their position to lead their subordinates. Thus in her writing one can trace the importance of motivation and group togetherness , so much required in modern day organizational situations.

Another major influence in the human relations movement came from the work of Chester Barnard. Barnard viewed organizations as consisting of people who have interacting social relationships. Barnard viewed organizational success in terms of fostering cooperation from various stakeholders such as, employees and others like customers, investors, suppliers and other external constituencies. Thus irrespective of excellent production systems, Barnard emphasized the need for boundary spanning activities and development of skills and motivation of employees for organizational effectiveness and success.

Elton Mayo is known as the founder of the Human Relations Movement, and is known for his research including the Hawthorne Studies, and his book The Social Problems of an Industrialised Civilization (1933). In the 1920s Elton Mayo, a professor of Industrial Management at Harvard Business School, and his protégé Fritz J. Roethlisberger led a landmark study of worker behavior at Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T. Fritz Roethlisberger and W.J. Dickson were the first to publish comprehensive findings of the Hawthorne experiments in 1937 and authored Management and the Worker in 1939, a comprehensive statement of the research and findings. Roethlisberger was a lead researcher in the Hawthorne project and a leader in the Human Relations movement. Dickson was Chief of Employee Relations Research Department at the Hawthorne plant and an instrumental contributor to the project the research he conducted under the Hawthorne Studies of the 1930s showed the significance of groups in affecting the behavior of individuals at work. He carried out a number of investigations to look at ways of improving productivity, for example changing lighting conditions in the workplace.

His findings were that work satisfaction depended to a large extent on the informal social pattern of the workgroup. Where ever norms of cooperation and higher output were established it was due to a feeling of importance. Physical conditions or financial incentives had little motivational value. People will form workgroups and this can be used by management to benefit the organization.

Summary of Mayo’s Beliefs:
Individual workers cannot be treated in isolation, but must be seen as members of a group. Monetary incentives and good working condition are less important to the individual than the need to belong to a group. Informal or unofficial groups formed at work have a strong influence on the behavior of those workers in a group Managers must be aware of these 'social needs' and cater for them to ensure that employees collaborate with the official organization rather than work against it.

Another contributor whose work revolutionized thinking about workplaces was Dale Carnegie. His book -How to Win Friends and Influence people is a classic which is referred by management experts even today. His main theme centered on the idea that the way to success was through winning the cooperation of people.

He advised:

1. To make others feel important through a sincere appreciation of their efforts
2. Seek to make a good impression
3. Win people to your way of thinking by letting others do the talking, being sympathetic and never telling others that they are wrong
4. Change people by praising their good traits and giving chance to others to save their face

The next contributor who influenced the human aspects of management in workplace was Abraham Maslow. Maslow proposed the need hierarchy theory (physiological, safety, social esteem and self actualization needs) and stated that each step in the hierarchy must be satisfied before the next can be activated and once a need was substantially satisfied, it no longer motivated an individual. Self actualization was the ultimate goal of human existence. Managers who accepted this hierarchy theory attempted to alter the organization and management practices to reduce barriers to employees‟ self actualization.

Douglas McGregor was another contributor to the human relations movement. He formulated two sets of assumptions – Theory X and Theory Y about human nature. Theory X posited a negative view of people stating that this category have little ambition, dislike work, want to avoid responsibility and need to be closely directed at workplace. Theory Y category on the other hand proposed a positive view of people stating that they can exercise self direction, assume responsibility and considered work as a natural activity. McGregor personally believed that Theory Y described best the nature of people at work and therefore form the basis of all management practices in organizations. Managers should give freedom to their subordinates in order to unleash their full creative and productive potential.

D. Behavioral Science Theorists

These theorists engaged in objective research of human behavior in organizations. Some of the major theorists who contributed to the growth of OB as a discipline are briefly given below.

B. F. Skinner - His research on conditioning (classical and operant) and behavior modification influenced the design of organization training programs and reward systems. Behavior is a function of consequence according to Skinner and he stated that people engage in a desired behavior only if they are rewarded for it and less likely to be repeated if an individual is not rewarded or punished for it.

David McClelland - his work has helped organizations to match people with jobs and in redesigning jobs for high achievers in order to maximize their motivation potential. For example, people who have undergone achievement training in India, have been found to work longer hours, initiate more new business ventures, made greater investments in productive assets than those who did not undergo such training.

Fred Fiedler - work in the field of leadership has contributed immensely to the growth of OB as a discipline. His work on the subject is important since it emphasized the situational aspects of leadership and attempted to develop a comprehensive theory of leadership behavior.

Fredrick Herzberg- his primary interest was in finding out answer to the question: what do individuals want from their jobs? He concluded from his study that people preferred jobs that provided opportunities for recognition, achievement, responsibility and growth. Only providing the hygiene factors were insufficient to motivate people in work places. This work is significant to OB as it has helped in enriching jobs and the quality of work life in modern organizations.

Landmark publications on organizational behavior
» 1911: Frederick Taylor: Principles of Scientific Management
» 1916: Henri Fayol: General and Industrial Management
» 1924: MaxWeber: The Theory of Social and Economic Organization
» 1933: Elton Mayo: Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization
» 1938: Chester Barnard: The Functions of the Executive
» 1954: Abraham Maslow: Motivation and Personality
» 1956: William Whyte: The Organization Man
» 1959: Frederick Herzberg: The Motivation to Work
» 1960: Douglas McGregor: The Human Side of Enterprise
» 1964: Robert Blake and Jane Mouton: The Managerial Grid
» 1973: Henry Mintzberg: The Nature of Managerial Work
» 1978: Chris Argyris and Donald Schon: Organizational Learning
» 1979: Reg Revans: Action Learning
» 1981: Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos: The Art of Japanese
» 1982: Tom Peters and Bob Waterman: In Search of Excellence
» 1984: Meredith Belbin: Management Teams
» 1985: Edgar Schein: Organizational Culture and Leadership
» 1986: Gareth Morgan: Images of Organization
» 1989: Charles Handy: The Age of Unreason
» 1990: Peter Senge: The Fifth Discipline
» 1990: Richard Pascale: Managing on the Edge
» 1993: James Champy and Mike Hammer: Re-engineering the
» 1995: Karl Weick: Sensemaking in Organizations
» 1997: Arie de Geus: The Living Company
» 1997: Thomas Stewart: Intellectual Capital
» 2000: Richard Pascale: Surfing the Edge of Chaos
» 2001: Daniel Pink: Free Agent Nation

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