The Extent to Which the Study of Management is Scientific
To what extent is the study of Management scientific?
If it is not a science, then what is it?
It is broadly agreed that certain aspects of management study are
perfectly scientific, for example computer and mathematical solutions
to management problems subject to quantitative constraints. This essay
however, is mainly concerned with management study within an
organisational behaviour context; it argues that many theories
outlining human responses to management policy are unscientific, and
those which do follow scientific methodology produce results with
The aims of management study will firstly be discussed, with a
consideration of what constitutes scientific research, and how a
scientific nature helps achieve these aims. A management policy which
aims to scientifically measure the success of management strategies
will then be evaluated. The main body of the essay evaluates two types
of management approaches, those which focus on productivity levels and
the formal organisation, and those which take a more holistic view by
taking into account human factors and the informal organisation as
well. Finally, a case study known as the ‘Hawthorne research’ has
been used to support the assertions made above, as the findings relate
to both scientific and observational studies.
The study of management
The development of management theory began in the late nineteenth
century, with the emergence of large industrial organisations, and the
ensuing problems associated with their structure and management. It
was hoped that the management theories devised would be able to
improve organisational functioning whilst improving the quality of
life of those who work in organisations (Mullins, 1999:52).
The management theories which will be most useful to organisations are
those which are scientific in nature, i.e. those studies where a
causal relationship can be established between two variables.
Scientific research allows changes to the independent variable to be
objectively linked to changes in a dependant variable. For example, in
a natural science such as chemistry it can be observed that combining
certain chemicals always gives certain products. The results will
never change. This constitutes reliable research; the product created
will always be the same if the study is repeated. It also valid
research, the cause has been firmly established. The same principle
can be applied to management studies. If they always yield similar
results, theories will be extremely valuable to organisations as
opposed to theories which yield inconsistent results and will not
always provide a solution to business problems.
MBO: A scientific means of evaluating management strategies?
One attempt to...