Is Management an Inexact Science?

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Is Management an Inexact Science?
AQEEL RAZA, Accountant, Pakistan, Member
Social sciences are considered inexact. And indeed, the knowledge and study of management is quite an inexact science for many reasons:
  • There is no laboratory for testing the principles of management.
  • The inclusion of actions by humans in management.
  • Management is based on imaginations and thoughts.
  • Management is already old but there are many changes in its nature.
  • Exact sciences acquire knowledge from experiments and observation of research materials. Management deals a lot with the minds of human beings.
  • Management applies knowledge according to the situation although it is using principles, methods and models to achieve a result.
  • Management is also a science neither visible nor complete like other scientific knowledge. The chance of its total visibility and completion is zero because its principles create different results in different entities, in a different environment and at different times.
Overall, from the above discussion, I think management is an inexact science because it depends on thoughts and imagination, human actions and has no exact principles or formula.

Management is an Exact Science Also
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
The outcomes are the results of the interplay of the entities of the system. If the right entities are there and with the right interactions of the entities, the desired outcome can be derived at all times and places as some principles are time tested and proven for its effectiveness over a period of time (generations together). For example the principles in the experiential system.

Management is a Practice, not a Science
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico, Member
According to Peter Drucker, management is a practice, not a science.
It's about performance and its practices are based on knowledge an on responsibility.

Management is an Inexact Practice
Graham Williams, Management Consultant, South Africa, Premium Member
@Javier's comment that practice is a more appropriate description of management than science, makes sense. Being exact creeps in when old style/ mechanistic/ hierarchical managers strive to measure, monitor, control, "manage" people, instead of majoring on relating, equipping, relying on people to get the required results.
Servant leadership for example is totally out of kilter with machine-like management... The two cannot fit into the same culture.

Management is a SYSTEMIC Science
Olaf de Hemmer, Business Consultant, France, Member
The Valeur(s) & Management network of experts concluded that corporate issues can be analyzed, understood and improved by using methods based not on Cartesian Science (based on Descartes' 4 principles, including causality and "why?") but Systemic Science (based on Le Moigne's 4 principles, including teleology and "What for?").
Even if management issues will stay subjective or even irrational, be subject to chaotic reactions, complex feedback loops… they can be studied out of practice (what science does not?), can be studied rigorously and exhaustively, leading to understanding people's individual and collective behavior, allowing to orient decisions and actions: is that not science?
Yes, management is a system-based science, like biology, environmental sciences, robotics….

Science is Science
I often hear/read the sloppy use of the word 'science' in business. I think people may believe something (more) if the word 'science' is used. It is very straight forward.
Science is the pursuit of knowledge through the use of scientific methods, with peer review of findings. So you can't have management science or sales science etc...
But you can have/use science to study these practices. Even in this scenario, social science is more about the study of phenomena as pure science is about facts.
I am sure accredited scientists must shudder when they hear/read the word science in the business world!

Social Sciences and Sciences
adam djeddi, Algeria, Member
When you want to mention science, it is enough to tell what this science is. Like: physics, mathematics... But when we add the word - science - to describe another concept, this concept is not original to science but its subject, related to it, like: social science. So management is not even a science, management is bigger and larger than science. Management is sciences's largest field.

Management is a Practice or Art, not a Science
Jose Montoya, Professor, Venezuela, Member
Management is a Practice or Art, not a Science. I agree with that postulate. There is no monopoly of any knowledge or at least an episteme. It only requires common sense, treat subordinates well, and know how to read and write to practice it. That is management is more an art not a science.

Whether Management is Art or Science?
krishnamohan, Teacher, India, Member
In my opinion, it is neither purely art or science discipline. Management is an applied science. It has many characteristics of both science and art disciplines with strong orientation towards application rather than theory.
Management is science when viewed from sound theories, established time-tested principles, well-defined processes and accepted models of managing resources of an organisation. It is also considered as an art in view of the fact that the management theories, principles and models always produce results according to the ability of the individual manager concerned and situation specific.
That is why management is neither pure science nor art. It should be regarded as the art of application of scientific principles which are regarded as universal principles of management.

Management is a Complex Activity
Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK, Teacher, Brazil, Member
Physics, Chemistry and Biology are exact sciences because they study processes which show the same effects as consequences of the same causes.
I do not agree that management is an inexact science. Management is not a science, but an activity. And as activity it is a complex one, which should be studied according to the principles of a theory of complexity (see, for example, R. Axelrod & M. D. Cohen, "Harnessing Complexity".

Management is an Inexact Science
James Antwi, HR Consultant, Swaziland, Member
I agree that management is an inexact science, because management principles are true within some margin of errors and their application is typically based on assumptions.
The use of one management principle in isolation has proved ineffective in ensuring higher performance. For maximum output, there is a need to combine management principles and this can effectively be done through scientific evidence and not through trial and error.
I therefore believe that management is a practice, based on scientific evidence and not (just) common sense.

Management is a Chaotic Science
Francis, Manager, Thailand, Member
💡I think management is a science as success & failure mode can be repeated with similar parameter settings. However it is under constant chaotic change, because of the ever evolving nature of human beings. As a result it is drifting and mutation occurs constantly and fast. Faster than the development of management. This is resulting in disorientation of many managers.

Is Management an Inexact Science?
LOGOFATU OCTAVIAN, Director, Romania, Member
Basically, management is an art. Definitions in accordance with "management is the science of making things run well" I consider being wrong.
For me, a better definition is: "management is the art to make things develop in the desired direction".
Management as an art is a better approach than seeing it as a science like mathematics, for example, even if we sometimes also use mathematics to make things run smoothy.

Management is Real Science
habib shamsi, Director, Iran, Member
High quality management results from applying scientific creations. It is essential a manager knows about and uses sciences. It is impossible someone becomes successful in managing without understanding basic scientific information.
In addition, to overcome issues and problems, a manager has to know more than others, he may know of more or new methods to do something or to dissolve problems or special issues. This comes from our power to think creatively and has scientific bases.

Is Management an Inexact Science?
Graham Williams, Management Consultant, South Africa, Premium Member
@Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK makes a good point. In examining management in practice for the purpose of advancing knowledge, the rigours of off-work ‘scientific’ theory may be combined with practical workplace action learning and theory building. Two key features of Model 2 management research include knowledge produced in context and its transdisciplinary nature. (See work by MacLean, MacIntosh, Grant for example). For me this transcends the art or science or practice debate.

Management Really is not Sceince
Mohamed Ibrahim Hassan, Somalia, Member
Really Management is not a science subject because it has no formula and experiments as we are seeing in science subjects.
And also management has its thoughts developed by some persons without experiment, contrarily science subjects have experiments and formulate observations.
Management practices differ depending on conditions, environments and also organizational types.
True science has one procedure operating all over the world, for example a chemical equation:
Hydrogen gas (H2) can react (burn) with Oxygen gas (O2) to form water (H20).
In management we have no such universal formulae.

Management is a Discipline Involving Science + Art
Gabi Levin, Israel, Member
What is science?
Common wisdom tells that science is capable of defining rules, that - if followed -will always have the same result. Based on that, management isn't science. Take one company at time X, run it for Y time, produce certain result Z, then run it a year later, same rules, the result won't be exactly the same. So, it doesn't comply with science.
But can management use rules, principles that by methodical research show higher success - yes. Obviously, if you manage some organizations with compassion to your employees, the results will be better, but exactly how much better can't be precisely predicted.
Art by common definition uses no or very limited rules. Art expects no conventional approach. Art expects imagination, breaking rules, can management succeed without any rules? Obviously not. That is why management is a DISCIPLINE involving science + art. Discipline differs from both science and art by demanding the success oriented application of rules and imagination.

Management Science
Olaf de Hemmer, Business Consultant, France, Member
@Olaf de Hemmer: well, I agree with some of the reactions: management itself is not a science, but management science is science... Based on systemic paradigm instead of cartesian paradigm.

Management is not a Science
Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK, Teacher, Brazil, Member
@Habib shamsi: I insist and repeat: Management is not science, but activity that can be studied scientifically. Management in practice is driven by assumptions of social and therefore cultural nature. Instead of writing a long dissertation in this reply, I'd rather recommend Schein's article and book. His ideas greatly influenced my way of thinking about the art of management.

Management Science
Jose Luis Roces, Professor, Argentina, Premium Member
In my opinion it is a systemic social knowledge field, which includes practices and behaviors in all activities.
The effectiveness of management decisions depends on the coherence between the situation, the practice and the behavior (style) that you choose. It is not an algorithm, it is a heuristic and intuitive process (an art as Drucker said).
But finally, for what reason do we need to think about management as a rational or formal science….

Management is Both an Art and a Science
Riungu Festus Kinyua, Lecturer, Kenya, Member
Management is both an art and science:
- When you manage processes and systems in the workplace, a lot of science is required as argued by Fayol and the like.
- But when you deal with people, then the manager assumes the artistic role.
We therefore may not be truthful if we argue that management is purely an art or a science. It is both.

The Most Effective Managers are Artists ... not Scientists
Don Berry, Manager, United States, Member
@Graham Williams: Exactly! Those who view management as a science focus on processes and tweaking formulas when the outcomes don't match the expectation. As a result, a management scientist loses sight of near term objective and the overall goal.
On the other hand, a management artist keeps the goal in focus and while trusting his strategy he applies tools, tactics and his senses to read and react to the ever-changing environment. The management artist's eyes never lose sight of the goal.

No Universal Meaning of Management
Meshesha, Financial Consultant, Ethiopia, Member
All ideas raised above seem sound, but how can we reach on similar conclusion. We have been learning Management is a discipline in most business courses, but no one has an exclusive formula that applies to all cases, circumstances and time. Thus, it is possible to say management is a concept with no universal application. So then can we not bring this concept under one universal theory, and remain dependent on specific application?

Manager have to be Artistic
Riungu Festus Kinyua, Lecturer, Kenya, Member
Strategy is an art, dealing with people is an artistic process, and systems are normally fixed and routine which allows a scientific approach. Overall, the dynamism in human capital requires the manager to be really artistic. A good example of an artistic manager is the modern day pastor who is able to drive thousands of followers in his church. Artistic managers must be able to touch the emotions of their followers. They practice servant leadership in their managerial etiquette.

Management is Bigger than Science
Thob, Accountant, Member
To me management is not a science but rather something bigger than science. Scientists can agree with me that even science needs to be managed. So management is not science but it can be used to make sure any scientific idea brings the desired outcome (managing the science). Comparing management and science I think is a big mistakes. When you manage people, there is no formula or rather not same expected outcomes. The outcome of the management of people is contingent to the circumstances and it is subjective. Organizations of the same nature can be managed differently and yet continue to exist and the style of management depends on the goals to be achieved. So management is a not a science but can be applied in science to control the scientific parameters to arrive at the desired outcomes.

Management is not a Science
Tim Dibble, Project Manager, United States, Member
A science is based on the scientific principle. Establish a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, analyze the data, adjust the hypothesis until you have a reliable, repeatable answer.
Management's attempts to apply scientific approaches to the work world are doomed to fail.
Unlike measuring the action of gasses to pressure, people do not respond consistently to stimuli. Some will react to monetary rewards, some to praise, some to promotion, some to being left alone. The response to stimuli are not repeatable over the long run.
James loved his first two on-the-spot bonuses, but by the fourth, they were just becoming rote expectations and no longer had the motivational effect.
Management is an art of effecting the Gaussian distribution of employees.

Management is an Illusive Concept
Gabi Levin, Israel, Member
In continuation to @my previous post - where I suggested it is a discipline based on science and art. It reminds me of my Ph.D. thesis many years ago in material science. There was huge debate on a mechanism of some high temperature solid state reaction and it was hard to convince the sides that both mechanisms function simultaneously, and their proportional contribution to the result shifted with shifting conditions.
It is basically the same here - both science and art play a crucial role in success, the proportions of role between them shift and vary with conditions. Successful management is the result of optimal mix of these elements at each moment.

Management Can Be an Exact Science!
MUCHERWA NGONI, Student (University), Zimbabwe, Member
70% of management is a science. 30% is art. Management is a science because you can falsify your assumptions by using numbers. In other words you can prove or disapprove your hypothesis. That is why we have top fortune companies in this world. Management is about using scientific ideas to maximize your self interest. You will not survive in business if you can't measure what you do. So management is about talking numbers and crunching figures. It is driven by numbers.

Practice Ignores Rigorous, Valid Research
Vincent Miholic, Manager, United States, Member
In this stream, @Javier Elenes quotes Drucker, "Management is Practice." What's missing? Not inexact science. More abundantly clear? The lack of wherewithal or disposition to move beyond self to practice based on sound judgement (i.e., applied science). Plenty of legitimate science exists.
Consider the oft cited Lawrence Lindhal (1940) labor relations study that found that employees desire the personal, being appreciated, and a sense of belonging. Sounds familiar? Nearly 70 years later, practice has not follow science.
Typically, I've found that the argument and question reduces to basic (managerial) habits (usually ingrained by a variety of reinforcement (think Skinner box), habits that are either self-serving or habits that are other-centric. The latter tend to be aligned to scientific findings.

Studying Management is Social Science; Managing is Not.
Exactly... Not sure why other people find this so difficult to grasp. Or try and fudge it! Studying management could and I say could be viewed as branch of social sciences. But the 'doing' of management is NOT science.

Apply Management Combining Arts and Sciences
eduardo oliva, Professor, Mexico, Member
Excellent managers usually apply a successful combination of arts and sciences, both in a rational and intuitive manner. To what extent management is or is not a science does not distract me from its successful application which is, after all, my main objective.

Science is Science
Wrong and right. Management doesn't apply the scientific model to their work. They think they may do, but they don't. Even when they experiment which is great.
For sure management work may be guided by theory. BUT that is not science. Just application of a theory to see if it works.
Please please lets keep a clear line between proper science and the pseudo crap that is out there. Doing management is doing management… NOT doing science. Studying management theory with the rigour of peer review and publishing is.

Management as Inexact Art
Delfor Ibarra, Consultant, Argentina, Member
Each particular science has revealed its inaccuracy and after that each individual has attempted to demonstrating this; nevertheless even if it is considered improveable, it still has maintained its scientific status.
In Management the discussion is not about seeing if there is exactness, but, if it is a science entity. By giving a lot of weight to our interpretations, we are likely to be like our mental model in action: thus a CEO, based on his profile, ends up shaping the organizational structure, influencing the style of decision making and arranging the organizational culture. If the essence of a science is to be objective and if individuals can use it depending on their perception, the form of an organization, we can question whether the objectivity of the so-called "science of management" is only a masked subjectivity. If the success of a company can be the effect of different causes depending on different personal glimpses, the idea of management can be weighed as an inaccurate art.
Cada presente particular de toda ciencia ha revelado su inexactitud y cada particular después se ha encargado impiadosamente de demostrarlo; no obstante por considerársele perfectible, ha mantenido su status científico. En M. No se trata de ver si hay exactitud, sino, si tiene entidad de ciencia. Al conceder tanto peso a nuestras interpretaciones, es probable que seamos como nuestro modelo mental en acción: así un CEO, a partir de su perfil, termina moldeando la estructura organizacional, influyendo el estilo de la toma de decisiones y orientando el clima emocional. Si la esencia de una ciencia es ser objetiva y si un individuo puede dar en función de su percepción, el formato de una organización, cabe preguntarse si la objetividad de la pretendida "ciencia del M", no es sino una subjetividad enmascarada. Si el éxito de una empresa puede ser el efecto de diferentes causas en función de diferentes vislumbres personales, se puede sopesar la idea del M como un arte inexacto.

The Best Managers / Parents
WALTER CASQUINO, Professor, Peru, Premium Member
The head of a family deals with his family problems with basic management features. Although he gives his children the same goodies, care, hard hand when needed, and resources, and they grow up in the same environment, nevertheless, the general outcome (product) is not the same.
Likewise, there are managers (parents) who can hardly read or write, but they get excellent products. On the other side, there are highly qualified managers that can get no results at all.
That's why my view is that management is an art, fed by the number and intensity of emotions you provide. All the rest is theory or tools that you can use or not, depending on your level of involvement.

Management and “Science” - Discuss
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
Words have definitions. People interpret or re-apply these giving new meanings and referents. The variants may become the norm and make original definitions unacceptable.
So, arguments cannot be resolved when people are using the same word/s in different ways. So, in this discussion, until we have a precise, accepted referent for what we mean by “science” and “management” we cannot answer the question, merely express opinions.
Like solicitor, doctor etc., management is a ‘practice’. Management and aspects of it, its application and aspects of this, are described and templated with models, processes, tools, techniques, approaches etc. Some of these have been formulated through a scientific process, but that does not make ‘management’ a science; either exact or inexact.
Re: management experiments, formulae & art; consider: Hawthorne? Management formulae: E x I x V = P (Adam’s Equity Theory). Art has very precise rules: Golden Mean (1x1.618…); mixing ratios to obtain specific emotion related hues etc.

Management is not a Science
eduardo oliva, Professor, Mexico, Member
Management it is not a science for none of its phenomenology can be replicable and, thus, approachable on an accurate manner. Nonetheless, some parts of the managerial process can be treated in a scientifical way.
Management borrows both knowledge and methods from a number of sciences. It also borrows knowledge and methods from many branches of art. Consequently, I find it acceptable to conceptualize management as a successful combination of science and art.

Why Management is a Science
Magassouba, Student (University), Guinea, Member
In my opinion it's a Science because it constitutes an organized knowledge from different practices in different fields of management. Managers are able to work better by using the organized knowledge about management, it is this knowledge that constitutes a science.
Editor: well put. And 12manage is happy to make a big contribution to "management as a science" by doing precisely that 👍.

Is Management an Inexact Science?
Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK, Teacher, Brazil, Member
Science is an "offline" activity. Some activities are "offline", applying scientific principles, for example, production planning in a factory. Other activities are "online", applying scientific principles and techniques developed after scientific studies, for example, activities in an emergency room of an hospital.
Management is an online activity; so, it is not a science, but applied science. Quoting Marshall Ferdinand Foch: "The truth is, no study is possible on the battlefield; one does there simply what one can in order to apply what one knows. Therefore, in order to do even a little, one has already to know a great deal and to know it well".

Science or Knowledge
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
@Magassouba: Magassouba / Editor "Organised knowledge is science" Hmm; literally yes. However I believe this referent does not make a satisfactory definition, in terms of this discussion.
My library would then be, on this basis, therefore, a science as it "constitutes an organised [body of] knowledge from different practices and fields of management" and other topics.
Agreed having a library of data as per 12manage provides a useful resource but is a 'resource' a 'science'?

Is Management a Science
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
@Maurice Hogarth: I agree, a library is not a science, nor is 12manage. They merely support science. (By the way, 💡12manage is supporting science in more ways than a traditional library is able to do).
We might further improve the definition by Magassouba by starting with: management is a Science because it constitutes THE USAGE, EXCHANGE AND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF an organized knowledge from different practices in different fields of management.

Management is Practicing System Laws
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
@Jaap de Jonge: I suggest we take the Art v Science argument to a lower level of granularity: to the Systems level. There are 3 systems in the real world - Order, Chaos, Complex.
  • In the CHAOTIC SYSTEM, there are no cause and effect relationships. Everything is random, novel, and temporal (i.e., nature abhors a vacuum).
  • In the ORDER SYSTEM, classical Newtonian laws of Physics and Math work well. Here there are repeatable cause and effect behaviours. The Scientific Method approach makes sense. We can manage towards a hypothesized future state. This is the “Science” - a high level of confidence that your prediction will come true.
  • It’s different in the COMPLEX SYSTEM. We experience unpredictable behaviour that leads to uncertainty about the future. Typically humans are involved but now we can include smart device algorithms interacting with other algorithms in unexpected peculiar ways.
    Interestingly, there is hidden order in a Complex System which adheres to the laws of Natural Science - emergence, feedback, diversity, irreducibility. What we can observe are patterns, fractals, self-organization.
    All that we can say is that Complex system agents have a propensity to behave in a particular way but it’s not guaranteed. Instead of the Scientific Method, it’s Trial & Error with safe-to-fail experiments. This is the “Art” - not knowing exactly but using best-guess heuristics to shape people attitudes and monitor algorithmic impacts to evolve the present situation.

Science Says Management Isn’t a Science
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
@Jaap de Jonge: A need to clarify: Can a library of novels be an aid to “science”?
Science comes from the Latin word "scientia", meaning "knowledge". But a person's knowledge is not science.
Dictionary definitions cover that science is an organised body of knowledge from which the replication of particular activities by different people will produce identical results and so confirm particular theses from which conclusions can be drawn and forecasts made.
The principles (the organised body of knowledge) of management when applied by different managers do predict that there should be success (e.g. objectives satisfyingly achieved). If, however, there can be no guarantees that actual success from the management process is replicable (because individuals/teams and operational circumstances always differ) then management is about one-off (i.e. project land) rather than replicable situations. So it cannot be a “science”. A practice and an art with scientific support but not a science.

Management is Both a Science and Practice
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
@Maurice Hogarth: In my opinion, the models and methods that are described on 12manage certainly aim to help practitioners and scientists achieve more predictable results than they could achieve by relying solely on their intelligence and gut feeling.
So the conclusion can only be that management is both a practice and a science, but not an exact science. And 12manage supports those that are active in this management practice and science.

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