Prescriptive Management Education is Outdated

Opinion / Knowledge and Intangibles

Prescriptive Management Education is Outdated
subramanian, Member, Business Consultant, India

Prescriptive approach to management education leads to diminishing value from education with passage of time..

Management Education
Prescriptive approach to management education leads to diminishing value from education with passage of time. Education should stimulate and catalyse disruptive and exploratory thinking to sync with the dynamic environment. Education should train people to think, analyse, recognise and draw meaning from visible and hidden patterns, innovate and experiment. A prescriptive approach implies past works for the present and will work for the future that may be unrealistic.
a) Evolution of management theories
A chronological examination of management theories and concepts reveals that, the theories are a distilled and formal narration of practices adopted / attempted to bring about a scientific (inquiry based) approach to management of primarily manufacturing enterprises as illustrated below.

1) Henri Fayol’s (1841-1925) Classical management school identifies the principles and skills underlying effective management under “14-principles of Management”. These encompass the most mundane prerequisites such as

• Physical:(health, vigor)
• Mental: ability to understand, learn, judge,)
• Moral: (energy, initiative, loyalty, dignity)
• Educational: (knowledge management)
• Technical: (specialist)
• Experience
to requirements for orderly organisational functioning such as
• Division of work
• Authority and responsibility
• Discipline
• Unity of command
• Unity of direction
• Subordination of individual to general interest
• Remuneration of personnel
• Centralization
• Scalar chain
• Order
• Equity
• Stability of tenure
• Initiative and team work

2) Measurement of work, worker productivity, deployment right kin ad right measure of manpower assessed through granular study of worker’s handling tasks (time and motion study), appropriateness of skill and harmonious labor management relations (Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915))

3) Management’s task of scheduling production using “Gantt Charts” for efficient accomplishment of complex tasks (Henry L. Gantt (1861-1919))

4) Recognising need for attention to workers’ welfare through fatigue & motion studies, (Frank Gilbreth ( 1868-1924) & Lillian Gilbreth (1878-1972))

5) Workers recognized as partners in prosperity through “Profit Sharing System” for workers (Charles Babbage (1932) )

6) Moving towards formalisation of organizational functioning through levels and reportng systems - Bureaucracy (Max Weber) for large organisations adopted by GE, Xerox

7) Recognising the emotional needs of workers by Elton Mayo revealed through (The Hawthorne Experiment), a shift from mechanist to a social approach to worker management, a blow to failure of scientific management

8) Peter Drucker era on Management that focused on outputs, outcomes and measurement of management functions, accountability of organisations to stakeholders, principles of organizing using activity, decision and relation analysis, federalism, Management by objectives et al

Management was seen through three fundamental different approaches:
• Mathematical: quantitative, rational, analysis,
• Human behavior approach: meeting people’s emotional and rational needs, recognizing behavioral trends, motivation

• Systems Approach: recognizing complexity and interconnectedness in management, holism, multiple external and internal influences on outcomes, Management as a social system, Management as open system, Adaptive, Dynamic, Probabilistic and Multilevel and multidimensional. The Mc Kinsey 7 S Model is a formal recognition of this systemic nature of management

• Contingency or situational approach: actions and outcomes are situation dependent and cannot be prescribed as true for all scenarios
b) Management as tool
Management was largely seen as a tool to improve efficiency and productivity of tasks undertaken largely with human labour, in manufacturing, during the initial phases of the industrial revolution, to generate more and faster out of human resources deployed for production to meet demand and withstand competition. The task was how do I make my products cheaper and faster delivery for the consumers. Mass production, mechanisation and automation followed supported by new possibilities from technological innovations. The profile of human labour shifted from unskilled to semi-skilled and progressively skilled; and management realised the need for recognising value of contribution from human knowledge and skill, and not limit rewards to how hard their muscles were put to use.
Management theories graduated to means of motivating workers and supervisors to work in teams, bring their knowledge to the workplace and make them active contributors to achieving management’s objectives. Theories of organisation structure, autonomy, working in teams, roles and responsibilities, output and productivity measurement, performance incentives recognising contribution from human capital and making employees partners in prosperity followed.
c) Shifting paradigms
Relative contribution from agriculture, manufacturing and services to GDP underwent major shifts in the last century; conspicuously the swapping of contribution from manufacturing and services; manufacturing giving way to services. This transition has driven fundamental shifts in management theories and practices.
Dramatic shift from agriculture to services


Agriculture that contributed about 48% of GDP in 1840 dropped to about 3% in 2010 and services that contributed to about 32% jumped to 73%. Industry contributed to about 20% with a marginal increase of about 1.5% during the period with a U shaped behaviour
Employment shift
In the private sector, services gained 30% from the goods sector, during 1948 to 2010 in line with private sector output as seen below.


Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts
d) Shifts in HR Management
Labour; one of the three (land, labour and capital) means of production is now recognised as Human Capital. Supervision has given way to empowerment and autonomy. Training cost is now investment in human capital. Penalties and punishments have given way to motivation, total employee care, concepts of employee as shareholder, variable pay and performance incentives, rewards in the form of ownership and employees as autonomous growth partners, policing to trust and independent working, performance measured in the form of efforts (no. of hours of work) to performance measured in terms of tangible outputs.
e) Quality control
Shifts in nature of businesses and management practices have transformed the way quality is defined and measured. In manufacturing, the product is manufactured, quality is monitored, measured and ensured before delivery of product to the consumer. In the service industry, production and delivery are co-terminus. Production and delivered is by the creator directly and instantaneously to the customer without any quality check. Quality check is replaced by quality monitoring as feedback from the customer after its delivery. Customer decides the quality and not the management.
Quality delivery is only enabled through systems and processes that are expected to lead to quality service delivery. High reliance and dependence is placed on the service producer for quality (self-certification?). The producer is a key element in the chain.
f) Power shift to producer (worker)
With the onus for quality on the producer (worker), the producer need to be adequately trained, motivated and compensated and less supervised. The worker knows the end customer more than the management, de-facto fact assuming responsibility delivery. Workers are knowledge workers (several levels above even skilled workers): with differing expectations, at higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Worker expects recognition, respect, autonomy, opportunity, competency up-gradation, with monetary benefits being only one among the list of expectations, placing complex demands on HR management. Worker being self-managed has led to flat organisational structures and worker participating in decision making. Even the terminology worker (employee) is rechristened as associate to reflect his changing role, perception and recognition. In this scenario, old tenets of organisational structures, organising, controls will need a metamorphosis.
g) Disintermediation
Emerging practices enabled by information technology is leading towards a kind of disintermediation, possibly leading to irrelevance of the conventional business organisation, catalysed by crowd sourcing and granular business relationships from direct link between customer and provider of services. Evidence of this trend are several freelancer sites, that provide the market place linking producer and consumer. Such models demolish the power of large business houses with deep pockets for market reach; the virtual market place platform creating a near equality of all providers without differentiation between a mom and pop shop and a global conglomerate providing similar goods / services. The virtual platforms also lead to higher levels of democratisation: equal opportunity to all.

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