What Is Evolution of Management Theory?


Jane Flores

The evolution of management theory is a fascinating topic that has undergone significant changes over the past century. From scientific management to human relations, the way we approach management has transformed drastically. In this article, we will explore the different theories of management and their evolution over time.

Scientific Management Theory

Scientific Management Theory was developed in the early 1900s by Frederick Winslow Taylor, who sought to increase efficiency in production processes. The theory focused on breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable parts to increase worker productivity. This led to the development of time and motion studies, which analyzed workers’ movements to identify ways to improve efficiency.

Key Principles of Scientific Management Theory:

  • Task specialization
  • Standardization of processes
  • Time and motion studies
  • Incentivizing workers based on performance

Limitations: This theory did not consider the human aspect of work and treated workers as machines, leading to dissatisfaction among employees.

Administrative Management Theory

Administrative Management Theory was developed by Henri Fayol in the early 1900s and focused on developing a general theory of management that could be applied universally across different industries. He identified five key functions of management: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.

Key Principles of Administrative Management Theory:

  • Hierarchy of authority
  • Differentiation between technical and managerial skills
  • Centralization vs decentralization
  • Division of work

Limitations: Fayol’s ideas were criticized for being too rigid and bureaucratic.

Bureaucratic Management Theory

Bureaucratic Management Theory was developed by Max Weber and emphasized the importance of a formal organizational structure and clear rules and regulations. The theory focused on creating a hierarchy of authority based on specialization, with each level having clearly defined responsibilities.

Key Principles of Bureaucratic Management Theory:

  • Formalized rules and regulations
  • Hierarchy of authority
  • Division of labor
  • Impersonal relationships

Limitations: The theory’s focus on rigid rules and regulations could lead to slow decision-making processes.

Behavioral Management Theory

Behavioral Management Theory emerged in the 1930s, shifting the focus from production processes to worker needs. The theory recognized that workers are individuals with individual needs and motivations, seeking to understand how managers could motivate employees to increase productivity.

Key Principles of Behavioral Management Theory:

  • Motivation through incentives and rewards
  • Hierarchy of needs
  • Social interactions in the workplace

Limitations: This theory did not address the broader organizational context that impacts worker motivation.

Contemporary Management Theory

Contemporary Management Theory is an umbrella term for various management theories developed after the behavioral management era. These theories include Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean Management, and more.

Key Principles of Contemporary Management Theory:

  • Cross-functional teams
  • Data-driven decision-making processes
  • Ongoing learning and development opportunities for employees

Limitations: Contemporary management theories differ significantly in their approaches, making it challenging to develop a general theory of management that can be applied universally.


The evolution of management theory has been driven by changing business needs and societal expectations. While each theory has its strengths and weaknesses, they have collectively contributed to our understanding of how organizations can be effectively managed. By understanding these theories, managers can develop strategies that align with their organizational needs and goals while also supporting employee well-being.