How has Management Changed over the last 50 years?
There have been many discussions, self-opinionated conclusions and debates on the issues and notions of the metamorphosis of management over time. Many individuals still perceive the management of most firms, especially the big and successful firms as villains. This notion of management as that bad invisible force grew through the entire 1980s to the 90s as Non-governmental Organizations had begun to bring to the notice of the general public highlighted cases of employee mistreatment, child labor in offsite factories in other continents, human rights abuse and environmental exploitation (Harrington & Douglas, 2013).
Management in those early years was perceived as the “all-knowing” to be feared god of the organization, where individuals worked. This is even portrayed in movies where a worker is summoned to a dark office with eight to ten old men in luxury suits smoking cigars after the worker had been told “Management would like to see you.” Workers were always weary of such summons because such meetings always ended with the phrases “you are fired.”
In the last two decades, many are still of the opinion that the concept of management has not changed from what it used to be perceived as, some 50 years ago. We still have cases of employee dissatisfaction in a majority of big organizations across the globe, the world has seen further allegations of child labor in recent times and environmental exploitation by certain organizations is still ongoing.
However, a critical analysis of most firm’s organizational culture will reveal that a great deal has changed. In the last ten to twenty years, it has become evident that the managements of a majority of firms have begun to map out strategic initiatives and plans which are centered on the understanding that issues perceived under the domains of philanthropy, cooperate social responsibility, employee welfare and compliance with environmental laws are a necessity for the implementation of organizational and business strategies (Boston Consult). Numerous instances are beginning to emerge that point to the fact that the management of major global business enterprises now respond to calls for the promotion of human rights as opposed to ignoring them some forty to fifty years back. Same goes for the fact that these managements now volunteer to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in partnerships that are deemed to establish positive ethics in the societies where their businesses are conducted. A far cry from what was obtainable in the past when management and NGOs never saw eye to eye.
We are in the present time, beginning to see management and NGO collaboration that drive philanthropic initiatives such as that of adhering to supply chain standards and the complete halt of child labor in business processes. There is now the existence of widespread systematic collaboration and partnerships that are centered on management ethics. Managements, in partnerships with the government are not only beginning to set up standards for varying industry sectors but are also putting in place platforms and frameworks that address and resolve a majority of the challenges society encounters. Some of the world’s largest firms today fund extensively, leading research and projects that are aimed at understanding environmental sustainability.
In the early 80s, it was no surprise that management of large corporations were accused of human rights violations and the undermining of employee safety and welfare. This in recent times seems to have changed. A survey of recent college/university graduates show that these individuals who are ready to enter the workplace environment regularly cite that the ability of a firm to portray efficient social responsibility, is a strong criteria for wanting to work for such a firm. Management has identified this ideology and are beginning to adopt new and innovative ways of keeping their workforce motivated.
One notable feature in terms of management orientation in the business place that is quite different from what was obtainable some 50 years back is the promotion of teamwork. Individual prowess in the workplace was highly encouraged in the years back. Management rewarded individuals who single handedly could propagate the firm by whatever means possible. In the present era, much effort has been made to promote team work. Teamwork has become an organizational principle to management goals and visions. Individual skills are still highly appreciated and even rewarded but what is different in the modern workplace is that individual prowess is now used as a tool to facilitate team efforts. A critical criteria for hiring in present times, is one’s ability to work efficiently within teams. Management now understands that collaborative approaches are the bed rock to sustainable development of their enterprises (Aiken et al).
Clearly, the most popular management approaches and theories today are centered on transformational management which is focused on ethics and responsibility. This present era of management theories assert that management should energize, engage and develop employees. Current management theories emphasize that decision making processes are not to be self-profiting as it used to be four decades ago rather they are now the responsibility of a team of highly motivated, disciplined and approachable individuals.
A 2006 report by the Boston Consulting Group foresees a number of challenges for Management for the 21st Century over the next 15 years or so.
Aiken, Carolyn, Dmitriy Galper and Scott Keller. Winning Hearts and Minds: The Secrets of Sustaining Change. McKinsey & Company.
Harrington, Dr. H. James and Douglas Nelson. (2013)The Sponsor as the Face of Organizational Change. PMI.