Classical organizational theory

Dear HE, SL, MA, and Inclusive education, I want to share with you some ideas from Organiztional Behavior and Governance classes. We all more or less will work in organizations and this information can be useful. I want to start from the begining of the “organizational era”, from classical organizational theory. It includes historical roots of the organizations.

It is hard to say at what time exactly the Classical Organization Theory exist. It is usually associated with industrialization period in Great Britain, when huge factories operated, because it is the field of organization. However the roots of management come from ancient time of Moses and Socrates. The idea of Socrates is that good manager in one field can operate successfully in another field. The reason of it is that any organizations have the same structure, even if the goal of organizations is different (p. 27). Classical organization theory is the first fundamental theory, which is true even in our time. It was modernized, but basic features remain the same. According to Shafrits et all. (2005) they are: Org-n exist to accomplish production – related and economic goals; there is one best way to organize production, and that way can be found through systematic, scientific inquiry; production is maximized through specialization and division of labor; people and organizations act in accordance with rational economic principles (p.28). The way organization operates reflects the need of the time, the social values. In the past, organization was viewed as a machine. Workers were not individuals, but elements of those machines. To use all possibilities of machines were key to success. And it means that workers had an idea of “the best way” to organize production.

There are several important people. First, Adam Smith, the father of economics, found correlation between economics and organizations. His main idea was division of labor. The second name is Daniel C. McCallum, the authority of American railroad industry; his main idea was division of responsibilities. Next is Frederick Winslow Taylor, found general applicable principles of administration trough scientific investigation- “scientific management”. It helps to raise productivity, spirit of workers, rise profit. He made possible to plan and control organizational operations. His theory later started to call Taylorism movement. However the first man who developed comprehensive theory is Henri Fayol (french). He theorizes all elements needed to organize and manage big organizations .Max Weber studied bureaucratic organizations. Core of any org-ns: economic, social, political. Daniel A. Wren wrote that management is a process which reflects to the cultural environment.

To crown it all classical organization theory based on the “one best way” approach. One best way can be used in any given production task, therefore it can be used in any task of social organization.


Shafritz , J.M. , Ott, J.S.,  Jang, Y.S. (2005). Classics of Organizational Theory,  Cengage


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