In their enthusiasm for scientism Gulick and Urwick laid down seven principles of administration that came to be expressed as ‘POSDCORB’. Each letter of the word stand for a different technique such as planning, organising, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting and budgeting.
Another major contributor to the development of management thought during this period was Mary Parker Follett. Although she was a contemporary of the other administrative management theorists and set forth certain general principle as guide lines for practice, her approach was significantly different. She was unique in emphasizing the psychological and sociological aspects of management.
She viewed management as a social process and the organization as a social system. Her ideas in such areas as the acceptance of authority, the importance of lateral coordination, the integration of organizational participants and the necessity for a change in a dynamic administrative process differed substantially from those of other writers.
In many ways her ideas can be viewed as a link between the classical administrative management theorists and the behavioural scientists.
Two General Motor executives in the USA, James D. Mooney and Alan C. Reiley, made important contribution to administrative management theory. They laid emphasis on four major principles:
(a) The principle of coordination in pursuit of unity of action.
(b) The scalar principle emphasising hierarchy in organisational design.
(c) The functional principle to be followed in organising tasks into departments.
(d) The staff principle for giving advice and information along side line management for the exercise of authority.
Their writings popularised such devices as organisation charts and manuals. The classical principles have met with widespread acceptance among writers on management and among managers themselves. But in recent years they have been encountering growing criticism.
The classical principles lack in specificity and therefore are not very helpful for the practicing administrator. For example, the principle of division of work and specialisation is easy to understand, but it tells very little about how the tasks in an organisation should actually be divided.
The principle of span of control, which looks apparently acceptable, does not provide a specific guideline. In actual situations, the span of control has been found to be much wider than what the principle suggests, and yet the concerned organisations have operated successfully.
One of the more specific principles of classical theory is the span of control, and this, thought it has ardent defenders, is often attacked as demonstrably untrue since a number of surveys have shown that spans in many successful companies are considerably wider than classical theory would permit.
The classical principles cannot be wholly followed and some of the principles contradict others. Thus, a short span of control and a short chain of command do not go together. Herbert Simon has severely criticised the classical theorists and has lightly dismissed the principles as “no more than proverbs”.
Gullick’s recommendation for departmentalisation has been criticised by Simon for its ambiguity An education department, as he points out, can be looked at as purpose organisation (meant for education) or a clientele organisation (for children). Similarly, the forest service organisation could be thought of being based on purpose, clientele, or area.
But the most insistent criticism leveled against classical theory comes from exponents of the behavioural scientists writers identified with these fields claim that classical theory is too mechanistic and so ignores major facts of human nature. If this is true, it is a very serious deficiency, for formal organisation structures are designed solely for the purpose of enabling people to work effectively together for a common end.
Defenders of the classical principles accuse their critics of not fully understanding their content or intent. Some of the principles have been selected to condemn the classical theory whereas certain other principles like equal authority and responsibility and delegation have been conveniently overlooked.
As a matter of fact, despite such criticism the classical organisation principles continue to play an extremely important role in the history of administrative thought and management practice. They serve as the starting point in determining human structure in which humans work.
Fortunately it is not the ending point. Even with the definite limitations inherent in the classical principles they persist to varying degrees in modern organisations, but are slowly giving way to newer organisational concepts.