Analysing Management As An Art And A Science Philosophy Essay

Discuss this statement in relation to whether management could be described as a profession. Is management characterized as an art ,as a science or both? In order to investigate the nature of Management, it would be useful firstly to define it. According to Drucker ” Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. This is what organization is all about, and this is the reason why management is the critical, determining factor” (Drucker,2001, pp.10). Nowadays, practically everyone works for a managed institution, large or not, business or not. Our living actually depends on management. The ability we have to contribute to society, depends firstly on the way, the institute we work for, is managed and furthermore on our own abilities, devotion and effort. For years now, there has been a great debate on whether management can be characterized as a science or as an art. Some of the most important authors that tried to examine if management is an art or a science are Lester et al. (1998), Watkins (1993),Bohn (1994), Calkins (1959), Schiemann and Lingle (1997), and Weick (1996). This essay focuses on the studies that have been conducted on the nature of management, and its purpose is to reveal if management is an art, a science, or a combination of them, in relation to whether management could be described as a profession. We will try to answer that, by discussing the insufficiency of the technical approach to professional knowledge for dealing with real-world situations, but before that it would be interesting to examine the evolution of managerial discourse since 1870.

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According to Barley and Kunda ( 1992) even though serious theoretical and political differences existed, scholars have merged on a common theory of how American managerial notion has evolved. During the first stage, which terminated in the late 1800s, managerial discourse sought to legitimate coercive shopfloor practices ( Nelson, 1975). This phase was characterized by abusive control and threats of violence. By the turn of the century, early forms of mass production and a flourish of corporate merging had prepared the ground for a second phase, during which utilitarian rhetorics became increasingly popular (Wren, 1972). Accomplishing the work of Frederick Taylor, rational theories of management conquered managerial discourse by World War I(Bendix, 1956). The manpower was now supposed to be more effectively controlled by contouring production processes and by attracting the worker’s self-interest. According to Bendix (1956) the Depression is widely held to mark the beginning of the third phase. “As the white-collar labor force was gaining more power, managerial discourse began to emphasize normative control : the idea that managers could more effectively regulate workers by attending not only to their behavior but to their thoughts and emotions.” (Barley ,Kunda, 1992,pp.364 ) They believed that by approaching both the mind and the heart of the workers , management could reach the most subtle type of control: moral authority.

The succession of Managerial Ideologies since 1870

Era of ascent

Industrial Betterment

1870- 1900


Scientific Management

1900- 1923


Welfare capitalism/Human relations

1923- 1955


Systems rationalism

1955- 1980


Organizational Culture

1980- present


(Barley,Kunda,1992, pp.364)

It is a fact that science and art are very different in nature. According to Gao (2008) art is viewed as: the use of imagination to interpret feelings and ideas, particularly in painting, drawing sculpture, or the skill of creating objects such as paintings or drawings, especially when studying art. In reality, art has nothing to do with objectivity. It relates to collective, mostly, individual subjectivity. So can management really be the very antithesis of the use of a body of rigorous professional knowledge? According to Spender ( 2006) many writers, like Mintzberg (1976), point to management as an art form. Although management apparently has imaginative and artistic aspects, this is not really the point .The point here is to contrast rational way of decision making against intuitive creation. to imply that it might be more useful to think of business leadership as something other than cold, objective reasoning (Mintzberg, 1976).

This is why, according to Richardson (2008 ) managers need to study philosophy. Repeatedly, managers have to be able to decide which data they need in order to make a decision, to interpret this theory and even choose what its purpose really is. This is not unexpected, if you take into consideration that many academic books on the topic often lack any practical suggestions. Philosophy is a study that inspires personal choice, and in management choices thrive. So, effective managers should know when a decision has to be based on principle and when it should be made logically , depending on each case. According to Drucker (1998) managers need impact rather than technique, and they prefer to be sound rather than clever; they know the trickiest part is to choose between the right and the wrong compromise , and they have learned to tell the difference from one another. Anyhow, in management, the most time-consuming part of the process is not taking the decision, but making it effective, and this is when the ability to manage through discontinuity, to be able to detect changes but also to recognize patterns and be able to focus on those things that do not change, is needed.(Mintzberg, 2004)

Management as an art is an amazing but natural expression of human behavior (Peroff,1999). According to Bolman and Deal( 1997), managers are both artists and leaders who are able to develop exceptional solutions and fresh ideas about their organizations’ needs. They adjust to people and events around them and learn to expect the chaotic twirls and turns of managerial life. ” Artistry in management is neither exact nor precise. Artists interpret experience and express it in forms that can be felt, understood, and appreciated by others. Art allows for emotion, subtlety, ambiguity . An artist reframes the world so that others can see new possibilities”(Boleman and Deal, 1997, pp. 17).

To sum up, a significant group of people think of management as an art. In reality, management personalities, like Microsoft’s William Gates and GE’s Jack Welch, and their top-down managerial strategy, have enhanced this idea (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995 ). Gao (2008) argues that the reasons are not only because these people have supported or have gone over the top about personal intuition and other personal irrational factors such as emotion and intuition in decision-making and management, but also because no management theory or approach can assure successful practical accomplishment of a social or economic organization in practice.

So, as we already mentioned, effective management can be considered as an art – the art of getting things done through people. Thinking of management as an art is possibly more productive, because it identifies management as something more than just a set of unambiguous techniques. “Management as art implies inventiveness rather than conformity, practice rather than mere prescription, wisdom rather than mere knowledge.” ( Evered, Selman, 2001 , pp.17 )

Science, on the other hand, even though there is no commonly agreed definition for it, is viewed as knowledge about the behavior and structure of the world, based on facts. However, according to Gao (2008), even though there is no body with the authority to define science, and there are various discussions about its definition, its nature and its motive in philosophy of science, everybody agrees that science is based on rational assumption and experimental orientation. . Science ” is the organized , systematic enterprise that gathers knowledge about the world and condenses the knowledge into testable laws and principles”(Wilson, 1998,pp. 53). Polany suggested that post critical philosophy emphasizes the creative subjective aspect of scientists in the process of creating knowledge, but considerable collective subjectivity, objectivity, rationality and logic are necessary in science (Polany, 1958).

According to Wilson(1998b) science involves the expansion of sensory capacity by instruments , the categorization of data, and the analysis of data guided by theory. “Science , is extraordinary . With the aid of science , we can visualize matter across 37 orders of magnitude, from the largest galactic cluster to the smallest known particle.”(Wilson, 1998a, pp.47) As long as science is used properly it can be really useful for everybody’s everyday life.

Management as a science was firstly characterized by Frederick Taylor (1911) and Gulick (1937). Scientific Management considered employees as tools for the achievement of organizational goals. Frederick W. Taylor believed that with the help of time and motion studies he could find out the best way for the accomplishment of a task – and that workers should be very pleased that were imposed to do precisely what they were instructed. The needs of the organization were separated from the needs of the individual. In Peter Drucker’s ( 1998) words, Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study; on Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years which has lifted the working masses in the developed countries well above any level recorded before, even for the well-to-do. Frederic W. Taylor, though, placed the main foundation, however, not much has been added to them since – even though Taylor has been dead for over sixty years.

Another important school of taking management as a science comes from the area of systems science. Ever since the 1940s, Churchman and Ackoff, based on Singer’s experimentalist philosophy, have tried to establish an ‘Institute of Experimental Method’ for dealing with societal issues in areas such as city planning and business management (Ulrich, 2004). Churchman’s social systems design and Ackoff’s social systems science can be seen as typical representatives of the scientific school, although Ackoff believes that mess management is an art and a science. (Churchman, 1955, 1971, Ackoff, 1979).

Even though the answer, to if management is an art or a science, could be both, either or neither. Some people think management is indeed a science, because of the scientific principles and rules that exist(like Taylor’s scientific management theories and Weber’s administration of social and economic organization) and that can be applied for improving the productivity and efficiency of organizations, profit or nonprofit, private or public (Taylor, 1911; Weber, 1947).

According to Lester(1998) creative arts and science are very different from one another . Scientific knowledge is useful to us because it provides us with objective, verifiable knowledge about the real world around us. (Wilson, 1998) Art, however is also beneficial but in a different way. According to Lester (1998) art is in tune with our underlying human nature , which Wilson (1998) argues that is an inborn ensemble of instinctive rules that rule our behavior. But do managers today combine art and science at work?

The severity of the management science utilization problem may be a result of an imbalance in the work of management scientists: too much science; not enough engineering ( Gruber, Niles, 1969). With the improvement of science so should also be improved the practical application of science. Even though the turns of organizational life are extremely complex and intangible, the knowledge and the available management theory could certainly contribute to the improvement of managerial practice. Mason Haire (1967, p. 110) in his Douglas McGregor Memorial Lecture observed:

” hen I say the contribution of the behavioral sciences to management has been disappointingly small, I mean this: in the past 15 years there have been perhaps 150 books and 1,500 articles written on the subject. And yet the practice o? management remains about the same.”

It is obvious that in management, a severe strain exists between the promises of scientific methods and the realities of practice. “At a time when management is becoming more scientific, friction should be expected in the relationship between the practitioners of the art and the advocates of the new scientific knowledge”. (Gruber and Niles,1969, pp. 12)

So it is obvious that management combines both science and art. According to P.F. Drucker “management is thus what tradition used to call a liberal art – “liberal” because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; “art” because it is also concerned with practice and application . Managers draw on all the knowledge and insights of the humanities and the social sciences- on psychology and philosophy , on economics and history , on ethics – as well as on the physical sciences. But they have to transform this knowledge on effectiveness and results.” The effective practice of management requires a mixture of science and art; that is, a blend of rational objectivity and intuitive insight.

Both views of management, as a science or as an art, can provide ample evidence to support their viewpoints, and they all seem correct and reasonable from their perspective. However, some people also think management is neither a science nor an art, but a political game. The criterion is in the mind of the speakers ( Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995).

According to Nelson and Winter (1977), professional knowledge is also, neither fully scientific , nor fully a skill or routine, but a combination. It articulates of science, personal skill and experience and organizational routine. It is the function of the professional to act as an interface between routine and science. It is the professional who employs the heuristics in order to search, judge and choose routine in the path of problem solving. ( Tordoire , 1995)

When it comes to management and the use of professional knowledge in business practice, managers have to do without those guidance facilities and manuals, that are so vital for the management of capital, land, entrepreneurship and labour, simply because such sources do not exist. According to Igor Ackoff (1979), educating managers and experts to use experts is one of the great challenges in modern business. In every day business practice, however, trial and error is still the common way to learn about managing and using professional knowledge (Tordoir,1995). But is management really a profession? Management has a long history of trying to establish itself as a profession and securing similar influence (Lowell, 1923).

In the nineteenth century, professions and professional organizations emerged from a variety of traditionally learned occupations-generally those that required substantial theoretical knowledge and training, such as medicine, law, and science. Professionalization describes the procedure of uniting diverse practitioners under a set of homogeneous norms or rules, including the emergence of standards of certification, ethics, the development of self-governing associations, and the pursuit of legal recognition and protection (Hofstadter, Richard, and C. Dewitt Hardy, 1952). Professionalism and professions are dominant ideas and institutions. Sociologists and economists have recognized professions as an important division of the industry and professionals as an essential part of the labor force. Professions carry not only a financial implication but also a cultural importance. “They often occupy the highest – status positions in an occupational hierarchy. In cultural terms , they are carriers of important societal norms and values concerning such matters as the relationship between knowledge and power and the maintenance of trust” (Khurana , 2007,pp.4 ).

According to Spender (2006) the idea of management as a Profession refers to a group of people whose practice is shaped by training and credentialing against a proven and rigorous body of knowledge (Abbott, 1988 ). In this manner science has a long established a position of epistemic authority that clearly distinguishes its practitioners from amateurs, charlatans, soothsayers and the general public.( Watkins ,2006.)

However, there are some critiques about professionals and professionalism in general. Some of the critiques are about the way the knowledge is delivered; Rakesh Khurana (2007) shows that university-based business schools were founded to educate a professional class of managers, in the style of doctors and lawyers but have effectively moved away from that objective, leaving a gaping moral hole at the center of business education and maybe even in management itself. Other critiques are attacks on the body of knowledge itself. Pfeffer (1993) was far from alone in his plea for increased disciplinary harshness, for some argue there is no rigorous body of managerial knowledge from which to teach and so no argument for management as a profession. According to Tordoir (1995) the professional character of knowledge is of course a matter of degree. Most critiques, however spot the gap between theory and practice, arguing that business school knowledge relates inadequately to the practicing managers’ needs (Weick, 2001) . In what may still be the most significant study of managerial ideology, Bendix (1956) who wrote with great concern about the social-psychological aspects of work, argued that rhetorics of social Darwinism typical of the nineteenth century had gradually but steadily given way to the belief that managers could better secure compliance by shaping workers’ attitudes and sentiments. The practice of managing across governments and organizations overtakes both practical description and theoretical clarification. The business community has been suggesting that academicians should move out of the cut off, insulated world of the university and confront practical problems.

Apparently, professions are defined, apart from a high level of professional skills and qualifications, by a wide variety of characteristics which also contain subjective values relating to ethics and values. Tordoir( 1995), argues that professionals have much in common with managers , they manage the organization of knowledge input in tackling a complex matter. Non-professional managers on the other hand do not employ heuristics based on science, as professionals do , but use experienced routines instead. If line managers do use heuristics based on science ,however ,they are by this definition indeed professionals in the field of management ( Tordoir , 1995). The professional is largely responsible for directing his own activities. Managers must take due account of this by applying rules and procedures on a modest scale and aiming to achieve maximum harmonization of the objectives of the organization and the personal objectives of the people working there. If they can do that then there can be said to be professional management. .( Weggeman, 1989 )

These structures, the relative autonomy of professional work, and the high degree of prestige generally attached to professional activities differentiates professions from other forms of work and worker organization. Nevertheless, to mention the “professional obligations” of management executives is to imply that business management itself is a profession. But is it really? “To the extent that different managers perform one set of basic roles, management satisfies one criterion for becoming a profession”(Mintzberg, 1976), however sociologists who study the professions have engaged a wide range of viewpoints and criteria for determining what represents an occupation as a profession, which gives us the ability to compare management with what we take to be the bona fide professions, in particular law and medicine. ( Khuranha, 2007 )

According to Khurana, Nohria and Penrice (2005) “The criteria for calling an occupation a bona fide profession are as follows:

aˆ? a common body of knowledge resting on a well-developed, widely accepted theoretical base;

aˆ? a system for certifying that individuals possess such knowledge before being licensed or otherwise allowed to practice;

aˆ? a commitment to use specialized knowledge for the public good, and a renunciation of the goal of profit-maximization, in return for professional autonomy and monopoly power;

aˆ? a code of ethics, with provisions for monitoring individual compliance with the code and a system of sanctions for enforcing it”.( Khurana, Nohria, and Penrice, 2005, pp.4)

Regarding the first criterion which is concerned with the body of systematized knowledge, there are significant differences between the science of management and the knowledge foundation of the traditional professions (Khurana, Nohria and Penrice, 2008). As far as the second criterion is concerned, according to Pfeffer and Fong (2002), management apart from not developing a body of knowledge comparable to those of the true professions, differs from these other occupations in lacking a set of institutions designed to certify that its practitioners have a basic mastery of a core body of specialized knowledge and can apply it judiciously; although the MBA has been the fastest-growing graduate degree for the past twenty years, it is not a requirement for becoming a manager (Pfeffer and Fong,2002). As far as the privileges that society grants to professions are concerned it should be mentioned that they exist in return for certain social benefits. “The creation of these social benefits, in turn, creates certain restrictions on professionals. Because they own specific knowledge in areas of vital concern to society, genuine professionals are expected to place that knowledge at the disposal of all who require it and to provide services in a way that places the maintenance of professional standards and values ahead of the securing of individual advantage” ( Khurana, Nohria and Penrice , 2008). Once again, not always things work like that in management, as many genuine professional managers seem to rest on the advantages their profession provides them with but forget about their responsibilities towards the public. The fourth and final dimension on which, management differs significantly from the true professions is that its members are not ruled by a communal normative code that is supported by institutions that promote loyalty and obedience to it. Such a normative code, whether known as a code of ethics or a code of conduct, is a vital characteristic of almost any work-related group that its purpose is to be seen as a profession. So we would argue, that management has succeeded in taking for granted many of the appearances and privileges of professionalism while escaping the restraints and responsibilities.

Today, Khurana argues, business schools have largely capitulated in the battle for professionalism and have become merely purveyors of a product, the MBA, with students treated as consumers. Management education is also a huge and successful industry. Pfeffer and Fong’s papers (2002) give us good numbers: Business schools employ thousands of people all over the world; more than 100,000 MBAs are awarded annually in the United States, and tens of thousands are awarded elsewhere; there are more thousands of executive and undergraduate business degrees, diplomas, and certificates being awarded, too (Pfeffer and Fong, 2002). Professional and moral ideals that once animated and inspired business schools have been conquered by a perspective that managers are merely agents of shareholders, beholden only to the cause of share profits. According to Khurana, we should not thus be surprised at the rise of corporate malfeasance. The time has come, he concludes, to rejuvenate intellectually and morally the training of our future business leaders.

So finally, is management an art or a science? If Wilson’s (1998) belief in a unified theory of everything is correct, maybe we should be asking a much larger question. Is a consilience of all of our ways of thinking about management possible? ( Peroff, N. ,1999) The famous physicist Louis de Broglie once said “May it not be universally true that the concepts produced by the human mind, when formulated in a slightly vague form, are roughly valid for reality, but that, when extreme precision is aimed at, they become ideal forms whose real content tends to vanish away?” (quoted in Cory, 1942). This suggests that we should use scientific understanding (not knowledge) to guide our decisions, not determine them, as such understanding is only correct in a loose sense.( Richardson ,2008, pp. 22) Management, even though it can be described as a profession, it should not be considered as a real profession because of all the lacks that we identified; however its nature combines both art and science, just like professional knowledge should combine them. There is no doubt that, when properly implemented, scientific management can really increase efficiency, but efficiency should always be tempered with humanity, by all means, as management is ad hoc and instinctive, rather than structured and planned.