If you're familiar with management theory background and the evolution that led to present practices, your greater understanding of management principles can help you manage employees more effectively. Management theories have evolved from an emphasis on authority and structure to a focus on employees. There are still competing theories regarding what motivates an employee, but knowing how the theories arrived at their conclusions can help you with your own employees.


Management theory originated with "scientific" and "bureaucratic" management that used measurement, procedures and routines as the basis for operations. Organizations developed hierarchies to apply standardized rules to the workplace and punished workers for not following them. With the "human relations" movement, companies started emphasizing individual workers. Contemporary management theories, including system theory, contingency theory and chaos theory, focus on the whole organization, with employees as a key part of the system.


Management theories have evolved to acknowledge that corporate culture can be a contributor to performance. If you can develop a sense of belonging to a group for your company, you can manage the business for improved financial performance and return on investment. To work well with a positive corporate culture as a manager, you have to work through the culture and not try to control it. A positive corporate culture takes care of a lot of informal exchange of information and behavioral norms.

Quantitative Methods

All contemporary management theories emphasize measurement and quantitative analysis. Management has evolved to focus on fundamental company operating results and business variables that are relevant, specific to goals and quantifiable. Information technology allows you to analyze large data sets and extract trends. You can evaluate key performance indicators, which track data affecting your objectives, to tell you how well you are advancing toward your goals. You can perform these evaluations independently of the management style and organizational structure of the company.

Competing Approaches

Management theories have evolved into two competing orientations. Theory X assumes employees don't want to work and act out of self-interest. Managers have to put in place a disciplinary structure to guide employees in the execution of their work. If you function with theory X, you have to tell employees what to do and encourage them to do it.

Theory Y assumes employees want to carry out interesting and rewarding work and seek reward in the achievement. Managers have to set goals and allow employees to find creative ways to reach them. If your company culture is in line with theory Y, you facilitate employee effort and act more like a coach.