Sunday, June 30, 2013

Criticism of Classical Theory of Organization

The Classical theory or structural theory was criticized on the following grounds:

  1. There is little consistency in the works of these writers. The scientific validity of the so called "principles" is questionable.

  2. The principles of organization at best represent conclusions of some experienced administrators who have seen the functioning of organizations closely. They are not universal in their applicability. Simon called these principles as mere "proverbs" because like proverbs these principles existed in pairs. For every acceptable principle a contradictory principle could also be found to be equally acceptable. Principles of division of work and co-ordination are examples of such contradiction. So these principles are not theoretically coherent.

  3. Classical theory neglects human element in the organizations. Only "formal organization" has been considered neglecting all the informal elements of the organization.

  4. The principles enunciated by the structuralists seem to be general knowledge propositions which are not intellectual propositions.

  5. Only the problems from the point of view of managerial level are considered by the proponents of classical theory whereas worker level people have no place in it.

  6. Marxist thinkers were of the view that classical theorists were exploitative of the worker class of the organizations and the classical theory seeks to maximize the profits for the management.

  7. Social scientists considered the productivity of the organizations as a function of the motivation of workers and their willingness to work for the organization. Hence they opposed the view of structuralists that structure only determined the efficiency of the organization.

  8. Workers and trade unions also opposed this theory as it treated the workers as only objects which were means for generating goods.

  9. Some of the principles of classical theory could cause dysfunctionality in the organizations e. g. excessive hierarchy increases the levels of communication thereby hindering the work.

  10. Advocates of ecological school of thought have criticized this theory due to its inability to take the external factors such as social and economic factors etc. into consideration.

  11. Overzealousness to generalize the principles has led to the generalization of even facts. Due to this universal nature of principles is lost.


Inspite of the above criticisms classical theory has proved to be quite successful in the field of management.

Most of the criticism of Fayol seems to be out of ego-clashes. Fayol's emphasis on making management a science had irritated the managers as it had lessened the importance of managers. The principles enunciated by the structuralists had curbed the arbitrary powers of the managers and had eliminated ad-hocism. Fayol was aware of the problem arising out of rigid application of the principles. So he left it to the managers to decide the right mix of authority and responsibility for the smooth functioning of the organizations. Structuralists also believed in the administrative training of the managers. Often classical school is criticized for not taking human relations and behavior into account but it should be realized that by that their importance was not realized and the ecology of administration did not have those ideas at that time. So it is improper to criticize the classical school of management on the basis of reasons which did not exist at that time. Instead it should be credited with replacing the ad-hocism of the rules of thumb with the systematized way of thinking. Further concepts such as stability of tenure, Initiative etc. emphasized the human factor in organization and its importance.

The principles such as division of work, hierarchy, delegation, span of control etc. are still relevant for the management literature and continue to be taught in public administration also. The classical theory of organization came at a time when the organizations were becoming complex and they were facing problems of low productivity and low efficiency. This approach helped to solve these problems and to understand their working. As the time changes the nature and problems of organizations also change and so should the management approach. In this light classical theory should also be modified keeping in mind the modem principles of democracy, participation, employee welfare, emphasis on motivation & leadership rather than coercion.


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