The Human Relations Approach
Some Early Developments
The third strand in the development of modern management was the increase in attention to the human factors, which has become known as the 'human relations school of management.'
The UK was served by some remarkable men, both of high reputation as managers as well as impressive in theoretical presentation. The small group that surrounded B. S. Rowntree, who did much to set out the arguments for an ethical approach to management responsibilities, was declaring sturdily that it was good business to look after the worker also. The enlightened paternalism that they offered was attractive to many in management, particularly those who saw it as a continuation of the comradeship of First World War.
At the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, Dr C. S. Myers FRS, the Director until 1931, promoted empirical studies of industrial fatigue in particular, and employee problems in general. The inevitable professional body appeared, initially with the support of the ubiquitous cocoa manufacturers, who were so active in promoting that combination of humanity with profit for which they have been justly famous. After many metamorphoses, the Welfare Workers' Association (1913) was eventually to become the modern Institute of Personnel Management (IPM).
But ideas from the United States were also influential. Elton Mayo's detailed and continuing work in the Hawthorne experiments, widely publicized as it was, seemed to suggest that a new approach to motivation and employee care was both possible and sensible. Although aspects of this work were later to be questioned, they remained the largest and probably most influential work in this field into the 1960s.
Thus by the Second World War a level of good management practice was established in the UK, principally in the professional bodies, a limited educational establishment, the body of thoughtful managers who surrounded B. S. Rowntree and an embryo consultant effort based on the Bedaux Company and its successors, which although criticized had provided the most extensive contribution to scientific management.
Yet it is easily possible to overestimate the influence of these pioneers on established practice. In general, industrial managers remained pragmatic in outlook, suspicious of new ideas and wedded to the oversimplified notions of the past. Firms such as ICI, but without enthusiasm or success occasionally experimented with sophisticated organizational structures. No revolution along the lines that Alfred Sloan (18751966), (Sloan (1963)) introduced at General Motors was achieved. British industry preferred the simple 'one man control' system that it thought had served it so well in the past.
This remained as true for the successful firms like Morris and Austin as for the failing giants in textiles and engineering. Hence, notions of leadership became of great interest and efforts were made to develop the personal skills that it was thought might best contribute to the more effective operation of this system.
The Second World War itself called for the display of unity and drive that was to achieve great things, but these successes were to overshadow many real faults that needed to be changed. At the end, however, it was to establish, among other things, the vast superiority of American production capacity, and, by implication, its manufacturing methods and management.
By 1944 USA arms production was six times that of the UK, but whilst the British effort took nearly two-thirds of the GNP (as it did in Germany) the figure for America was never more than 43 per cent. Few European governments have been, or are, unaware of this overwhelming superiority.
Next | The postwar expansion