Arguments in favour of and Against Universality of Management

Universality of Management

Often, we hear the statement that the activity of management is ‘Universal’. Universality proposes that the field of management is applicable to Government, business, university and other non-profit organizations like clubs, cinema theatres, hospitals, etc. The manager uses the same managerial skills and principles in each managerial positions held in such organizations. The management problems that these diverse organizations face are alike, and the duties of their managers are equally similar.

Universality implies transferability of managerial skills across industries, countries. In fact, Management, is one of the important exports of the international firms.

Universality of Management

Arguments in favour of and Against Universality of Management

Arguments in Favour of Universality of Management

1. Similar Functions

Quite often, it is wrongly thought that management exists only in a business and not in other enterprises. However, the fact is, that while acting in their respective managerial capacities not only the company President but also the office supervisor perform the basic functions of management. The difference lies only in things like broadness of the objectives, the importance of the decisions taken, the organizational relationships affected, etc. Managers perform essentially the same functions irrespective of their level in the organization, industry or country.

2. Universal Principles

Classical writers like Fayol, Urwick, and others believed that there are certain principles in management that are universally applicable. They are:

  • the principle of departmentation,
  • principle of division of labour,
  • principle of span of control,
  • the scalar principle,
  • principle of unity of command, etc.

These principles have been translated into practice for a long time and have found universal expression irrespective of the nature and level of management in organizations.

3. Same Fundamentals

Management occurs in parks, hospitals, farms, universities, cities, police agencies, churches, air ports, community organizations, industries, etc. The fundamentals governing the management of a business, a church or a university are same. The difference lies only in the techniques employed and practices followed.

All managers are accountable for performance of other people. They plan, make decisions, organize work, motivate people and implement controls and so on. With a view to achieve objectives, the techniques used should vary based on situational factors like culture, tradition, attitude, etc. Same is the case with management practices also.

4. Practical Evidence

Management is found in all the functions, levels and sizes of organizations. As observed by Peter F. Drucker,

the rapid development of Brazil, the rapid development of non-communist countries, that is, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, the rapid development of so poor and backward peasant country as Iran are all traceable to the impact of management.

Arguments Against Universality of Management

1. Impossibility of Complete Substitutability

It is true that the manager’s job has become most universal at the upper levels of organizations. The higher, one moves in an organization, the more he performs the common functions of management like planning, organizing, directing and controlling and the less he moves, the less he is involved in day-to-day technical matters. The relationship between performance and functions entrusted becomes more intense as one moves lower down the order.

2. Varying Organizational Philosophies

As pointed out by Dale Yoder, no individual could be a good administrator in religious, academic, military, and business institutions of both communist and democratic countries. This is because, the philosophies which underlie each are drastically different and one person could not encompass so much. For instance, in one concern, the emphasis may be profit maximization and in the other, the emphasis may be social responsibilities. Such conflicting demands affect managerial actions and what a manager could apply with success in one concern may not find a meaningful expression in the other concern where the underlying philosophy is different.

3. Impossibility of Universal Principles

Classical management principles were written by practitioners in management and were based on their personal experience only. They have only made an attempt to pass on their ideas as universal truths. These principles are vague and too general and, therefore, are very difficult to apply to a specific organization. They often overlap and are sometimes incompatible with one another. Thus, the statement of ‘Universal Principles‘ is quite unblessed.

4. Management is an Output of the Culture

Managers have to operate within the broad constraints operating in an economy like culture, tradition, organizational philosophies, etc. Managerial behavior in a deeply traditional, religious economy is bound to be different from the advanced and scientifically-oriented economy. It is fruitful to search for a common set of ‘principles’ where managers have to operate in highly diverse cultures.

The writers who argues that management principles are culture bound, seem to ignore that the basic principles governing the management of business concerns in India, Japan, U.S.A., and Brazil are the same, and they are applicable and adaptable in various cultures. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for Indian Managers doing successful business in Great Britain, Chinese management thinkers teaching in America, etc.

The universality of management thesis is well supported by several research studies especially by Haire, Porter, Negandhi and Richman. As per the opinion of these researchers, cultural and situational factors may influence the way in which a manager perform his functions but the basic principles of management remain unchanged.