MGT-3319-01-Mgt Theory and Practice
MGT 3319 Management Observation
Practice Being a Manager
OBSERVING HISTORY TODAY
The topic of management history may sound like old news, but many of the issues and problems
addressed by Max Weber, Chester Barnard, and other management theorists still challenge managers
today. How can we structure an organization for maximum efficiency and just treatment of individuals?
What is the basis for, and limits to, authority in organizations? It is rather amazing that these thinkers of
the late 19th and early 20th centuries generated such a wealth of theory that still influences our discussion
of management and leadership challenges in the 21st century. This exercise will give you the opportunity
to draw upon some ideas that trace their roots back to the pioneers of management thinking.
Preparing in Advance for Class Discussion Step 1: Find an observation point. Identify a place where you can unobtrusively observe a group of people as they go about their work. You might select a coffee shop, bookstore, or restaurant.
Step 2: Settle in and observe. Go to your selected workplace and observe the people working there for at least 20 minutes. You should take along something like a notebook or PDA so that you can jot down a
few notes. It is a good idea to go during a busy time, so long as it is not so crowded that you will be
unable to easily observe the workers.
Step 3: Observe employees at work. Observe the process of work and the interaction among the employees. Consider some of the following issues:
Identify the steps that employees follow in completing a work cycle (e.g., from taking an order to delivering a product). Can you see improvements that might be made, particularly steps that
might be eliminated or streamlined?
Observe the interaction and mood of the workers. Are they stressed? Or are they more relaxed? Does it seem to you that these workers like working with each other?
Listen for signs of conflict. If you see signs of conflict, is the conflict resolved? If so, how did the workers resolve their conflict? If not, do you think that these workers suppress (bottle up)
Can you tell who is in charge here? If so, how do the other workers respond to this person’s directions? If not, how does the work group sort out who should be doing each task, and in what
Step 4: Consider what you saw. Immediately after your observation session, look through this chapter
on management history for connections to your observations. For example, do you see any signs of the
“Hawthorne Effect”? Would Fredrick Taylor approve of the work process you observed, or might he have
suggested improvements? What might Chester Barnard’s theory have to say about how the workers you
observed responded to instructions from their “boss”? Write a one-page paper of bullet-point notes
describing possible connections between your observations and the thinking of management pioneers
such as Mary Parker Follett and others discussed in Chapter 2 (History of Management).
Class Discussion Step 5: Share your findings as a class. Discuss the various points of connection you found between
pioneering management thinkers and your own observations of people at work. Are some of the issues of
management “timeless”? If so, what do you see as timeless issues of management? What are some ways
in which work and management have changed since the days of the management pioneers?
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