The 4 Approaches to Management

There are four basic approaches to management ( Management Approaches ), one splits into two, so technically there are five different approaches to management. When we say “approach” we literally mean the way we approach management and managerial activities at work. So it is the active way or method of seeing and dealing with managing at the workplace.

The main four approaches are:

  1. Classical Approach
  2. Quantitative Approach
  3. Behavioral Approach
  4. Contemporary Approaches:
  5. A) Systems Approach
  6. B) Contingency Approach
  7. The Classical Approach

This approach is all about managing in classical methods. It is about applying the original studies and researches done on management when it first became an official field of study during times of war, developed in order to improve productivity, efficiency, and output. These are the 3 focuses of this approach. The approach also includes several theories, among which are the bureaucratic, administrative, and scientific theories of management .

Moreover, the goal of Classical Management is cutting costs and achieving results in more efficient ways. As effective theoretically as it may be, and although it has worked in the past, the reason different approaches were created is because people changed. The classical approach does not concern employee satisfaction or anything from the perspective of employees. It is too mechanistic. Employees look for more in a job now. They expect to enjoy their job and to have a reason to do what they do. The classical approach, though is the base of all management, it does not address those needs and is all about achieving the organization’s goals.

Several approaches can be integrated in management, and this is the case with the classical approach. It is still in use in almost every company, firm, and organization but in a more complex way as some of the other approaches are integrated with it.

  • The Quantitative Approach

This approach is about using math and statistics and other quantitative methods to make better managerial decisions. In other words management can be dealt with in a quantitative manner to get more quality results; using numbers and statistics.

  • The Behavioral Approach 

The behavioral approach is about being concerned with the individual in an organization. This was developed when managers began to face issues in dealing with varying circumstances as they could not understand employee behavior. Classical theory “ignored employee motivation and behavior”(3). The behavioral approach viewed employees as humans with human needs and lead to better treatment and increased motivation. Various contributions were made to this approach over time, expanding the study to a field in itself. In fact, employee behavior in management became so important today that it is taught as an official Bachelor specialization in certain universities around the world, known as Organizational Behavior (OB).

  • Contemporary Approaches

 Systems Approach: 

When using the systems approach, you are looking at the organization as a whole system. You count your employees, clients, customers, partners, managers, and every stakeholder as a part of this system, and without any one part, the system would fail. If you fail to take care of one part, the system would collapse. So using this approach, you take actions and make decisions while taking the whole company and any possible effects that would happen to it into consideration. All the components that make up the organizational system are simplified into 4 parts as shown in the image below..

There are 2 main kinds of systems; an open system and a closed system.

Contingency Approach: 

This approach is based on the concept that there is ‘no one best way’ in management. For every situation there is a set of circumstances, which determine how a situation is to be dealt with. This approach is sometimes also called the ‘Situational Approach’. As given by the name, it is all about dealing with a situation by focus on it alone and not comparing with any other. It states that every situation is unique and not one situation is the same as another; and each situation should be dealt with differently. These days especially, this approach is probably the most commonly used due to the very dynamic environment we face in the business world. One day a firm could be a leader in its industry, the next, a certain technology comes out with disruptive innovation and the firm goes totally bankrupt. So managers need to be able to quickly shift and adjust their goals and have very flexible plans.

The best management practice comes from applying a bit of all the approaches, especially where needed. However, there has never been a time with a more dynamic business environment than today’s and where people cared so much for their quality of life and job satisfaction. Thus, although all the approaches are still very useful, the Contingency and Behavioral approach is probably the most prominent these days.