Administration history

The history of administration is very old and is related to man since he used reasoning; he sought a way to define tasks, have a leader, make decisions, plan, and carry out actions aimed at achieving some social or individual objective.

Throughout the history of humanity, man, in his relationship of coexistence with his peers and his requirement to satisfy basic needs, has sought ways to organize himself in groups, that is, in societies or towns where each one of the members complied with specific tasks according to their talents; some were dedicated to agriculture, others to hunting, trade or the priesthood, to name a few examples.

But the recognition as a science of Administration comes a long time later, although always throughout the historical evolution of man. From primitive cultures to the present day, we observe that every day there is a need to plan, organize, direct, and control, which has always been there, but which has been approached in different ways over time, as each town or society applied it. according to the contexts that were presented at that time, which is why the ways of managing have evolved today, development tools, innovation, management, creativity, skills, processes, and strategies have been implemented to improve administration and optimize time and resources to obtain the best benefit from them and achieve objectives.

Administration Definition

When hearing the word administration, various ideas about what it is come to mind, however, it is defined by some as a social science, career, technique, discipline, and art that exists in a system. The word comes from the Latin ad, towards, direction, trend, and minister, which tells us about making optimal use of existing resources based on planning, organization, direction, and control.

Some administration definitions:

  • It is to foresee, organize, command, coordinate, and control. (Fayol, 1916)
  • It is the coordination of work activities so that they are carried out efficiently and effectively with and through other people. (Robbins and Coulter, 2005)
  • Process of designing and maintaining an environment, in which, working in groups, individuals efficiently accomplish specific objectives. (Hitt, Black, & Porter, 2006)
  • It is the process of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the use of resources to achieve organizational objectives. (Chiavenato, 2004)

To the question of what is administration, one could answer that it is an integration of activities aimed at achieving objectives that, aided in a process (administrative process), permeate the way of working in organizations.

Administration evolution

The administration has been innate in the history of humanity since prehistoric times, although it was not given recognition for what it was, since they applied teamwork, coordination, and the division of tasks, assigning who hunted, gathered food, rationalized the resources, and tended the fire.

When man became sedentary and cultures emerged, mandate systems were established where there were hierarchies, that is, economic and social divisions of power; where at the top were the rulers, followed by priests, scribes, the people, and the slaves where they sought each one to fulfill their functions to guarantee the prosperity of the peoples and at the same time established behavior patterns; that is, rules (an example is the Hammurabi code of the Babylonian civilization). Likewise, it is noteworthy that they had ways of carrying out their procedures in a systematic and well-defined manner to achieve what they were looking for, this is where ideas from Aristotle and Confucius contributed to permeate the order of things, being pioneers of administration at that time.

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Middle Ages began, which were characterized, in the first instance, by conquests that had to be planned and organized to be carried out successfully and, later, by the division of lands that gave rise to the form of social organization, where a portion of land was granted to a so-called feudal lord who was in charge of a group of vassals who worked the land that he administered decentralizing power and in return, the lord provided them with protection. In the same way, the church was gaining power granted because the social organization of that time gave it great importance, although its organization is autonomous and with the authority to establish norms and precepts that must be complied with, and where principles such as freedom of decision, promotion by hierarchies and emphasis on preparation are applicable in companies today.

See also  Administration: What it is, definition, meaning, importance and objectives

Likewise, the merchants of Venice gave something to talk about because of how they traded and managed to reach other places and obtain more profits and products, and at the same time, promoters of accounting appeared in Italy who spoke of the need for control and accounting systems under technical such as double entry and registration in ledgers and journals.

The modern age is reached in which through new ideas, machines, and discoveries the world is revolutionized, eliminating artisan workshops and replacing them with factories. Adam Smith, the father of economics and who laid the foundations of thought for the industrial revolution, stated that the division of labor was necessary for specialization and increased production, in addition to the fact that it was necessary to achieve the accumulation of capital and land.

On the other hand, sometime later, Charles Babbage argued about the disadvantages of dividing the work with an analysis of costs, payment of workers, and their performance; since time, skills, and tools were needed to help in processes such as departmental division. In contrast, the need for production generated the exploitation of the worker by the employer, the problems derived from industrial activity gave rise to investigating the causes of these and that led to the birth of administration as a science, thanks to the figure of Henry Robinson. Towne (1888).

Management as a science

Taylor, who is recognized as the father of scientific management, mechanical engineering, and economist development in the steel industry, made proposals based on what he saw at work every day, thus managing to study work organization, standardization of tools, departmentalization, the principle of exception, teaching cards for workers, calculation rules for metal and steel cuts, as well as costing methods, selection of collaborators for tasks -specialization-, responsibility and specialization of managers in planning and incentives to manage to finish a task on time. Taylor specified the 4 principles that would revolutionize work and the way of managing at the time:

  1. Performance science substituting the empirical model
  2. Scientific selection and training of collaborators
  3. Cordial collaboration of the parties in the process
  4. Shared responsibility between workers and manager (Taylor, 1891)

Likewise, Henry Fayol is one of the precursors of scientific management, his contributions focused on the general structure of a company, especially in the upper area of ​​it, being theoretical, while Taylor is practical, since he focused on the tools and work methods aimed at efficiency at the operational level.

Fayol, who worked in a coal mining company, makes important contributions such as the universality of administration, that is, it applies to all organizations and the 6 basic functional areas of administration, which are:

  • Technical functions: through the production of goods and services
  • Commercial functions: knowing what is going to be needed to produce, buy and sell.
  • Financial functions: to get more profit using what exists without wasting anything.
  • Security functions: applicable to people and goods
  • Accounting functions: i.e. inventories, balance sheets, costs, forecasts, and statistics
  • Administrative functions: those that coordinate the previous functions, which were under development and are being studied by Fayol, where he identifies the model of the administrative process :
    1. Plan, anticipate, and draw up a future action plan
    2. Organize: taking care of the material and social structure
    3. Lead: guiding those who work in the company
    4. Coordinate: unite each task in a collective effort
    5. Control: verifying that the rules and orders given are complied with. (Fayol, 1916)

He also postulated the administrative principles :

  1. Division of labor: Induces specialization and, therefore, promotes efficiency.
  2. Authority and responsibility: Whoever has the power guaranteed by a position, has to answer for the results of his management.
  3. Discipline: It is synonymous with respect.
  4. Unity of command: Each employee has to answer to only one boss.
  5. Unity of direction: All members of an organization must work towards the same goals.
  6. Subordination of particular interest to the general: The interests of the organization are a priority and then the personal ones.
  7. Staff remuneration: The remuneration for work must be commensurate with the tasks performed and fair.
  8. Hierarchy: Represents the chain of command, who commands whom. It must be respected by addressing the immediate superior/inferior.
  9. Order: It can be synthesized with the phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place”. In this way, delays in unsuccessful searches of, for example, work tools are avoided.
  10. Equity: It is synonymous with justice and equal treatment for all employees.
  11. Staff stability: The worker must be given enough time to learn and assimilate the assigned tasks.
  12. Initiative: The contributions made by the staff that favors the company should be encouraged and valued.
  13. Union of the personnel: It refers to the harmony in the links so that the work environment is pleasant.
  14. Centralization: Refers to the influx toward the head of the command who will make the decisions. The larger the organization, the less centralization will be. (Fayol, 1916).
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For his part, Frank Bunker Gilbreth established the Therbling system, which is a system of basic movements carried out by workers using films and a micrometer to record time, analyzing times and movements, a personal card use system and professionalization as a discipline, in addition from writing the book Study of Applied Movements (1919) and Administration Psychology (1914).

Another important contemporary speaker of Taylor was Henry Lawrence Gantt, who devised a salary system derived from the bonus for tasks, in addition to designing the graph that bears his name and which is a means of control and production planning.

bureaucratic administration

He speaks of the need to act with well-founded reason and not be carried away by the wishes or interests of managers and owners. This approach was promoted by Max Weber, who applied the term bureaucracy (based on the German word büro, which means office) to refer to companies that work with rational foundations. (Robbins & A., 1996)

Human behavior approach

Characterized by seeking technical organizations to improve production mechanisms based on individuals, supported by the behavioral approach that spoke of the factors that have an impact on people within organizations. Those who spoke of this approach were Hugo Munsterber, who sought conditions to improve the work of the collaborator, as well as the way to influence them to adopt the organizational objectives, and Elton Mayo when included in his studies the influence of attitudes and relationships of social groups on the performance.

For his part, Elton Mayo, defended human relations, which he claimed that classical theory forgot, for which reason he is considered a precursor of the relational human current, that is, neoclassical.

  • Need to humanize and democratize the administration.
  • Development of human sciences to invalidate the classical theory.
  • Ideas of Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy and Lewin’s dynamic psychology influenced humanism.
  • Study of personnel, and behavior of formal and informal groups.
  • He pointed out the changes in schedule, breaks, and teamwork as agents for efficiency (use of personal cards).
  • The Manifesto of interviews with workers allows emotional discharge.

By relying on sciences such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology, motivation, groups, conflicts, power, and leadership are discussed, to be more aware of the treatment of collaborators. Defined by Abraham Maslow who spoke of the importance of human needs embodied in his pyramid where the lower levels represented needs that had to be covered before those at higher levels were satisfied. In addition, he also commented on being a humanist in the company with the delegation of work, decentralization of power, and self-evaluation of performance; ideas supported by Douglas McGregor who also developed theories X and Y that expose extreme cases of actions contrary to the actions of a company in an organization and that of leadership.

Quantitative or science approach

Emerging in the Second World War, where quantitative methods proved to make optimal use of resources, operations research was sought, where the administration was related to sciences such as mathematics, information technology, telecommunications, and statistics that together managed to guide decision-making. decision-making, analysis, problem-solving, effectiveness, and efficiency in organizations based on numerical models.

systems approach

The system is a totality, just as the organization must be constituted as a whole where if one part fails, the other parts will undoubtedly be affected since they all pursue a common objective, so the management must, before making a decision, consider what its consequences would be in that system, that is, in that organization. The systems theory exposed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy applied to the administration, also helps to see the company as part of an external environment, since there can be two types of system: an open one -a company with its environment- and a closed -company little or almost nothing to do with their environment, little feedback.

Focus by objectives

In management by objectives, the management process is carried out by the goals for a given period that seeks to meet the objective of the organization, defended by Humble, Levison, and Lodi to achieve the same goal, establishing standards that govern behavior, measurement, quality and evaluation criteria that indicate that the final objective is being achieved.

Contingency approach

The theory of business contingency consists of applying an action corresponding to the parameters and complexities that the situation presents, studying all the possible contingencies that may arise and be faced to achieve an objective, that is, what can be done in case something bad happens. happen to take as a reference the environment and their interaction with it (Groos, 2008).

Strategic management

Strategic management seeks the best way to face organizational challenges by proposing lines of direction that help it meet its objectives based on advantages that may be found due to situations that arise.

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Management by Values

Management by values is a leadership tool, it combines strategy and values, as well as social and behavioral psychology. Raised in the 20th century, it seeks the self-direction of the members of the organization in a context of values, ethics, and integrity, sharing common objectives.

Process management

In process management, by consecutively distributing various actions and operations in the development of a product or offering a service, it is sought that what is repeated is something that customers want to acquire and that each task in the organization is independent, but forms part of the structure and process that makes up the organization as a whole.

management by competencies

Management by competencies emphasizes intellectual capital, competencies are those attitudes, aptitudes, knowledge, and skills that individuals develop and can apply, as well as qualities required for a certain task, they are not fixed, but are being modified day by day by the environment where the individual develops.

administrative theories exponents Main approaches Emphasis
Scientific Administration Taylor Rationalization of work at the operational level in tasks
classical theory Fayol formal organization in the structure
Neoclassical theory May and Munsterberg General principles of the administration, functions of the administrator, Formal organization in the structure
Bureaucracy Theory Webber Bureaucratic, organizational rationality in the structure
Theory of human relations May Formal and informal organization, motivation, leadership, communications, and group dynamics. In people
Organizational Behavior Theory Maslow, McGregor Management styles, decision theory, integration of organizational and individual objectives. In people
Organizational Development Theory Warren Bennis and Richard Beckhard Planned organizational change, open system approach. In people
structuralist theory Thompson, Etzioni, Blau, Thompson, Burton Clarke, and Viet Intra-organizational analysis and environmental analysis, open system approach. In the environment
contingency theory chandler technology management In the technology
Management by Objectives Humble, Levison and Lodi Planning technique and administrative control structure and people
Strategic management Drucker The organization’s raison d’être, which some formalize in the mission, its business vision, and the values ​​that
they want to guide their actions, taking into account that Strategic Management is divided into three large parts:
strategic analysis, formulation, and implementation of the strategy
In people
management by competencies David McClelland of Harvard University and John Atkinson It is based on human motivation. describes that the economic and business activities of people are linked to
human motivations, identifying three important motivation systems: 1) achievements, 2) power, and 3) belonging
In the people within the processes when using technology

Table: History and evolution of the administration, own elaboration based on the present investigation


The administration as we know it today has undergone an evolution throughout the history of humanity since they are not the same ideologies or contexts that have been presented, although, in essence, the needs are the same.

Since ancient times, you can appreciate the bases that were transformed to reach today’s knowledge, theories, and administrative precepts that had ideas and transformations throughout history, as well as characters who with their research left important contributions and who currently They are constantly changing and updating according to the contexts and changes that are presented for a continuous improvement where the optimization of the resources of man and for man is sought since he is the engine of organizations, companies, and the planet.

Today, the administration is an essential branch in every company in the world, since there will always be resources, which must be used in the best possible way, there will also be human capital that, well-focused, will help to achieve the objectives.

Finally, an excellent video series summarizing the history, changes, and evolution of management over time. The different schools of administrative thought and the main contributions of their exponents are reviewed: Taylor, Fayol, Mayo, Follet, Maslow, McGregor, Strauss, Sayles, Argyris, Likert, Weber, Mayntz, Etzioni, Kauffman, Simon and Drucker. (Educatina – 20 videos, 1 hour and 43 minutes)