A Century of Management Ideas Visualized

Ken Hurley

May 19, 2023


As the world has evolved over the past century, so too have management practices in organizations. From the early days of scientific management and Taylorism to the more recent trends like Holacracy, management ideas have gone through a vast number of changes. While some ideas have stood the test of time, others have been discarded as outdated or ineffective. In this article, we will explore how ideas have evolved over the past century and visualize the changes through a timeline.

The Early Days of Scientific Management

In the early 20th century, Frederick Winslow Taylor developed the concept of scientific, which aimed to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace. Taylor believed that workers were motivated primarily by monetary incentives and sought to streamline work processes to increase output. This approach was based on the idea that scientific principles could be applied to management practices, resulting in increased profits for businesses.

However, Taylor’s ideas drew criticism from labor unions and worker advocates who argued that the focus on efficiency often came at the expense of worker well-being. Despite these criticisms, scientific management remained popular throughout much of the early 20th century. While some ideas have stood the test of time, others have been discarded as outdated or ineffective.

Human Relations Movement

In the 1930s, researchers such as Elton Mayo began to challenge the assumptions of scientific management. The human relations movement suggested that workers were motivated not just by financial incentives but also by social and psychological factors. According to this approach, managers should focus on building relationships with workers and creating a positive work environment to improve productivity.

This shift in thinking resulted in the development of new management practices like participative management, which emphasized collaboration between managers and workers. Other human relations theorists, such as Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor, further expanded on the importance of worker motivation and personal growth in the workplace.

Management by Objectives

In the 1950s, Peter Drucker developed the concept of management by objectives (MBO), which aimed to align employee goals with organizational objectives. MBO involves setting clear, measurable goals for employees and providing feedback on their progress towards those goals. This approach was seen as a way to improve productivity by providing workers with a clear sense of direction.

Total Quality Management

In the 1980s, Total Quality Management (TQM) gained popularity as a way to improve product quality and customer satisfaction. TQM involves a focus on continuous improvement, with employees at all levels of the organization involved in identifying and addressing quality issues. This approach also involves a commitment to customer satisfaction and a focus on creating a culture of quality throughout the organization.

Agile and Holacracy

More recently, management practices like Agile and Holacracy have gained popularity. These approaches emphasize flexibility, self-organization, and decentralized decision-making. Agile management involves breaking projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks and encouraging collaboration between team members. Holacracy is a system of organizational governance where decision-making authority is distributed among self-organizing teams rather than being centralized within a hierarchy.

Visualizing a Century of Management Ideas

To visualize the changes in ideas over the past century, we can create a timeline that highlights key developments in the field. Beginning with Taylorism in the early 1900s, we can see how practices have evolved to include human relations practices, MBO, TQM, and more recent approaches like Agile and Holacracy. While some ideas have stood the test of time, others have been discarded as outdated or ineffective.

As we review this timeline, it becomes clear that practices have become increasingly focused on collaboration, flexibility, and worker empowerment. While some of the early approaches like scientific were criticized for their focus on efficiency at the expense of worker well-being, modern management ideas emphasize.


Management practices have come a long way over the past century, with new ideas and approaches emerging in response to changing workplace dynamics. From the early days of scientific to the more recent trends like Agile and Holacracy. he field of management has evolved to incorporate new concepts and technologies. While some ideas have stood the test of time, others have been discarded as outdated or ineffective. By visualizing these changes through a timeline. We can see how management practices have adapted to meet the needs of modern organizations and workers.