Is Management—Art, Science or Profession?

A question is often raised as to whether management is an art, a science, a profession or all the three. This question has been discussed here to explain the nature of management.

Management as an Art

Art involves the systematic application of theoretical knowledge and personal skills to achieve desired results. The function of art is to effect change and to bring about desired results through deliberate efforts. Art represents 'how' of human behavior because it is the know-how to accomplish concrete practical results.

Art is a personalized pro­cess as every artist has his own style. Art is essentially creative and the success of an artist is measured by the results he achieves. A carpenter making furniture out of wood and a goldsmith shaping gold into orna­ments are examples of art.

Art prescribes how to do things and it can be improved through continuous practice. Art is result-oriented involving practical way of doing specific things.

It consists of bringing about desired results through the use of skills. Art involves practical applica­tion of theoretical knowledge.

Management is essentially an art because of the following reasons:

(a) The process of management involves the use of knowledge and skills. Every manager has to apply certain knowhow and skills while dealing with people.

(b) Management seeks to achieve concrete practical results, e.g., profits, service, etc. According to Prof. John F. Mee, "management is the art of securing maximum results with a minimum of effort so as to secure maximum prosperity and happiness for both employer and employee and give the public best possible service."

(c) Like any other art, management is creative. It brings out new situations and makes resources productive. In fact, management is one" of the most creative arts because it requires molding and welding the attitudes and behavior of people at work for the accomplishment of specific goals in a changing environment.

It is the art of securing desired response from people. Management makes things happen.

(d) Like any other art, management is a personalized process. Every manager has his own approach and technique depending upon his perception and the environmental conditions.

(e) As an art, management requires judgment and skills. The art of management can be refined with continuous practice of management theories and principles.

The art of management is as old as human civilization. The impor­tance of management art has increased with rapid growth in the number size and complexity of organizations.

Management as a Science:

Science is an organized or systematized body of knowledge pertain­ing to a particular field of enquiry. Science is systematized in the sense that it establishes cause and effect relationship between different vari­ables.

Such systematized body of knowledge contains concepts, prin­ciples and theories which help to explain past events and to predict the outcome of specific actions. These principles are capable of universal application, i.e., they can be applied under different situations.

They rep­resent fundamental truths derived through empirical results. These principles or basic truths are developed through scientific methods of continuous observation, experiment and testing.

When generalizations or hypotheses are empirically verified for accuracy through continuous observation and experimentation they become principles. Science explains 'why' of human behavior.

Management is a science because it contains all the characteristics of science. Firstly, there is a systematized body of knowledge in manage­ment. Principles are now available in every function of management and these principles help to improve managerial effectiveness.

For instance, there are a number of principles which serve as guidelines for delegating authority and thereby designing an effective organization structure. Similarly, there are several techniques (ways of doing things) in the field of management.

Budgeting, cost accounting, ratio analysis, rate of return on investment, critical path method (CPM), programme evalua­tion and review technique (PERT) are some of these techniques which facilitate better management.

Secondly, principles of management have been developed through continuous observations and empirical veri­fication. Thirdly, management principles are capable of universal application.

Nature of science of management:

Management developed as an but since the days of F.W. Taylor the advancement of science of manage­ment has been very fast. Management as a science should be differen­tiated from the term 'management science which is used to refer to the application of quantitative techniques in solving managerial pro­blems.

Management is a social science as it involves the study of human behavior. It is a comparatively young and growing behavioral science. Being an in-exact social science, management cannot be as perfect as natural sciences like Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

It is not possible to study and predict human beings under controlled laboratory con­ditions. Human behavior is ever changing and unpredictable. There­fore, we cannot have the same kind of experimentation in management as is possible in natural sciences.

The concepts, principles and techni­ques of management are still in a developing stage. Therefore, the prin­ciples of management are flexible guidelines rather than hard and fast rules or absolute truths. That is why management has been described as a 'soft science'.

Management is also an inter-disciplinary science be­cause it draws freely on Economics, Mathematics, Sociology, Psycho­logy and Anthropology. There are no full proof rules in management that do away with judgment and common sense. Management is an applied science.

Thus, management is both an art as well as a science. "Essentially, managing is the art of doing and management is the body of knowledge which underlies the art". It is said that management is the oldest of arts and the youngest of sciences.

It must, however, be noted that science and art are not mutually exclusive but complementary to each other. They are two faces of the same coin. Science without art is sterile and art without science is blind.

According to Barnard, "it is the function of the arts to accomplish concrete ends, effect results, produce situations that could not come about without the deliberate efforts to ensure them. These arts must be mastered and applied by those who deal in the concrete and for the future.

The function of the sciences, on the other hand, is to explain the phenomena, the events, the situations of the past. Their aim is not to produce specific events, effects or situations but to provide explanations which one can call knowledge".

Every art is based on an underlying body of knowledge and with every advance­ment in science, art is improved by reducing dependence on intention and judgment. For example, a physician without the knowledge of medical science becomes a 'witch doctor or 'quack' with science an artful surgeon.

Similarly, an executive without principles of manage­ment has to depend on luck or intuition. But with formal knowledge and training in management, he has a better guide to design workable solution to managerial problems of his firm.

There is a systematic body of knowledge that underlines the competent practice of management. Managers are not always born. They can be made through education and training.

However, mere knowledge of theory cannot lead to success unless one knows how to apply the theory. A person with a degree in management cannot necessarily be an effective manager just as a person with a merely cookery book cannot be a good cook.

No amount of reading books on medical science will make a man a good physician or surgeon. Theoretical knowledge must be supplemented and perfected by practical skills. Theory and practice supplement each other. Use of judgment and experience is essential for efficient application of science.

The art and science of management go hand in hand. As an artist, a manager has to depend on his intuition, judgment and experience while as a scientist he relies on the theory of management.

A successful manager must not only acquire the knowledge of the science of management but learn to apply this knowledge. Competence in management requires mastery of scientific knowledge as well as practice in the use of knowledge.