Arguments in Support and Against Universality Concept of Management



Arguments in Support and Against Universality Concept of Management!

(A) Arguments forwarded by the supporters of universality concept:

L. A. Allen, Koontz and O'Donnell, McFarland and many others are of the opinion that management theory, principles and practices are transferable from one country to another, from one company to another within a country and from one person to another.

In other words, they have universal application. According to McFarland... "Management skill is an exportable commodity and indeed it is one of the important exports of the multinational or international firms."

He has found evidence for export of management skill with reference to Chile, Greece and the Philippines, as well as in other places. In the words of Koontz and O'Donnell, "The management fundamental theory and principles have universal application in every kind of an enterprise and at every level of enterprise Allen contends that management is universal and many of the examples of DuPont Company provided a pattern that was followed with noticeable success by many other companies.

The following are the arguments forwarded by the supporters of universality concept:

1. The process of management is common to all types of human activities:

It is argued that management is found in all organised activities. The process of management involves planning, organising, staffing, directing and controlling functions are found in any enterprise belonging to any part of the world.

Managers or administrators of any organisation perform these functions without any difference. They plan, direct, organise and control the activities of their subordinates. H.H.Albers writes :—"The management process is a necessary feature of all organised activity Although the purpose of organisation differ, the management process remains constant, it is present in factories, banks, retail establishments, military organisation, churches, universities and hospitals."

The same principle applies to the functional area of specialisation, such as production management, marketing management and financial management.

2. Management fundamentals and Management Techniques are Different:

A distinction needs to be made between management theory and principles, and management techniques and approaches, because it is a particular technique that varies. Managerial approaches may differ from culture to culture and from country to
country, but management fundamentals are universally applicable.

According to Mary Caushing Niles, "While practices and applications will vary widely from one situation to another, fundamental concepts and principles of management and of humans remain much the same even when they take effect in different combinations.

3. Management Fundamentals and Management Practices are different:

Supporters of universality concept feel that fundamentals are the same, only practices differ. Management is both a science and an art. The most productive art is always based on an understanding of the science underlying it. Thus science and art are complementary.

The art of managing or the practice of managing makes use of organised knowledge (Science). Science is truth. However, its practice is subject to variations under different conditions, Koontz and O'Donnell agree that application of management fundamentals may vary in different situations cultures, not the fundamentals themselves.

4. Transferability of management principles and skills:

McFarland has argued that principles, concepts and skills of management are universal. Managers may shift from one company to another, from one industry to another and from one type organisation to another. He has regarded that such shift is an indication of this fact that the general skills and principles of management are at work.

In his own words, "The knowledge of management principles and skills in managing enables the executive to learn specific applications and problems as he applies his skills to the new settings."

(B) Arguments against Universality Concept:

Peter Drucker, Earnest Dale, McMillan and other do not agree with the universality concept.

They forward the following arguments in their support.

(1) Difference in Objectives of Different Enterprises:

The objective of an enterprise determines the type of management. Drucker is of the view that the skills, the competence and the experience of management cannot be transferred and applied from one enterprise to another enterprise because they differ in their objectives.

Objectives determine the type of skill, abilities and capabilities of the management required, so all these things cannot be transferred as such without introducing change. So, it is wrong to say that managerial theories have universal applications.

(2) Difference in Organisational Philosophy:

Earnest Dale opines that because of differences in philosophies of different enterprises a manager cannot be a good manager in all type of enterprises. He cannot manage a religious, academic, military and business institution with the same success and capability. The reason for it is very simple. The philosophies that underlie each type of organisation are very much different.

(3) Management is Culture-Bound:

Some management thinkers are of the view that management is culture-bound; hence the applicability of management principles may be limited to particular situation or culture. Oberg feels that if the ground rules under which the manager operates are different in different cultures (countries), it is useless to search for a common set of strategies of management.

Farmer and Richman have the same arguments, they feel that if a country has a strong traditional, religious and cultural bias towards non-scientific behaviour, it will be difficult to introduce modern management methods, which are based on the same type of predictive and the rational view of the world as are the more purely technical devices.

Thus, management practices, skill and techniques which are effective in communist societies, may not be effective in free enterprise or mixed economies. Similarly, in a tradition bound society, it is difficult to apply scientific methods of management for business or non-business organisations.


The arguments for and against universality concept may be analysed to reach at a specific conclusion. This conclusion is vital because developing countries can import managerial know-how and principles developed by the advanced countries if they are universal.

On analysing these arguments it can be concluded that there are management principles which have certain universal truth, however, their practices may differ from company to company, from industry to industry or from country to country. Management principles are neither culture-bound nor effected by the differences in objectives of the different enterprises.

It is only the practice of management which is culture bound. So when we say that management principles are universally applicable, it is true. But according to the nature, size and other background of organisations, their application will differ according to circumstances.