What The Term “Classic” Really Means

When you hear the term “classic”, it’s easy to assume something is important and timeless. But in chapter 2 of our textbook, we went over a few “classic” approaches to organizational communication. In this case, classic meant old and partially outdated.

Firstly, the machine metarphor was introduced which explained that an organization and all it’s parts were similar to that of a machine and it’s parts. The employees and aspects of an organization worked together and were as predicatable as a machine. It also explained that employees were also replaceable like machine parts that broke down and needed to be fixed. Specialization, standardization and predictability. Every part of the machine as a specific specialization much like employees who are employed for specific tasks. Standardization that, much like a machine, parts can be replaced since a lot of them do generally the same thing. Lastly, predictability, that machines do what they do, over and over in the same way which can be predicted because of such.

The three main “classic” theories covered in the chapter were Fayol’s Theory of Classical Management (again, the word classic), Max Weber’s Theory of Bureaucracy and Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management (aka, Taylorism). After reading through these theories, which range in age, I realized one central thing: they all have aspects that can still be appreciated and utilized today but some of them have become obsolete as time’s have changed.

For Fayol’s theory, I disagreed with his assumption that the whole trumps the individual. Maybe years ago when it was theorized, yes that could have worked but today, when individualism plays such a key role in organizations and improvement, I believe automatically assuming an individual is less important as the whole group, is a bad thing.

Max Weber’s theory already starts off on a misunderstood food thanks to the word buraucracy. However, the title doesn’t do the theory much justice as his explantions of “authority” is interesting and relevent. There are various types of authority from traditional to rational-legal and they all encompass they types we encounter in an organizaiton. I don’t think his emphasis on a heirarchy is as relevent now as it was then but a lot of the theory is still decently useful.

Lastly, Taylorism, poses a much more scientific and systematic way to approach an organizaiton. According to this, there is one best way to do something, there is no issue in firing someone who doesn’t cut it at their job and there needs to a strict seperation between employees and management. Altohugh I do believe some of these points are valid, I don’t believe an organization or thusly a business can be so black and white, there is an abundance of grey area. Yes, there is a best way to do things but sometimes that’s not the most important. Yes, having your product produced in another country (outsourcing) to make the most profit may be the “best way” but if it goes against your morals and fundamental need to keep business local, it may not be so. Sure, an employee may not be the best at his or her job off the bat but who’s to say with training, someone who really needs the job couldn’t become a great employee? Most importantly, yes, the line between management and employees should be clear but it doesn’t have to be so harsh as Taylor explains. I believe that although management should manage, they also must form a relationship beyond that with those under their command. That rapport can improve or destroy morale. I’ve worked in many places where the line between myself and my managers have been so thick that I saw them not as people or someone I can talk to effortlesly but someone who cracked the whip and didn’t care much for my personal wellbeing. When I became a manager that was one thing I made sure to take with me and with that I built a happy, and productive team that respected each other and understood the line was there, they just didn’t have to be suppressed by it.

So in the end, I learned a lot about classic approaches that ultimately became the building blogs for other organizational communication theories and approaches being formulated today. Also, it’s clear that the term “classic” is much like the term “vintage.” You think something that is vintege is something that is timeless, pricless and beautiful when in most instances it’s just something that’s old and tacky.

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