A simple definition of management would be coordinating a task(s) to achieve a goal. This often involves people, and such management is about coordinating people. Managing people can be viewed negatively and as a form of manipulation or positively in a way that empowers people to accomplish things. In either case, management has a long history. People have been trying to achieve goals for all recorded human history.
Early forms of management date all the way back to ancient Sumer. The Sumerians, people from Mesopotamia, developed writing to manage their training empire. Merchants needed a way to keep track of their records regarding what was bought and sold, among other things. Writing was developed for this purpose, perhaps because the trade volume was too high to track by memory.
In the ancient city of Babylon, Hammurabi developed his Code of Hammurabi to manage behavior and control his people. The significance of the Code of Hammaruabi is that it is one of the oldest examples of law ever found. One of the more famous examples from this code is quoted below.
If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]Code of Hammurabi Line 196
The example above is the law of retribution or lex talionis. The law of retribution is found in many other places. One example would be the Bible. A later King named Nebuchannezer developed the idea of incentives by providing more food to workers who produced more.
Ancient Egypt also had contributed to management when they developed ideas behind the division of labor. Dividing labor is taken for granted; however, when agrarian cultures moved towards developing trade and cities, everyone did not have the time to farm. By dividing labor, people could focus and become highly competent at something. In addition, division of labor allows some of the Egyptians to develop the pyramids.
Management In China and the West
In China, Sun Tzu and his “Art of War” lays down many ideas related to management. Ideas behind resources management, inspiring the people, and examining oneself are all addressed in this classic. Countless managers have read and received inspiration from this practical book.
The Han dynasty of China (206 BC – 220 AD) also contributed to management through its development of bureaucracy. The large governmental system that was important at this time helped the dynasty control and monitor the people while also providing opportunities to people good enough to pass the various civil servant exams.
The Greeks and the Romans have also made their contributions to management. The Greeks also developed division of labor, or perhaps they borrowed the idea from the Egyptians with who they had frequent contact through trade. The Romans gave the world standardization. Standardizing everything allowed the Romans to produce things much faster for conquest. The Romans could pave the world because the roads were generally built the same way, saving time and resources.
Management will continue to play a role in the world as the world becomes more complex. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what the next generation of innovations will be.