Construction Management Evolution and Development


Construction management has encountered a number of schools of thought. Succeeding schools of thought about management modify and extend existing ones but not supersede them as they still continue to exercise sway over ways in which organizations operate. Construction management is a discipline comprising systematic approaches to control time, cost and quality of a construction project based on recorded research and experience.
Though construction management must have been applied in the construction of Egypt pyramids centuries ago, but the discipline of management is relatively new, and origins of modern management can be traced to the beginning of last century. At present, there is no such thing as a comprehensive construction management theory but rather theories about the management.
By tracing the development of management as a discipline, four major schools of thought can be recognized; Classical approach (1900), Human relations approach (1925), Systems approach (1950) and contingency approach (1975). 

1- Classical Approach to Management

1.1 - Scientific management

Introduced by Fredrick Winslow Taylor (1856-1917)
By scientific management Taylor meant the systematic observation and measurement of work which was intended to replace the traditional approaches to work based on rule-of-thumb, intuition, precedent, guesswork and personal opinion. Taylor's objective was to improve efficiency and his quest was to identify the "best way" of doing any job. Taylor argues that having established the best way of doing the job then management should select a 'first-class' man who has physical and intellectual qualities to achieve the required output and then systematically train him to use only the 'best way'. Taylor sought to separate the role of managing the work; i.e., planning and organizing, from the actual execution of the work.

1.2 - Administrative management

Introduced by Henri Fayol (1841-1925)
Fayol's definition of management was in terms of five functions:

Fayol introduced fourteen general principles of administrative management. The fourteen principles are:

1.3 - Bureaucratic Model

Introduced by Max Weber (1864-1920)
Weber was concerned with the way in which authority was exercised within organizations. Authority, where orders are voluntarily obeyed by those receiving them, was distinguished from power, which is the ability to force people to obey. Weber describes three types of organizations based on the way in which authority is legitimized. Charismatic form of organization in which authority is based on the personal qualities of the leader, traditional organizations in which the bases of authority are precedent and usage, and rational-legal in which authority stems from holding a particular position in the organization.

2- Human Relations Approach to Management

The founder of the Human relations approach is widely recognized to be Elton Mayo, who undertook what became known as Hawthorne investigations that took place at Western Electric Company in Chicago.
Mayo concluded the following:

Though Mayo's research methods were heavily criticized, the impact of the Hawthorne investigations on management thinking was considerable particularly the realization of the "Human factor" and the "Informal group"

3- Systems Approach to Management

The key concepts of the systems approach evolved in response to a rapidly changing environment. It expanded on the previous schools of thought in two ways:

  • The focus of the systems Theory is the whole organization comprising a set of interacting sub-systems
  • The relationship between the organization and its environment is a central concern of the systems theory.

4- Contingency Approach to management

The most recent school of thought about management. It combines the other three approaches and states management actions cannot always relate either to general or unique circumstances but depend on contingency factors and circumstances. In other words, the way in which an organization organizes and manages its tasks is contingent on the circumstances in which it operates.


  • Newcomb, R, Langford D and fellows, R Construction Management, volume I
  • Handy C, Understanding Organizations.

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