2.3 Contemporary Management Theories

Now that there is a grasp on classical management theory, do these theories still fit in a contemporary marketplace? Perhaps, adhering to strict theoretical concepts, the classical theories will always be a base, but they need to be associated with many contemporary factors. Some of the current factors influencing the management landscape are:

  • Talent
  • Diversity
  • Globalization
  • Technology
  • Ethics
  • Careers

We will be diving into these topics at greater depth throughout the book, for now let us preview technology, diversity, and globalization.


Today, many organizations are being reformed where a host of technological concepts are rising to the top[6]. In a modern market, computerized technology has been the biggest advancement to work in the sense of making work easier and more effective. Globally, it has had a huge impact, considering that modern technology extends to everywhere on Earth. Focusing on the learning organization, much has changed since the advancement of technology. For example, take this book.  A healthy prediction would be that about 99% of students reading this on some form of personal computer, handheld laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone. This leads to the question that in this world of expanding technology, are classical theories obsolete in this new age of contemporary technological management? The answer relies on the comparison and contrast of the classical and the contemporary.

Take the bureaucratic model.  Of course, the systems of hierarchy will remain with the division of labour. However, a manager who uses expert power in the form of knowledge to a subordinate can be equalized with the advancement of technology. Essentially, the employee with the smartphone or tablet can find answers to certain organizational questions just as quickly and effectively as the boss or manager. With this concept at its most extreme, what is the difference between a manager and an employee at this point other than a title? Technology has the opportunity to change the bureaucratic model into more of a bureaucratic matrix that focuses on specialization in a more decentralized organization. As an example, the president of a university is the head of the institution, but has to delegate, and at times defer, to the heads in the areas of other administrations (i.e. information technology, human resources , student affairs etc.).

Technology has moved society into rethinking and expanding on the theories of bureaucratic and scientific management, and into an advanced version of behavioral and human relations theory.  The form of decentralization and human coordination will be effective attributes in a modern organization. Professor Jay Conger, of McGill University, claims that the advancement of new technologies will require managers to be capable of coordinating in a highly decentralized organization, and that the changes will demand not only more leadership and management, but newer forms of leadership and management[7]. Ultimately, a more expanded thinking approach, compared to a methodological approach, may be needed.   Given the advancement of technology that is currently here, and does not seem to be slowing down at any rate. Technology within education will be discussed more in-depth with Communication in Chapter 10.


Diversity has become a widely used term in recent years.  The fact is that the workplace in the 21st century is more diverse now than it has ever been. People are living longer, different genders are engaged in the workplace, and different members of society are actively involved together. This demands a knowledge of diversity, whether or not a classical theory can adapt to the changing notion of diversity.

Diversity in management focuses on people, with their backgrounds and needs within an organization. For example, a university can have  a specific department (faculty of social sciences) with members from different generations (millennials, generation x, and baby boomers) [8]. This idea has been replicated many times throughout case studies, with the pre-determined idea that an organization without diversity will produce differing views and challenges between the generations. However, to have an effective organization, all groups need to be treated fairly, and seen as valued within the organization[9].  This is referred to as managing diversity. In many ways, managing diversity relates to behavioural management by doing what is best to really pay attention to the workers needs within the organization.

Ultimately, what is needed is to rethink what diversity is and how it is present in the many facets within the organization. In order for a modern organization to run effectively, it must use a more advanced approach of a behavioural model that embraces the diverse contrasts within institutions. Essentially, it goes beyond just listening to the employee.  It attempts to listen to the employee based on her or his specific needs. Diversity will be discussed further in Chapter 11: Multicultural Leadership.


The term globalization became more common after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. With an increase in open borders and advancement in technology, businesses and corporations decided to expand in the new global marketplace. However, as the world moves steadfast through the 21st century, there are some troubling trends emerging within the global economy. In 2018, the Global Risk Perception Survey (GRPS) conducted a study which listed four trends in the global, external environment[10]:

  1. Persistent inequality and unfairness
  2. Domestic and international policy tensions
  3. Environmental dangers
  4. Cyber vulnerabilities

There is a bleak outlook by the authors of this survey, and they further state that rigid, hierarchical structures will find no place in a modern high impact environment[9]. Perhaps this is a challenge to the bureaucratic and scientific models.  However, maybe this outlook can be solidified. If the idea of a hierarchical structure that works top down is no longer needed in the globalized marketplace, what about the hierarchy that moves outwards rather than top down? When discussing the organizational environment, it would be remiss to neglect all the outside dynamic forces that effect organizations in a global marketplace. These dynamic forces are listed as follows[11]:

  1. Economic Environment
  2. Legal-Political Environment
  3. Technological Environment
  4. Socio-Cultural Environment
  5. Natural Environment

These dynamic forces are outside of the central organization, and thus outside of organizational control. Although the forces are external to the control of the institution, it can effectively change policies to stay ahead of the curve of dynamic forces. For example, a large fast food chain may introduce a ‘beyond meat’ hamburger to meet the needs of a changing natural and socio-cultural environment. Challenges can emerge with this format. however.  For example, that fast food company may bring in order kiosk, which would benefit the technological environment, but may be a deterrent to the economic environment. It remains a constant tug-of-war to ensure a company in a global marketplace does its duty to maintain these dynamic forces in order to foster a positive organizational and social outlook.

The dynamic forces, in many ways, can act as a solution to the troubles in the GRPS survey. Acknowledging the risk that is present and putting systems in place to combat the risks is the main idea behind a globalized organization.

Dynamic Forces on Organizations in a Globalized Economy
Figure 4: Dynamic Forces on Organizations in a Globalized Economy (Attribution:

How does this fit within the learning organization? The idea of moving outward may be a beneficial and necessary outcome to keep up in a globalized educational marketplace. With more and more colleges and universities having off-site and web campuses in other cities and countries (technological), a new generation entering post-secondary education (socio-cultural), a growing population (economic), political polarization (legal-political), and green initiatives (natural), learning organizations, much like the large fast food company will need to effectively manage these dynamic forces to maintain an advantage in a globalized marketplace. Within maintaining an advantage, a manager must have specific competencies such as communication, teamwork, self-management, leadership, critical thinking, and professionalism. These competencies allow managers to craft and create their management style to adjust in a modern workplace.

Activity: Management Factors

  • Match one of the scenarios to one of the five factors below


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Leadership and Management in Learning Organizations Copyright © by Clayton Smith; Carson Babich; and Mark Lubrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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