Is Management an Art or a Science?

Science may be defined as a body of knowledge systematized through the application of scientific methods in any department of inquiry. Science is systematic in the sense that certain relationships, principles, and their limitations have been discovered, tested, and established into theories, laws, and principles But it does not mean that the principles and laws so established are immutable for all times to come. The Discovery of new knowledge and phenomena can always change any principle, irrespective of its nature, standing, and application.

Science includes physical sciences, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics (also known as exact sciences), and social sciences, such as economics, sociology, psychology (known as variable sciences) as they are based on human behavior which is unpredictable.

Management can then well be described as a science, albeit a variable one if compared to the nature of exact physical sciences.

Management has now a theoretical base with a number of principles relating to coordination, organization, decision-making, and so on. It is true that we cannot have the same kind of experimentation in management as is possible in natural sciences. But same is the case with economics, political science, military science, and a number of other sciences dealing with the complex structure of group-norms and behavior. When there is no objection to using the term science for these disciplines, there should not be any controversy about its use in the activity described as management. It is better to emphasize here that management is still a growing science.

Features of Management as a Science

The following features of management as science are required to be properly understood:

(a) Management is an inexact science because it deals with complex human phenomena about which knowledge is still limited;
(b) Management is still a developing science; and
(c) Management is an inter-disciplinary science-it draws freely from other disciplines, such as economics, sociology, and psychology.

There should also be not much dispute over describing management as an art. The function of art is to effect change or accomplish goals by deliberate efforts. The practical application of theoretical knowledge is reflected in art. In this sense, management is an art as well. Management principles have been evolved not for the sake of knowledge alone but for their application in concrete situations as well. In fact, skill in the application of principles to work situations is so important to the job of an executive that some authorities regard management to be essentially an art. The practicing manager can be compared to a carpenter who has to cut, refashion, and
combine the pieces of wood to execute the order.

Features of Management as an Art

Management is an art because of the following attributes:

1. The process of management involves the use of know-how and skills;
2. The process of management is directed towards the accomplishment of concrete results;
3. It is creative in the sense that it is the function of creating productive situations needed for further improvements;
4. Management is personalized in the sense that every manager has his own approach to problems.

But it does not mean that science and art are mutually exclusive. The fact is that science is a body of knowledge, while art denotes the mode of the practical application of knowledge. Evidently, both are complementary to each other. Thus, theory and practice of management are mutually helpful and go side by side for the efficient functioning of any organization.

The most productive art is always based on an understanding of the science underlying it. Actually, managing, like all other arts, makes use of underlying organized knowledge-science-and applies it in the light of realities to gain a desired practical result.

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