The management issues that Robert Owen was dealing with at Lanark

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On the 1st October 2002 the Department of Business requested an essay to be written investigating the management issues that Robert Owen was dealing with at Lanark, how did the wider context affect Robert Owens management activities and how did he try to change the context. It was also requested to notify any parallels between Robert Owen and Anita Roddick the founder of the Body Shop. The report was to be submitted on 10th December.

The management issues that Robert Owen was dealing with at Lanark.

Before the Industrial revolution the majority of people lived in small self-sufficient communities in the country, the industries during this time were of small cottage type or agricultural nature. The development of technology and machinery brought about the Industrial Revolution, along with this came the introduction of factories, which could produced goods in large quantities. Through this development small business could no longer compete large factories, this resulted in the people moving from the countryside to be nearer the factories. This move meant that there was a call for co-ordination of the labour within the factory system; it was from this that the “question of management”1 developed.

Robert Owen purchased the mill at Lanark during the early part of the Industrial Revolution, when most of his employees had little or no experience of working within a factory.  Robert Owen soon discovered that much of his workforce was idle, drunk and dishonest and generally of low quality. The factory was also prone to theft and embezzlement and managers were slack. Robert Owen would have to change the way his employees worked.

One of the definitions of management is “ The efficient, effective and economic use of resources to achieve results with and through other people”2. However the employees were suspicious of Robert Owen, which meant that he could not meet the necessary requirements of the above definition. While his employees were suspicious of him, Robert Owen could not meet the other necessary requirements needed to be a sufficient manager.


Robert Owen had to gain the trust of his employees so that meet the five components of management, Working with and through others, Achieving organisational objectives, Balancing effectiveness and efficiency, Making the most of limited resources and coping with the changing environment

How the wider context affected Robert Owens Management activities and how Owen tried to change that context.

Robert Owen was faced with a wider range of problems, which he believed affected the mill. During this time the management theory was based on the Classical approach “rule-of-thumb”, which means that owners are focused on obtaining, achievement and goals. The owners of these factories believed that humans are “solely motivated by money”3. Robert Owen was a Philanthropist, and he disagreed with the classical approach theory, he believed that “character is formed by the effects of the environment upon the individual”4.  Robert Owen had plans to change the both the internal and external factors at Lanark, however he received lack of cooperation from his partners because they did not share his beliefs.  Owen believed that the poor conditions at the factory were a result of poverty.

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When Robert Owen purchased the factory employees were working 15 hours a day, Owen wanted to reduce the length of a working day for his employee’s to 10, however his partners were against this, and as a result Robert Owen managed to decrease the hours to 14.  It was much later when Robert Owen reduced the working day to 12 hours.

The internal conditions of the factory suffered from poor lighting and ventilation, while external condition were much of the same, Robert Owen improved the living conditions of his workers. He built new houses and improved existing ...

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