Design/methodology/approach – This is achieved by firstly, providing a concise summary of the classical management theory. This is followed by a presentation of selected dimensions of South Africa's economic, social and political profile (cultural profile), as reflected in secondary sources. A discussion of South Africa's profile vis-à-vis management theory is presented.
Findings – The findings show that South Africa is faced with unique competitive challenges, which fall within the realm of management. Unfortunately, the unavailability of competent senior managers forms part of South Africa's problem, aggravating the situation.
Practical implications – The practical implications are that South African managers need to face their reality, by acquainting themselves with the sound theory underpinning management, available from reputable sources and applying these principles with insight. In so doing they will not only improve the competitive positions of their enterprises but also that of South Africa, as a whole. Moreover, they will impact the economy positively, be it domestically, regionally or globally and reap the benefits of success just like other firms and countries.
Originality/value – This paper is original in the sense that it seeks to give a comprehensive, however, brief overview of a complex topic, classical management, while linking it to South Africa's unique challenges. The value of this script lies in the concise presentation of classical management thought and the consequent implication that its consistent application could play a vital role in overcoming the competitive challenges facing South Africa.