It is a strange thing but once you have focused on a topic you find it cropping up everywhere.

After our ‘merrymaking with management theories’ blog, I found the subject being raised by a variety of people in some very odd situations – but the oddest was when I caught up with Dave, an old army mate. Planning to spend a leisurely hour playing the ‘remember when’ games, I was astonished when the conversation moved on to management theories – that came out of left field!

Actually it is a perfect example of how conversation can meander from one topic to another with little or no rational transitions. We had first started out discussing the present conflict in Afghanistan, which prompted us to recall training ideologies learned from Vietnam; we mourned the unwillingness to learn from the British who fought (in our opinion) the only successful anti-terrorist campaign in Malaya in the 1950’s which itself was an outcome of the lessons learned during the Boer War!

“You know” said Dave “It’s true that if we fail to learn from history we are doomed to repeat it!”

Just how that segued into management theories I can’t seem to recall, but it did and I was challenged on my theory that Motivation in Management was pivotal to some of the ideas making the rounds today. “You don’t go back far enough” he warned me “Without some idea of where the whole concept started you can’t make that kind of judgement” and then came the killer – “You have to go back to Fayol!”

It was there I had a small panic attack – some where in the back of my mind I was sure that I had heard of Fayol – but in what context; and why he was important or relevant to our conversation simply escaped me.

Dave saw my confusion and grinned – “You’re getting old my girl – you used to hold forth very opinionated about Fayol in your army days!” and let the matter rest.

When I got home, with determination and desperation I attacked the library – somewhere in here there has to be something about someone called Fayol – if not, I am never going to live this down. Aha!!!!!! Got it! – so I sat down and re-read it and memory flooded back – of course, how could I forget? Now I bet you are all laughing at me, fancy forgetting Henri Fayol!

What do you mean; you have never heard of him? Cue History lesson!!

Henri Fayol was a Frenchman who lived from 1841 to 1925; and was a successful industrialist with the French firm Comentry-Fourchambault. He rose from a junior executive in 1860 to become a director of the company when he retired in 1918.

When he entered business the only training that any executive had was on the job, and learning from others. It was believed that some people were natural leaders and that the skills of management and leadership could not be taught. Fayol disagreed.

He was the first to try to incorporate the modern attitude to science to the world of business and finance. “… with scientific forecasting and proper methods of management, satisfactory results were inevitable”

He described the 14 principles of management which should apply to most situations. They were

1. Division of Labour – the more people specialised the more efficient they become.

2. Authority – Managers must give order to get things done, and they need both formal and personal authority.

3. Discipline – Employees must respect the organisation’s rules and agreements

4. Unity of Command – Each employee must be under the authority of one manager

5. Unity of Direction – operations with the same objective need to be supervised by one manager

6. Individual interest must be subordinate to the common good – the interest of the organisation must take precedent over the employee’s interests.

7. Remuneration – compensation for work done must be fair to both employees and the organisation.

8. Centralization – While managers should retain the final responsibility, subordinates should be given appropriate authority to perform their tasks.

9. Hierarchy – Fayol created the hierarchal organisation with authority running from top management downwards to the lowest level.

10. Order – the right people should be put into the right positions, and the right equipment must be provided to perform the task.

11. Equity – while retaining the authority, managers should treat their subordinates fairly.

12. Staff Stability – high staff turnover is bad for business

13. Initiative – subordinates should have the freedom to suggest and carry out their ideas for improvement even if mistakes occur, and finally

14. Esprit de Corps – Promoting team spirit within the organisation leads to improved efficiency. One of the main ways to achieve that, according to Fayol, is with personal communication. How could I have forgotten that!

Now there is some food for thought among that list; and it was the first attempt to explain the responsibilities and procedures of successful managers. And what was more important was that Fayol believed that these skills could be taught.

It was these fourteen points of the ‘principles of management” that formed the basis for his contemporary Max Weber’s system which he labelled “bureaucracy” – yes it was his fault!!

In our search for simple solutions to complex questions we have, by focusing on his connection of scientific explanation to ‘inevitable’ results, elevated Fayol’s principles to rules – and have forgotten the lesson of history.

Fayol himself actually said this about these 14 principles:

“I prefer the word principles in order to avoid any idea of rigidity, as there is nothing rigid or absolute in administrative matters; everything is a question of degree. The same principle is hardly ever applied twice in exactly the same way, because we have to allow for different and changing circumstances, for human beings who are equally different and changeable, and for many other variable elements. The principles, too, are flexible, and can be adapted to meet every need; it is just a question of knowing how to use them.”

He was well aware that circumstances change, people differ and principles are not absolute.

So thank you Dave, for reminding me of where all the management theories which fill my bookshelves first started. And I think we can see quite a few of Fayol’s principles which have been converted into practice and over the years have been laid down as concrete absolutes to be taught to unwary students.

But if we listen to Fayol’s own words perhaps it becomes apparent that we have still to learn the lessons of history.

Michele @ Trischel

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This