Comparing Mintzberg and Fayol

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Management is a vital component to be recognized in every organization. Without an effective and an efficient management, an organization will not run successfully. Throughout the years development of management theories have been characterized by different beliefs from various people about what and how managers need to fulfil their specific tasks in their own dynamic business environment. These management theories have been applied on human's daily activities and decision making. Two of the most prominent theorists who have attempted to define management are Henri Fayol and Henry Mintzberg, both of which have similar and contrasting views of management.   When discussing these two theories, one of the most commonly asked questions is: “Is the work of managers’ best described by the objectives of management or the roles one undertakes as a manager?” This is a question posed since 1971, when Henry Mintzberg established his contemporary theory on Management roles, which evidently differed to Henri Fayol’s 1949 classical theory on Management Functions. Henri Fayol is the founding father of the administration school, and first to describe management as a top-down process based on planning and the organization of people while Henry Mintzberg articulated his fundamental belief that management is about applying human skills to systems, not applying systems to people.  Fayol theory about management and administration was built on personal observation and experience of what worked well in terms of organization. His aspiration for an "administrative science" sought a consistent set of principles that all organizations must apply in order to run properly. Fayol argued that principles existed which all organizations must follow in order to operate and be administered efficiently. This type of assertion typifies a "one best way" approach to management thinking. Fayol identifies five functions of management all of which he believed were necessary to facilitate the management process; they are planning, organising, co-ordinating, commanding and controlling Mintzberg on the other hand considers management activities as roles and classify them within three broad groups, they are:-interpersonal, informational and decisional which encompass his ten management roles of figurehead, leader, liaison, spokesperson, disseminator, monitor, resource allocator, entrepreneur, disturbance handler and negotiator.   Although due to their differences, these theories can be treated as competing views, both can also be perceived as reinforcing the other as many parallels and similarities intrinsically exist. Consequentially the term ‘managerial style’ combines the two theories. Mintzberg obtained his theory as a result of research based on observation of actual managers operation instead of the organization.   Hence, his roles directly depict what managers do.   He argues that Fayol’s functions ‘do not describe the actual work of managers at all; they describe certain vague objectives of managerial work’ (Mintzberg 1971).   As he observed the managers in his research, he found that all activities captured at lease one of his ten roles in practice whereas they could not be simplified to be known singularly as one of Fayol’s functions.   For example, a manager sending a memo out to subordinates informing them of the outcome of the mornings meeting is directly taking on the informational role of disseminator- providing internal personnel with information obtained either external or internal of the organisation.   Expanding on Fayol’s five functions which describe management as firstly to forecast and plan: This includes a plan of action - "the result envisaged, the line of action to be followed, the stages to go through, and the methods to use" - is at once the chief manifestation and most effective tool of planning (Fayol 1949:43). It is in taking the initiative for the plan of action that managers carry out the managerial function. He also sees...
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