Henri Fayol and Henry Mintzberg

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Henry Amm

Fayol or Mintzberg –
Who is right?
Date: 11/12/2011
Student Number: 110369257
Version 1.0

The task: Henri Fayol presented his analysis of the management function in 1916 and it has largely been superseded by the more descriptive approaches of what managers actually do, such that favored by Henry Mintzberg. However, it could be argued that the image portrayed by Fayol is superior to that of Mintzberg, and the latter’s description is of rather ineffective management! Who do you think is right?

Fayol or Mintzberg – Who is right?

By Henry Amm

Introduction
With his work General and Industrial Management (1949, in French 1916) Henri Fayol was a pioneer on the field of management theory. (Pryor & Taneja, 2010) Many more were to follow, some supporting Fayol’s thoughts and some, i.e. Henry Mintzberg in The Nature of Managerial Work (1973) saying that Fayol’s views are not holding true today. This essay will take a closer look at strengths and weaknesses of both Fayol and Mintzberg and conclude that Fayol’s work still is not only relevant to our contemporary understanding of management but also superior to Mintzberg in terms of its conceptualization and applicability to modern organizations.

Description of Fayol’s work
According to Fayol (1949) all industrial organisations consist of six different groups of activities: technical, commercial, financial, security, accounting and management. As he was a manager himself, or in other words an administrator, he devoted his work to the latter activity, management.

Fayol identified five key functions or “elements” of managerial work, which is regarded as the classical theory and often referred to as the “management process” (Dessler, 1985, p. 4): (1) Planning and forecasting: examining the future and laying out the actions to be taken (2) Organising: laying out lines of authority and responsibility. (3) Co-ordinating: laying out timing and sequencing of activities; binding and harmonising all.

(4) Commanding: putting the plan into action
(5) Controlling: monitoring and adjusting; ensuring conformity with rules. (Fells, 2000) Moreover he came up with a list of 14 principles of management, including such features as authority, unity of command, remuneration, centralisation and so on. (Fayol, 1949) Of course such principles could be found in organisations before Fayol, but it was the first time they were laid out in such a conceptual manner. (Brooks, 2009) Fayol himself stressed that the number of principles was non-exhaustive. (Fells, 2000)

Today his list surely would include modern phenomena like teamwork, tendency to flatter hierarchies or flexible working hours. (Brooks, 2009) The fact that, back in 1916, Fayol did not know about such phenomena could cut down on his work’s relevance today. However in Page 1 of 6

Fayol or Mintzberg – Who is right?

By Henry Amm

this essay it is regarded sufficient that Fayol probably already was bearing new developments in mind when saying that his principles should be flexibly adapted to the needs of every organisation. (Fells, 2000)

Description of Mintzberg’s work and it’s relation to Fayol Over half a century after Fayol’s first publication, however, Henry Mintzberg dismissed his findings about the management process as “folklore” (Mintzberg, 1973). He thinks that management is not about functions, but about what managers do. (Lamond, 2004) For his study Mintzberg was observing five executives at work. (Mintzberg, 1975) And based on this research he identified three sequential managerial roles, briefly described as follows: (1) Interpersonal Role: The manager connects with his subordinates and other departments. Accordingly he is a figurehead, a leader and deals with liaison inside as well as outside.

(2) Informational Role: He then scans for and monitors internal and external information in order to act as a “spokesperson” for the group.
(3) Decisional Role: The so gathered “quality information”...
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