Henri Fayol Management Principals Through Experience

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Henri Fayol:
Management Principals through Experience


While the subject of management has proven a popular topic, especially during the last 25 years, the subject is certainly not exclusive to latter part of the 20th century (Donkin, 1998). Henri Fayol, a turn-of-the-century French mining engineer and eventual management executive is often credited with becoming one of the first to develop and write about the now popular topic.

“Dubbed the father of modern operational-management theory” (Long, 1997, p.31), Fayol’s ideas and theories on management are founded in his practical 49 years of experience working in the mining and steel industry. However, Fayol was quick to point out that his theories were not confined to his particular industry: “Fayol saw his management principles, including control, as applicable to industry, government and all forms of human organization” (Parker & Louis, 1995, p.223). As Fayol himself notes, “There is not one doctrine of administration for industry and another for state enterprises; there is only one doctrine. The general principles and rules that are valuable in industry are equally valuable in the state and vice-versa” (as sited in Breeze, 1995, p.45).

Despite the fact that “Most principles of management textbooks acknowledge Fayol as the father of the first theory of administration” (Carter, 1986, p.454), Fayol’s early development of management theory is only one reason for his importance in the field of leadership; a second yet somewhat lesser claim to fame lies in the fact that he was also an early proponent of management education (Breeze, 1995; Fells, 2000, Gulick, 1937).

Although the movement from the more classical models of control to ideas founded in the human relations and systems schools of thought, the ongoing debate continues as to whether or not Fayol’s work holds relevant today. Included in this debate are his theories and ideas in the field of management, which holds significance for students of management today if for nothing else but their historical value. As Wren notes, “Fayol gave us a starting point, a framework for us to teach, study, and refine…” (Wren, 1990, p.140).

Henri Fayol (1841-1925), son of French parents Andre and Eugenie Fayol, was born in Constantinople, Turkey on July 29, 1841, where his father was temporarily posted on military assignment. The son of an architectural engineer (Sasaki, 1995) of modest means (Breeze, 1985), Fayol “was educated in a missionary school in La Voulte, France. He is believed to have been greatly influenced in his character development by this education” (Sasaki, 1995, p.14). Fayol next attended school at the Lycee at Lyon in preparation for his attendance at the National School of Mines at St. Etienne, “where he graduated as a qualified mining engineer” (Breeze, 1985, p.45).

In 1875, Fayol married Adelade Celeste Marie Saule; the couple had three children, Marie, Madeleine, and Henri Joseph. Although the family tree had modest beginnings, Fayol’s family included a variety of influential people through birth and marriage within and outside the mining industry, including several graduates of the Saint-Etienne Mining School (Sasaki, 1995).

French Society and Industry
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the period of dawning for all things scientific. Scientific theory was prevalent in everything from medicine to management; urban planning to education; simply stated, the scientific method was the answer for every problem.

Through this time period, Henri Fayol’s life was shaped by the influences of the time. Much of Fayol’s work in management has its basis in the scientific method of observation, examination, and implementation.

Changes in France were equally fluid, beginning with the separation of church and state in France’s educational system. Likewise, French industry during this time was in a state of flux. A strong state was giving way...
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