Henri Fayol: Planning and Administration

Henri Fayol is the daddy.

Henri FayolThere is no other way of putting it: so much of what we take for granted in the way modern organisations are run can be attributed to him.

As a highly successful business manager, he turned around the mining company for which he worked in senior roles for 36 years.

In comparison to FW Taylor, a close contemporary, his contribution was huge.  While Taylor saw managers as mere overseers, Fayol raised them to a professional status and gave them an agenda, a curriculum, and a set of guiding principles.


His ‘functional principles’ of management set out the things we take for granted today:

  • making annual and 10-year plans… and implementing them
  • Using organisation charts to communicate an orderly management structure
  • Sticking to the chain of command
  • Co-ordinating management activities through regular meetings of department heads
  • Getting recruitment and training right

‘And what departments?’ you ask.  In his writing, Fayol described six  business functions:

  1. technical – engineering and production
  2. commercial – sales and procurement
  3. financial – capital management
  4. accounting – cost accounting, stock management, reporting
  5. security – protecting people and assets
  6. management – planning, organising, co-ordinating

He also identified six functions of management:

  1. Forecasting
  2. Planning
  3. Organising
  4. Commanding
  5. Co-ordinating
    (commanding and co-ordinating are sometimes conflated to ‘leading’)
  6. Controlling

Short Biography

Born in 1841 in Istanbul (where his father was a civil engineer) to French parents, Fayol trained as a mining engineer and was employed at the French iron and steel business, Comentry-Fourchamboult-Decazeville. In 1872, he was appointed the director of a group of mines and he became managing director of the company in 1888.  He retained the post until he retired in 1918. sadly, it was only in 1949, when his 1909 book, General and Industrial Management, was published in English, that he gained the recognition he deserved.

His Big Idea

As if the three lists at the top of the blogs were not enough, Fayol’s fourteen principles of management set the tone for business administration for over 100 years, to the present day.

  1. Division of work . Work should be divided among individuals and groups to focus effort and attention on each part of a task. Specialisation allows workers to become more expert and thus more productive.
  2. Authority. Managers have the authority to give orders, but that right also implies responsibilities.
  3. Discipline. Employees must obey and respect the rules and their managers, as long as managers respect the need for sound leadership.
  4. Unity of command. A clear chain of command, in which every employee should receive orders from only one superior (oh don’t we just miss that one, in our modern matrix organisations!)
  5. Unity of direction. Every set of organizational activities needs the same objective and to be directed by one manager using one plan (nice if you can get it).
  6. Subordination of individual interests to the general interest. The good of the organisation is paramount – and then workers must work for their team (sounds like the US Marines – god, country, corps, family, self – Hooah).
  7. Remuneration. Workers must be paid a fair wage for their services.
  8. Centralisation. The degree of centralisation or decentralised should be determined for each situation.
  9. Scalar chain. The line of authority runs from top management to the workers.  this is the scalar chain, and communications should follow it. However, if following the chain creates delays, communications across the organisation should be used, providing everyone is kept informed.
  10. Order. This principle is concerned with systematic arrangement of men, machine, material etc. to minimise waste of time and duplication of stock (reminds me of the 5S methodology).
  11. Equity. Managers should be kind and fair to employees (John Stacy Adams would have approved).
  12. Stability of tenure. High employee turnover is inefficient. Management and staffing should be stable, and managers should plan to fill vacancies.
  13. Initiative. Employees who are allowed to originate and carry out plans will exert high levels of effort (this was Theory Y well ahead of McGregor… even employee empowerment and Corporate Kinetics).
  14. Esprit de corps. Promoting team spirit is a role of managers.  It builds harmony and unity within the organisation.

It would be naive to ignore the many critiques of Fayol’s writing, but it would also be churlish not to credit him with massive strides in understanding, documenting and promoting the discipline of management.  If you are a manager, you need at least to acknowledge his contribution to what you do everyday.

Will his ideas last, as we move fully into the 21st century of ad-hocracy and holacracy? Who knows; but I for one am prepared to predict that managers will be working substantially to his agenda for the rest of my working life.

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