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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Within the last century ideas about management have been developed by many theorists in order to come up with a structure which will allow for the most effective kind of management within an organisation. While there are many differing views, each of the theorists offer an insight into how we may be able to progress towards a simple model for management. Importantly Henri Fayol was a Classical Theorist who was one of the first to begin looking at how a manager should achieve efficient practice when in charge of a group of people working towards a common goal.

Henri Fayol had his book Administration Industrielle et Générale – Prévoyance, Organisation, Commandement, Coordination, Contrôle published in 1916 and it was translated and issued in 1916 as General and Industrial Management. It has been said that Fayol was the earliest person known to have began looking at a theory for management and it could be argued that his theories have had and continue to have a profound effect on the critical dicussion of what management is. In his book he discussed the six industrial activities which he believes take place in all organisations, this includes managerial activities which he explains are universal to an organisation. Within managerial activities there are the five elements that Fayol estanblish to be the core of his ideas: to forecast and plan; to organise; to command; to coordinate and to control.

Having worked in the mining engineering business as a manager from 1888 until 1918 Fayol had his own experience in the practice of management, he used this experience to put together his 14 Principles of Management which are fundamental in understanding the actual practice a manager must take in order to achieve effective management. The principles included specialisation, allowing people to gain knowledge on a particular subject in order to then become more productive in that area; unity, which helps a subordinate to feel no conflict in the line of management they have, and, esprit de corps which keeps the morale of the workers up in order to keep worker satisfaction high. It is key to understand how the 14 Principles of Management work together in order to understand Fayol’s theory.

Max Weber is a Classical Theorist who offers support to Fayols ideas of controlling and commanding through looking specifically at the importance of bureaucracy. He distinguished three different types of authority: charismatic, based on the personality of a person and how this effects their ability to conduct authority over another person; traditional authority, such as the monarchy and finally rational-legal authority. Fayols identifies authority to be one of his 14 principles of management meaning it is an important component to creating discipline within a working practice. Although it is not the focus of Fayol’s work there is support from Weber that this should be a central consideration for organisations when managing, this allows us to understand the importance that this factor may have on creating an effective management practice.

Fayol’s idea of management has been described as idealistic by critics as it portrays how a manager should act in an ideal world as opposed to how a manager actually acts in the working world, it does not take into consideration the fact that the circumstances someone may have to manage in may effect the way they have to approach a situation. This means that when applying his ideas to the working world it cannot be directly applied to all roles managers have. We are able to see evidence of this when we consult the findings of Elton Mayo when he carried out a five year study on the Hawthorne works of an electric company carried out between 1927 and 1932. In this study he looked in to the effect of many changes to the working environment including payment incentives, rest pauses, shorter hours and refreshments. Mayo found that due to almost all the positive changes there was an increase in the output from the department and that when they reverted back to the original system the output went up to a record level, this was due to the cooperation between the workers and the researchers and the feeling of a more informal practice. Mayo concluded that work satisfaction was closely linked to informal social patterns and norms of the working group. Despite Fayol’s ideas creating a succinct layout for management it can be seen that he overlooked the importance of the informal social structure within an organisation and how this may allow for control to come through a communication network between the workers and their management.

 Although his theory could be idealistic it is important to note that he developed and used these ideas while he was a manager himself, which allows us to see that his ideas have credibility from a practical perspective. However, Fayols ideas assume the compliance of the workers being managed which is not realistic to the problems a manager may face. Douglas McGregor devised two theories, one of which takes into account Fayols ideas about control with regard to a workers motivation to do work. In his Theory X he outlines that it is possible people naturally dislike work, have little ambition and do not want responsibility, this would therefore mean that management should enforce and control peoples work. He also developed Theory Y which describes that people may not dislike work automatically but only if the circumstances of which they work creates a feeling of dislike through punishments, these people may already have feelings of ambition and commitment to an organisations goals. McGregor suggests that by accepting Theory Y we would be able to create an effective management that works with people at all levels of an organisation and provides performance incentives and promotions. McGregors theories identify that Fayols ideas would work if we accepted that people are inhenrently lazy and need controlling but McGregor suggests that we should not do this as it would be more ideal to make each member of the group feel as though they had an importance to the workings of the organisation.

Regardless of the limitations of Fayols theory, it is clear that his ideas have continued to influence modern day thought, including the thought of Human Relations theorists. We are able to see that Fayol did give consideration to the human element of managing in his 14 principles where he looked at unity and equity. Chester Barnard was a Human Relations theorist who looked further into the importance of social systems, his main beliefs were that authority was not imposed from above and that communication is central to the idea of effective management. He explained that individuals must first cooperate in order to overcome personal limitations and then they must be willing to contribute to a group within an organisation and the goals it is aiming to achieve. Human Relations theorists put an emphasis on the effect of social norms, group participation in decision making and cooperation between peers. This means that the theories developed by both Mayo and Barnard must be examined as they take into consideration the inner workings of the group being managed to motivate good working practice from all members of the group, which Fayols theory does not.

On paper Fayols theory is ideal but it must be considered that in practice, management techniques have to be different due to the ever-changing circumstances a group within an organisation may find themselves in. Henry Mintzberg disagreed with some of the main principles of Fayol’s theory and described them as ‘folklore’ in his book The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact. Mintzberg believed that management could only be understood through studies rather than theory, he carried out a study which looked at five CEO’s and their duties as managers. He deducted from this that management is based upon three different roles; interpersonal, informational and decisional roles and he described that ‘the manager’s effectiveness is significantly influenced by his insight into his own work’ (Mintzberg H., 1975). Mintzberg’s theory was more modern than Fayol’s in that he used empirical information to come to a conclusion. In using only five CEO’s in his study it allows assessment for whether this was a relevant study to apply to all managers, as these top level managers would not take the same roles that a middle manager would, this limits Mintzberg’s theory to be only for top level managers. It could be argued that through practical investigation is it easier to see the actual role a manager takes within an organisation, however, in order to gain the most efficient practice, use of Fayol’s theory would be a far more effective method if implemented how Fayol describes. Lamond described the difference between the theories as ‘two sides of the same coin: management as we would wish it to be, and management as it is’ (Lamond D, 2004) which would show that they could both effectively be considered as correct but that they simply looked at different perspectives.

Luthans et al conducted a longitudinal study over four years which looked at many middle managers throughout different organisations to look at the difference in practice of an effective and a successful manager. An effective manager is defined as a manager who creates satisfaction for thei subordinates and increases the performance of a department or group. A successful manager, however, is one that progesses their own career. In the study it was found that almost half of an effective managers time is consumed by routine management which includes paperwork and other admin duties where a successful managers time is consumed mainly by networking and politiking. Similarly to Fayol, Luthans also identifies traditional management which consists of planning, decision making and controlling which are all central to Fayols five key concepts of management. This shows support for the fact that these activities are ones that are carried out in real life practice, it is useful to consider this as the study which was taken allows us to show that there is empirical evidence to back up some of Fayols ideas. Luthans also identified communication, networking and Human Resource management which would suggest that there may be more to management that the simple five layered initial theory presented by Fayol.

Overall, in order to understand the elements of management it is important to start with Fayols five key concepts of management as a basis and from there consider the application of these with regards to the situation and people involved within the relevant group or organisation. Human Resource theorists in particular have introduced an informal structure to organisations which in modern times is considered a central idea, with the help of studies to back up both the Classical and Human Resource theorists managers now have a wide range of techniques they can apply. Through the use of empirical evidence Fayol’s theory has been protected and according to Michael J. Fells has stood the test of time. In his article he confirms that ‘Fayol’s principles may indeed be relevant today and should not be ignored until they have been superseded or refuted’ (Fells M. J., 2000). The article was written in the 21st century which shows Fayol’s ideas about management have been influencial in even modern day thought. Although some ideas have been changed and developed further, such as the Human Relations School of Thought, a lot of the ideas stemmed from those of Fayol’s. Despite aspects of Fayol’s theory being idealistic, we must consider that a truly effective management style may not reflect the reality of a managers actual practice, but this does not mean that it is not what a manager should use as their basis for effective management and therefore how they should attempt to manage.

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