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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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In order to understand whether or not the image of effective marketing portrayed by French  Businessman Henri Fayol is superior to that of Canadian Academic Henry Mintzberg one has to be aware of the circumstances and theories behind their studies..

Henri Fayol published his book, ‘Administration industrielle et générale', in 1916, but it wasn't until 1930 that his work was translated from french into english, with the current version as we know it, ‘General and Industrial Management', being published in 1949.

Henry Mintzberg, who according to some, tried to dismiss Fayol's work as ‘Folklore' (“A matter of style: reconciling Henri and Henry”, David Lamond, page 330) published ‘The Nature Of Managerial Work' in 1973, and has since faced significant amounts of criticism as some find that his work contradicts that of Fayol, which many agree is the only correct theory behind management.

An understanding to the different approaches taken to the studies is important to compare the two studies.

It is crucial to understand that both come from different career paths. Fayol was a successful businessman in the coal mining industry, and therefore approached his study from a more personal perspective, relying on his own experiences and practices.

On one hand, this makes sense, as one is supposed to learn from successful people, which Fayol was clearly one of, and his achievements and impressive career clearly show for it, showing that his theory works in practice.

On the other hand however, just because something works for one person and company, it does not mean that it is going to work equally as well for others. Fayol did not study other managers which is why, arguably, his research was very limited, and left many different factors out of consideration. For example, managing a coal mining company, where most work consists of manual labour and logistics which tends to be rather repetitive, disregarding unforeseen disruptions is going to require a different approach in management than a marketing agency that has to deal with different customers and tasks everyday. While, arguably, there might be a ‘perfect recipe' for repetitive manual work to make it as efficient as possible, I do not believe that such things exist in a more professional business environment, where every task, and thus everyday, is different. Therefore the management that works well for managing a coal mine might not work as well in a different work environment, which is why Fayol's management might work in theory, but is arguably too idealistic for it to work in real life.

Mintzberg is an academic, which is why I would have expected him to take a much more theoretical approach to the study, however, arguably, Mintzberg's study was much more practical and accurate than Fayol's. As Mintzberg couldn't take himself as an example, he studied five successful managers, with success being signified by their positions. This made his study much broader and yet more detailed than Fayol's, and therefore, arguably, more applicable to different real life scenarios. Mintzberg is known to be a believer in learning through practice, rather than just learning the theory, which is clearly shown in his approach to the study of management.

Fayol's ideas are often seen as being too idealistic and unrealistic, and would arguably not work in practice. However, there is proof that his methods have previously worked and were found to be efficient.

For example, it is often argued that  much of Japan's success can be traced back to their devotion to Fayol's principles, and how strictly they stuck to it. The way that they have applied Fayol's principles can be seen through their use of the following strategies:

Just-in-time, whilst it is more of a philosophy than strategy, originally meant that only enough goods were produced to meet customers' exact demands, in time, quality and quantity. Nowadays, it just means producing with as little waste as possible, in terms of time and resources.

Japan's version of Division of Work (advanced approaches to assembly-line balancing, quality and production control mechanisms) is called Jidôka, and involves placing people at an exact position, giving them responsibility for a specific part of the entire product. If applied correctly, less workers will be needed per sector, reducing labour costs and smoothing the production process. This is more cost effective and efficient than other management structures.

Japanese firms also use quality circles and exercise sessions which are equivalent to Fayol's ‘Esprit de corps' and lower level decision making, similar to Fayol's initiative. This makes workers more motivated and increases their productivity.

Another example for the successful application of Fayol's theory, is that US productivity and standards of living increased while fayol's principles were popular in 1930 to 1960 (Archer 1990).  Many successful managers in high positions focused a lot of their attention to the traditional roles such as planning and coordinating, which, in theory, lead them to a more structured firm with better communication, and thus efficiency.

In support of that is a statement made in Caroll and Gillen (1987) “the classical functions still represent the most useful way of conceptualising the manager's  job... “, with more contemporary studies e.g. Mintzberg's helping to clarify the nature of managerial work .

Mintzberg himself however, was one of Fayol's biggest critics, and dismissed his work as folklore. ‘The Manager's Job; Folklore and Fact'. (1973) “My intention in this article is simple: to break the reader away from Fayol's words and introduce him to a more supportable and I believe a more useful, description of managerial work.”

According to Mintzberg, theoretical thinking does not equal actual observations; “If you ask managers what they do, they will most likely tell you that they plan, organise, coordinate, and control. Then watch what they do. Don't be surprised if you can't relate what you see to those four words” which were the ones emphasised by Fayol.

In general, Mintzberg takes pride in being more realistic than Fayol, as he used direct observations which provided insight into management behaviour rather than talking from, arguably, biased experience.

In conclusion, I found that despite what Mintzberg would like to believe, his ideas very much compliment those of Fayol. I do not believe that the image portrayed by Fayol is superior to that of Mintzberg, and the latter's description is of rather ineffective management, because their ideas are very similar, just worded differently. Mintzberg's approach to the study is arguably slightly superior to Fayol's, as he studied more people, making his research broader and more detailed. I do not think that Mintzberg's study would have existed without Fayol's as, in my opinion, he laid the basis for all future management philosophies.

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