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Fayol’s Management Solutions through the Prism of Time: 14 Postulates in the XXI Century Essay

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Updated: Apr 4th, 2019

Henri Fayol and his management principles have all rights to be considered the greatest breakthrough in the history of management.

However, in the XXI century, it could be suggested that the ideas suggested by Fayol are supposed to be washed by the sands of time and new, more adequate and relevant to the given time period ideas should have emerged.

However, even with the recent discoveries in the sphere of management and organizational behavior, as well as countless theories concerning the manner in which business must be run, it seems that Fayol’s ideas still manage to hold up, which I more than impressive.

However, certain changes have occurred even to Fayol’s concepts, which means that the latter have undergone certain changes in the course of the management history.

Analyzing the attitudes towards Fayol’s ideas on management over decades and the way these ideas are perceived now, one can possibly see if Fayol’s theory is still viable and how it has changed over the course of time.

To start with, the basic ideas of the famous fourteen principles offered by Fayol must be considered, which Rodrigues (2001) has performed quite successfully.

It is quite essential that the author not only lists every single principle offered by Fayol, but also provides a detailed commentary on each of the fourteen ideas.

Explaining in detail every single postulate, Rodrigues makes it obvious that at the beginning of the XXI century, Fayol’s ideas are still topical and worth reconsidering once again.

However, the author emphasizes that in the modern “postindustrial society” (p. 61), the perception of these ideas has changed considerably, as it should have been expected: “The post-industrial society demands that organizational decision making be more frequent and faster and it requires ‘consideration of more variables and more complex relationships among these variables’” (Rodriguez 2001, p. 880).

Thus, it can be observed that in 2001, Fayol’s ideas are still viable and can be applied towards the modern enterprises.

It is quite peculiar that, among the numerous advantages which Rodriguez specifics in Fayol’s concept, Rodriguez pays a special attention to the one of equity, thus, marking that maintaining equity is the most essential element of efficient management.

However, there are also other opinions concerning the importance of Fayol’s theory, which means that different viewpoints concerning the importance of Fayol’s contribution and the significance of specific elements of his theory are possible.

Among the most notable ideas on the impact which Fayol and his theories have had on the subject of management and the further theories of management development, the opinion expressed by Wren, Bedeian, & Breeze (2002) must be mentioned.

It is important that the researchers do not specify each of the principles which were introduced by Fayol, yet offer a cohesive analysis of Fayol’s theory and, comparing it to the modern principles of managing an enterprise, offer important information concerning the origin of Fayol’s ideas.

Moreover, which is even more important, the researchers points at the nuances which need certain explanations, as well as certain vagueness in Fayol’s theory:

We know how technical capability is obtained but it is difficult to say how administrative competence is obtained. […]But how does one construct a rule in the face of problems that are generally complex or in the midst of systems which are often contradictory, for everyone has his own which he naturally considers to be superior to that of his neighbor or predecessor? (Wren, Bedeian, & Breeze, 2002, p. 911)

Therefore, the given research allows to admit that Fayol’s theory needs certain development and that in the XXI century, the boost of production could have provided a way to expand the theory even further, filling in the blank spaces.

Moving on and developing his ideas, in 2002, Wren offered another interpretation of Fayol’s ideas, which was actually a look at the researcher’s system of management from a different perspective.

It is quite peculiar that at this time, Wren considers not only a certain postulate as the driving force of Fayol’s concept, but the specific strategy of the latter. To be more precise, the author evaluates the accuracy of Fayol’s supposition that a company can spring back to life “solely with the application of a new way of running the company” (475).

Hence the question appears, whether Fayol overestimates a company’s recovery potential or whether the given idea has certain grounds to be based on.

The given example of the ay Fayol’s ideas have been interpreted over decades shows clearly that, from analyzing separate elements of Fayol’s theory, the researchers question the viability of the very essence of Fayol’s concept.

Moreover, the focus shifts from Fayol’s ideas to his personality, making it obvious that Fayol’s strategic thinking allowed to come up with the concept of the famous fourteen elements of a successful enterprise.

As Wren Bedeian & Breeze (2002), explain, “He was a strategist before that term became popular and before he developed his experiences into a theory of management” (p. 482).

Another peculiar consideration of Fayol’s ideas, the research conducted by Parker & Ritson (2002) has shown that Fayol did actually make a number of successful suppositions concerning the development of organizational management.

It is important that the authors of the research list the major accomplishments which Fayol is mostly remembered for.

Despite 6the fact that Fayol’s contribution is incredibly vast, the authors manage to list the key points and at the same time remind the readers about those discoveries made by Fayol which nowadays are unfortunately long-forgotten:

Without doubt, Fayol is best remembered for a three-fold contribution to management thought. First, Fayol is credited with the belief that organizational and business life was an amalgam of six activities.

These activities are: technical; commercial; financial; security; accounting; and management (p. 176)

Thus, restating Fayol’s key discoveries, the authors manage to convey the importance of Fayol’s theory and make people see the necessity to test these theories in the atmosphere of the modern business and management.

In addition, it is quite remarkable that the given research incorporates not only Fayol’s major contribution to the development of the theory of management, but also conducts a detailed analysis of Fayol’s biography, marking the key points of his life and explaining the importance of each stage and the impact of various factors on the development of Fayol’s theory.

Another peculiar consideration of the essence of Fayol’s theory of management and its key elements, the research conducted by Brunsson (2008) reveals a number of peculiar details.

According to Brunsson (2008), the essence of Fayol’s theory, “a set of activities that are common to all organizations” (p. 30), predetermines the importance of the theory in the modern sphere of management.

However, it is not only the innovative vision of Fayol’s ideas that makes Brunsson different from the rest of the researches, but also the specific criticism which Brunsson applies to Faoylism as a phenomenon.

Moreover, it is quite unusual that the author of the research compares Fayol to another theorist, Frederick Taylor, thus, offering an alternative opinion on what organizational management should base upon and what principles it should follow.

Pointing out the faults of Fayol’s theory, Brunson does not overlooks the researcher’s contribution into the sphere of management, but offers constructive criticism of the theory offered by Fayol, questioning some of its aspects: “Fayol’s principles were too crude to provide clear guidelines to managers” (Brunsson, 2008, pp. 35-36).

Nevertheless, compared to the ideas of another researcher and even with evident holes in their foundation, the ideas provided by Fayol still passed the test.

However, Brunsson still admitted that, only used in the sense of strategies for a manager to apply, Fayol’s ideas bring considerable success: “Henri Fayol’s notion of general management, on the other hand, defines the activities that managers are to perform” (Brunsson, 2008, p. 38).

A completely different vision of Henri Fayol and his impact on the development of management is what the article by Pryor and Taneja (2010) is. With the help of an all-embracing research, the latter manage to consider Fayol’s contributions to the sphere of management from the prospects of theory development and its further practical implementation:

When we talk of organizational theory, Fayol is best remembered for his contribution to school of management thought. First, Fayol believed that organizational and business life was an amalgam of six activities – technical; commercial; financial; security; accounting; and management […]

Second, Fayol is known for the five elements or functions of management, i.e. planning, organizing; coordination; command; and control. (Pryor & Taneja, 2010, p. 490)

Therefore, the authors of the research tend not to take a certain aspect of Fayol’s work to consider it the basis of Fayol’s theory, but to embrace its every single element.

The given approach tells that in the XXI century, the ideas which Fayol offered as the stepping stone of management are still topical and efficient. However, Pryor and Taneja also convey the idea that, for a more successful application of Fayol’s method, the theory requires reconsideration:

Fayol’s principles were a guide to theory and practice in the early days of management theory. However, many of his principles are represented in contemporary management theories which describe what today’s managers should do to be effective and efficient. (Pryor & Taneja, 2010, p. 497)

Despite the fact that Alajoni, Almashaqba & Al-Queed do not talk much about Fayol and his impact on the development of the management theories, it is quite peculiar to consider the way in which the researchers introduce Fayol.

Even in the brief enumeration of all the merits traditionally referred to Fayol, the change in the attitudes towards Fayol’s impact on the theory of management can be seen easily.

For instance, the authors claim that Fayol is “French engineer-cum-manager in Europe is generally considered as the founder and Father of the classical school of organization who initiated the administrative theory of management” (Alajoni, Almashaqba & Al-Queed, 2010, p. 61), which is fair enough, taking into account the numerous postulates which Fayol came up with, yet the researchers do not focus on a certain element, highlighting each of them to the same extent.

However, the researchers’ remark concerning the fact that “Fayol’s principle viewed organization as a closed system where most of the organizational factors were under the control of management” (Alajoni, Almashaqba & Al-Queed, 2010, p. 66) can indicate that they consider Fayol’s principles as a whole.

The last, but not the least, McLean’s account of the effect which Fayol’s theories have on the present-day management serves as a promising twist meaning that the development of Fayol’s theory can possibly get a new spin. As McLean (2011) explains, “Without doubt, Fayol has left an indelible mark on management history.

Ninety-five years on, this theory has stood the test of time […] and is still relevant and valuable to contemporary organizational leaders” (p. 33).

Moreover, McLean brings up an important subject of Fayol’s “romanticisation” of management (McLean, 2011, p. 33), thus, making it clear that a certain element of “romanticism” could have been the key detail in Fayol’s mechanism of management theory.

Therefore, it is obvious that even now, about 100 years later, the key principles offered by Fayol still prove efficient and help numerous companies improve their state of affairs.

Thus, it can be concluded that with the help of the ideas developed by Henri Fayol, the modern forms of entrepreneurship have been developed and the basis for an efficient management of an organization has been suggested.

Moreover, it is essential to add that, with the help of the above-mentioned principles, new ideas have been spawned and new methods to operate an enterprise and coordinate the work of the staff have been developed.

Reference List

Alajoni, M M, Almashaqba, Z M S, & Al-Queed, M A N 2001, ‘the classical theory of organization and its relevance’, International Research Journal of Finance and Economics, no. 21, pp. 61-67.

Brunsson, K H 2008, ‘Some effects of fayolism’, International Studies of Management and Organization, vol. 38 no. 1, pp. 30-47.

McLean, J 2011, ‘Fayol – standing the test of time’, Management Matters, spring, pp. 32-33.

Parker, L D & Ritson, P A 2005, ‘Revisiting Fayol: anticipating contemporary management’, British Journal of Management, vol. 16, pp. 175-194.

Pryor, M G & Taneja, S 2010, ‘Henri Fayol, practitioner and theoretician – revered and reviled’, Journal of Management History, vol. 16 no. 4, pp. 489-503.

Rodrigues, C A 2001, ‘Fayol’s 14 principles of management then and now: a framework for managing today’s organizations efficiently’, Management Decisions, vol. 39 no. 10, pp. 880-889.

Wren, D A 2001, ‘Henry Fayol as a strategist: a nineteenth century corporate turnaround’, Management Decision, vol. 39 no. 6, pp. 475-487.

Wren, D A, Bedeian, A G, & Breeze, J D 2002, ‘The foundations of Henri Fayol’s administrative theory’, Management Decision, vol. 40 no. 9, pp. 906-918.

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