Henry Fayol: An Introduction on Administrative Theory [Part 1]

Henri Fayol, contributed the corpus of management concepts and is considered the founder of the ‘Management Process School’. His Administration Industrielle et Generale was first published in France in 1916, but it did not come to light in the English-speaking countries until its English translation published in 1949 under the title General and Industrial Management. His work is considered a classic and a foundation in classical management theory. The book offers a theory and principles of management.

He was born in Constantinople, Istanbul, Turkey in 1841, where his father was working as an engineer. He was educated at the Lycee in Lyons (France) and thereafter at the National School of Mines. Nineteen-year-old junior executive during 1860-1872, was promoted as Manager in 1872 and Managing Director of the company in 1888; a post he held for about thirty years with distinction. Fayol retired as Managing Director in 1918, having spent his entire working life with the company, he remained Director of the company until his death in December 1925, at the age of eighty-four. Fayol’s efforts as the Managing Director enabled the company to rise from a position of financial disaster to that of great financial success.

Fayol was influenced by Cartesian philosophy and Adam Smith’s writings. He founded the Centre d’Etudes Administratives which has profound influence on business, army and navy in France. At the Centre he used to chair weekly meetings of prominent industrialists, writers, officials, academics, and members of the military. He also influenced the French government to pay attention to the principles of administration. He advised the government and investigated into the workings of the Posts and Telegraphs and the Tobacoo industry. Fayol was a prolific writer on technical and scientific matters as well as on management. Apart from ten publications on mining, engineering and geology, he published as many books/papers on management. The most outstanding of his writings is his book General and Industrial Management first published in 1916. His reputation, to a large extent, rests on this single short publication, which is still being frequently reprinted. A large number of his papers are concerned with the reform of the public services. His paper on The Theory of Administration of the State presented to the Second International Congress of Administrative Sciences in 1923, is considered a major contribution to the theory of public administration.

Administrative Theory

Fayol attempted to develop a science of administration for management. He thought that his principles would be useful to all types of managers. He truly advocated the notion that if a manager wants to be successful, he only needs a certain set of management principles. If a manager climbed the corporate ladder and reached higher positions, this manager would depend less on technical knowledge and more

knowledge of administration.

He emphasized the role of administrative management and concluded that all activities that occur in business organizations could be divided into six main groups.

  1. Technical (production, manufacturing)
  2. Commercial (buying, selling, exchange)
  3. Financial (obtaining and using capital)
  4. Security (protection of property and persons)
  5. Accounting (balance sheet, stocktaking, statistics, costing)
  6. Managerial (planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, controlling)

He concluded that the six groups of activities are interdependent and that it is the role of management to ensure all six activities work smoothly to achieve the goals of an enterprise.

Also Read | Henry Fayol: Management and Principles of Administration [Part 2]

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