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Henri Fayol is the French equivalent of Frederick Winslow Taylor, one of the first management consultants. They share the same title as Founders of Modern Management theory despite living in the opposite sides of the globe. His many successes with his mining company, the Compagnie de Commentry-Fourchambault-Decazeville saved it from facing insolvency to become one of the top industrial combines in Europe in a few year’s time. From his experiences, he draws out the now classic 14 principles of management.

The 14 principles of management are based on Henri Fayol’s real-life observations. He analyzed and condensed these observations in his 1917 work “Administration industrielle et générale; prévoyance, organisation, commandement, coordination, controle.” His main purpose for writing it is to serve as a guide for business management.

This is the first part of a series that tackles Henri’s 14 Principles of Management. Part I discusses the first six foundational principles for defining work and its proper delegation for organizations. These fall under the “organizing” function of management.

Principle of Division of Work

Division of work is the breaking down of jobs to a number of different tasks that make up a whole. Under this principle is the belief that each team member has different skills and special strengths — a specialty. This is achieved by delegating the work so each one develops an efficiency on specific areas of the entire project. With this principle, there are fewer chances of work duplication.

The different levels of specialties are distinguished through knowledge areas, separating generalists from specialists. As stated, Fayol believes that identifying and developing employee specializations promotes work efficiency and productivity. It also helps increase work accuracy and speed. This principle can be applied to both personal and professional development; and it could be applied to any role, from the technical level to the managerial.

Principle of Authority and Responsibility

With great authority comes great responsibility. In order to get things done, managers need to be given the power to make the final decisions, give out the orders, and exact obedience from the crew. In the case for individual employees, a person assigned to accomplish a task needs the means to carry it out. This permission ranges for simple tasks like having sufficient funds to buy materials for a project to major ones like having their inputs about their task carry weight in the upper-level decision-making process. This is the right of having authority.

However, Fayol states that along with giving this authority is the giving of responsibility in delivering results. These are two sides of the same coin. It needs to balance. This principle tries to avoid the scenario where one person receives too much responsibility and ends up ineffective; or the opposite: too much authority, which only leads to irresponsibility.

In short, part of taking ownership of work is being accountable to what it produces. Therefore, assuming authority is equal to assuming responsibility. As Simon Sinek puts it, true leaders know how to credit the accomplishment to the workers and carry the weight of the pressure from the workers. They are the buffers of the worker from the workload.

Principle of Discipline

Discipline has to do with two things. First, it requires general rules to regulate the workings of the organization. Second, it needs a commitment from each member of the team to work with those rules and with each other. Fayol further expounds that discipline needs to flow from the top, down. Here is where the responsibility of authority is put into action.

The evidence of effective leadership is good discipline. Fayol insists that good team discipline can only come from reflecting a good superior. A model boss should be able to (1) give clear and fair agreements, while also be capable of (2) carrying out just penalties. Just so, as superiors are expected to give fair contracts and impose sanctions, employees, in turn, are expected to honor their obligations. This is by working faithfully and efficiently.

Fayol recognizes that the success of an organization relies heavily on each individual. Not just top management, but everyone.

Principle of Unity of Command

There can only be one boss for each employee. Otherwise, the employee will be confused as to which manager’s command to prioritize — or have the chance to tell the superiors that he is busy with work from another when, he in fact, isn’t. Having more bosses could also lead to clashing egos among the managers themselves, leaving the confused employee standing in the middle of the muddle.

Here is the full list of negative effects when one employee has to answer to multiple heads:

  • Undermines authority
  • Slackens discipline
  • Divides loyalty
  • Creates confusion
  • Delays processes
  • Lacks accountability
  • Duplicates work
  • Overlaps efforts

Fayol advises assigning only one manager for each worker to be answerable to. The employee should only receive orders under his/her direct supervisor. Orders on behalf of the superior are also acceptable. This is to maintain harmony within the company.

Principle of Unity of Direction

This principle states that “one unit means one plan”. That is to say that one organization means one goal. A group cannot be divided among themselves. A team who embodies this principle are characterized by their focus and cooperation — a unity of direction. In the case of whole organizations, the teams work under departments which in turn work together under one head: the CEO. So each unit is working towards the same overall objective, which cascades through the ranks.

The video showed perfect examples of having the whole team on one side. Each organization has a mission and vision. Every job role should link to that direction, despite differences in functions. The role of the managers here is to plan out and track the progress made by the team to ensure that everyone is on board with the right business compass in place. Without unity of direction, there is no unity of action, and therefore no unity of command.

For CEOs, a proper business plan is a must for all divisions to comply with. This way, no efforts are wasted, no clashing priorities cause skirmishes, and no duplication of workloads takes place.

Principle of Subordination of Individual Interest to General Interest

Mainly dealing with proper work ethic, this principle puts more weight on organizational interest over personal interest. It is a given that each member has his/her own motive for taking part in the organization, like providing for the family; but in order for the organization to avoid conflicts of interest, members must set aside their objectives when it goes against the organizational goal.

Ultimately, to quote Aristotle, “the whole is the sum of its parts”. This calls for each person to be part of something bigger than oneself. Ironically, human beings have an innate desire to work on making a big impact to the world. This participation in the work society is part of its fulfillment.


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