Fayol and the administrative organization of work


Henri Fayol’s contributions to management are numerous and essential. He was indeed the first to consider management as a discipline and to propose a description of the administrative organization of work. Other authors then continued this work of characterizing the work of management (Barnard, Drucker or even Mintzberg).

Henry Fayol (1841-1925)

Fayol is one of the practitioners who have theorized their experience. He is one of the first business leaders to have done so. His work was published in 1916 and is entitled Industrial and General Administration.

French, he has spent his entire career in a metallurgical and mining company, Commentry-Fourchambault-Decazeville, where he started out as an engineer, before becoming its director. By his own admission, he succeeded in redressing the company’s situation by applying a few management rules.

Fayol is often seen as the father of management, a word he obviously did not use at the time. Talks to him about administration, administrative activity, or even administrative doctrine. He is one of the first to have shown that management underlies all the actions that can be undertaken. It offers a synthetic vision of the company, the management, as well as the activity of management.

the administrative organization of work

A functional vision of the company

Fayol is the first to have proposed a vision of the company through its functions, or activities. Fayol, from his observations of companies, believes that it is possible to break down the activities in the company into six categories. This functional approach of the company seems to us today banal as it is part of the fundamental teachings in management.

The six business activities according to Fayol

  • Technical activity: production, processing, manufacturing.
  • Commercial activity: buying, selling and trading.
  • Financial activity: search for and optimal use of capital.
  • Security activity: protection of people and property.
  • Accounting activity: inventory, balance sheet, statistics.
  • Administrative activity: forecasting, organization, command, coordination and control.

According to Fayol, the sixth activity, the administrative activity, is the most important, because it alone must be performed by the ruler himself. The others, on the other hand, can be delegated to specialists (technical, sales, finance, etc.).

Administrative activity

Fayol is particularly interested in administrative activity. “Foresight, organization, coordination and control are unquestionably part of administration as it is commonly understood. To administer is to foresee, organise, command, coordinate and control” (Fayol, 1916).

According to Fayol, these are the five key management functions applicable to any organization (sometimes called: PO3C, for Plan, Organize, Command, Coordinate, Control). In this sense, these are five universal principles of management, which clearly shows that, like Taylor, Fayol advocates a good way of doing things, or one best way.

  • The five components of POCCC administrative activity

Forecasting: this function is essential for Fayol; this is the main role of the administrator who, in order to be able to assume it, needs to have experience and creativity. It is advisable to estimate the future (in the short term one year and in the long term 10 years) and to prepare for it. A program must allow for unity (compatibility of goals), continuity, and flexibility to adapt, as well as precision of organization. This component marks the beginning of strategic planning.

Organize: it is a question of allocating resources for the operation of the company (materials, capital, personnel), of defining the decision-making procedures, of making an organization chart. Organization is as much about authority as it is about communication and the use of resources.

Command: is about getting the most out of everyone in the company. The manager must have a good knowledge of the staff, eliminate the “incompetent”, know the conventions binding the company and its employees, set a good example, promote activity, initiative and dedication among the employees, carry out periodic audits of the organization.

Coordinating: amounts to synchronizing all the actions in the company to guarantee consistency and efficiency, via two main means: the weekly conference of department heads and the liaison officers who belong to the staff departments. The means must be adapted to the ends.

Control: it is necessary to check that everything is going according to the adopted program, to the orders, to the principles, and if not to adopt corrective measures. To be effective, control must be rapid and followed by sanctions. The plan must be kept up to date. There should be no duality of leadership.

Fayol’s administrative doctrine

Fayol is particularly recognized as the father of management, as a discipline, because he strives to develop a theory of organization through fourteen principles which should allow to exercise, but also to teach, the administrative function. .

According to Fayol, French leaders are ill-prepared for this function (being mainly from engineering schools with a very mathematical training). He believes that there is not yet an administrative doctrine to teach. He’s going to try to build one.

Fayol’s 14 Principles

Fayol’s principles provide a solid foundation for understanding the administrative organization of work. Here are some of these principles and their current relevance:

  1. Division of labor: specialization to increase the efficiency of any work.
  2. Authority: derives from the function of the leader and his personal qualities.
  3. Discipline: Obeying according to established conventions, depends on the value of the leaders.
  4. Unity of Command: An employee should report only to one superior.
  5. Unity of direction: Each group of activities is directed towards the same goal and has a leader and a plan.
  6. Subordination of individual interests to the general interest: the leader must reconcile the two.
  7. Fair compensation and methods of payment for employee and employer.
  8. Centralization of authority to avoid conflicting interests when hierarchical levels multiply.
  9. Clarity of hierarchy: hierarchy materialized by a chain of command and authority that can be short-circuited if circumstances so require.
  10. Material and moral order: a place for everything and everything in its place, likewise for men;
  11. Principle of fairness: Superiors should behave with justice and kindness to engender loyalty and devotion.
  12. Stability of staff: to avoid the costs and dangers of turnover.
  13. Initiative in designing and executing a plan.
  14. Union of staff or esprit de corps: Efforts must be directed towards a single goal; importance of teamwork and communication.

Fayol’s thought seems very normative. However, he believed that his principles of administration should be applied in a flexible way (their use should depend on the circumstances). Nor did he claim to be exhaustive, acknowledging that there could be others.

The limits of the administrative organization of work

Whether it is the scientific organization of work or the administrative organization of work, their limits are almost the same because both form the classical school.

The biggest limitation is related to the fact that Taylor focused on the technical aspect in order to improve the performance of the company, but there was to forget the human side, which generated a certain dehumanization of the work, but Fayol also made the same mistake because by focusing on the leader and the administration in general, he omitted the management of the company’s human resources, which is a strength for the latter.

In addition, the traditional limits found such as:

  • Dehumanization of work: repetitive and boring work.
  • Division of labor into task parcels obliging the worker to always perform the same task, reducing him to a simple machine.
  • Lack of interaction between workers.
  • Lack of initiative among the openers.
  • High absenteeism rate.

Real Usage Examples

To illustrate the continued relevance of Fayol’s principles, let’s look at some real-life examples of organizations that have successfully implemented these principles.

  • Apple Inc. – The division of labor at Apple is evident in the various specialist teams, such as hardware development, design, and marketing. This has allowed Apple to create innovative products and maintain its position in the market.
  • Toyota – Authority and responsibility are clearly defined at Toyota. Each team member has specific roles and is empowered to make decisions in their area. This has contributed to Toyota’s operational excellence.
  • Google – Public interest is at the heart of Google’s culture. Projects are often focused on innovation and improving the daily lives of users, which promotes strong cohesion and collaboration within the company.


Henri Fayol’s work and his management principles continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for today’s businesses. The administrative organization of work remains an essential element for the proper functioning and growth of businesses. By integrating Fayol’s principles into their strategies, companies can improve operational efficiency, foster collaboration and achieve their long-term goals.



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