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Mintzberg and Management Essay

Throughout the 20th century a strong focus was placed on the principles behind management with Henri Fayol’s 1916 publication ‘Administration Industrielle et Générale’ being one of the first books aimed solely at deciphering and understanding the intricate concepts of management. In his book Fayol presents his classical model of management from the perspective on an executive.

Fayol lists and discusses fourteen principles of management which, although non-exhaustive, provides a guide on the execution of what he proposed to be the five elemental processes of management. These five primary processes consisted of planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling which advocated Fayol’s support of a dynamic system of management. In response to changing contexts, other new theories have been placed forward by other distinguished academia such as Henry Mintzberg (1973), John Kotter (1982) and C.P. Hales (1986) which offer more concurrent perspectives on the concept of management.

Born in 1841 Henri Fayol had, after a three decade career as a mining practitioner, committed himself to the promotion of his theories on administration in 1916 through the publication of his book ‘Administration Industrielle et Générale’ up until his death in 1925. Contextually influenced by the bourgeois environment of a post revolutionized France, Fayol advocated the notion of a flexible system of management which could be applied to more than just one setting.

In his book, Fayol devotes more time and focuses on the five processes of management in contrast to the fourteen management principles as claimed by (Fells, M.J., 2000, p. 358). The first element, planning, is defined “both to assess the future and make provision for it” (Fayol, 1949, p.43). He goes on to describe that this dynamic plan must take into account a list of factors such as resources, work-in-progress, and future trends. Organizing considers the functional components of organizations along with the personnel and discusses the ideal conditions required of them. Commanding considers the responsibility that falls on every manager.

The goal of managers is to achieve maximum contribution from personnel towards the welfare of the company through a number of factors. An example of these factors would be elimination of the unproductive, having a thorough knowledge of personnel and their respective binding agreements and an aim to be a role model. The third element of management is coordinating which is defined as the harmonisation of resources in their optimum proportions in order to achieve results (Fayol, 1949, p. 103).

The indicators of a well coordinated organization include efficient departments which harmonize well with the rest, are well informed of their responsibilities and also work to constantly adjusted schedules based on circumstantial demands. The last element, control, focuses on the timely verification of plan implementations. This element is applicable to all the other processes and its sole purpose is to identify any complications, amend any issues and prevent future recurrences.

Due to their flexibility in implementation, the correlation between the introduction of Fayol’s model and the sharp rise in US productivity levels as well as living standards supports his approach to management (Fells, M.J., 2000, p. 348). Fayol’s approach is supported by another academic source (Hales, 1989, p. 12) which claims that “Fayol grasped the essence of management” through his classical formulation of the management functions.

In 1973, Henry Mintzberg provided a new conceptualization about the roles of managers through his book ‘The Nature of Managerial Work’. Through his composition Mintzberg proposed and argued that the previously accepted role of managers which adhered to a systematic approach of planning, organizing, coordinating, leading and controlling were in fact false as through his diary analysis, Mintzberg was able to demonstrate that “the manager is not a planner in a reflective sense, and no amount of admonition in the literature will make him so.

His milieu is stimulus-response.” (Mintzberg, 1973, p. 182). By performing an unstructured observation and interview procedure over a two week period, Mintzberg concluded the activities of his study managers could be categorized into three sets of behaviors or roles. He conceptualized these clusters of roles as: interpersonal, informational and decisions (Pearson et al, 2003, p. 696). Mintzberg also recognizes that all managers at some time exercise each of these rules but also that different levels of managers will give different priorities to them (Mumford, 1988, p. 3).

In terms of contemporary management, Fayol and Mintzberg have contributed greatly to the understanding regarding the concept of management. However both authors are not exempt from criticisms regarding their approaches. Fayol’s approach is widely considered to be too theoretical whilst Mintzberg’s approach has been criticized for not being theoretical enough.

Despite their differences in approach, fundamentally the two theories not only share the same ‘elements’ under the guise of differently labelled terms, they compliment each other in terms of validity due to the strong correlation between results regarding the behaviour of managerial positions. (Fells, M.J., 2000, p. 359) supports this judgement as the journalist goes on to state that not only are Fayol’s principles still relevant, they are interrelated at an elemental level with the model of Mintzberg.

(Lamond, 2004, p. 350) reinforces this argument through study conducted on a large sample of male and female managers of different ages and at different managerial levels. Not only did the survey confirm that there were indeed a central set of manager functions, as placed forward by Fayol, there were also a generic set of managerial behaviours as proposed by Mintzberg.

In concluding despite their contextual differences, Henri Fayol’s ‘Administration Industrielle et Générale’ and Henry Mintzberg’s ‘The Nature of Managerial Work’ fundamentally share the same innate elements. This is supported by the results which derived from studies conducted by academic sources such as (Lamond, 2004) as well as the research by other academic sources (Fells, M.J. 2000), (Pearson et al, 2003), (Hales, 1989) and (Mumford, 1988). Subsequently both approaches are considered valid and have without a doubt contributed greatly to contemporary management theory.

Fells, M.J. 2000 “Fayol stands the test of time.” Journal of Management History, vol 6, no.8, 345-360

Lamond, D. 2004, “A matter of style: reconciling Henri and Henry.” Management Decision, vol. 42, no.2 p. 330-356 Pearson, C.A.L. And Chatterjee, S.R. 2003, “Managerial work roles in Asia. An empirical study of Mintzberg’s role formulation in four Asian countries.” Journal of Management Development, vol. 22, no. 8 p. 694-707

Hales, C. 1989, “Management Processes, Management Divisions of Labour and Managerial Work: Towards a Synthesis.” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 9, no. 5/6, p. 9-38

Mumford, A. 1988, “What Managers Really Do” Management Decision, vol. 26, no. 5, p. 28-30

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