Henri Fayol and Mintzberg are two of the foremost exponents of the school of management with works by both considered to be some of the most relevant and widely accepted theories in Management today.
Henri Fayol was a pioneer in the management faculty, his works including ‘General and Industrial Management’ (1949), have been central to management theory providing an insight into the role of managers and how they operate. Prior to Fayol’s development of an administrative theory of management, theorists such as Taylor focussed on how work was performed from the perspective of productivity ( the so-called Scientific Management approach). Fayol was part of the classical school which attempted to identify key aspects of management and develop concepts which, if they were implemented, were believed to make an organisation successful. The focus was on how managers organise and interact with staff. Fayol recognised that there were 5 main functions, including forecasting and planning, organising and co-ordinating which were important in the management of a successful business. After establishing his functions of management he developed this concept further by identifying fourteen principles of management that he observed were prevalent in industry but not yet acknowledged. The principles included; specialisation, authority and discipline, centralisation and remuneration. These principles differentiated Fayol from the rest of the classical school as concepts such as remuneration allowed Fayol’s work to distance itself from the bureaucratic stigma that was seen to be prominent in the works of the other classical theorists at that time. His aim was to provide a guide to managing and parameters on how a manager should regulate and control his/her workforce in order to maximise efficiency.
Conversely Mintzberg takes a much more literal and contemporary approach and his works were based upon what managers actually do with his theories focussing on what a manager typically encounters. Mintzberg started to publish his work in 1973 having conducted research into what managers actually did; his findings concluded that managers were not actually spending the majority of their time planning and organising as Fayol and his peers concluded. Similarly one of Mintzberg’s main breakthroughs was that he contended (as endorsed by Kotter in1982) that, contrary to what Fayol had previously proposed, managers spend very little time in isolation. Instead they spent a significant amount of time (48%) consulting with subordinates, substantially more than they did with their superiors, (only 7%.) Subsequently Mintzberg devised ten managerial roles divided into three groups; interpersonal roles which consider relations, informational roles which regard the collection and dispersion of information and decisional roles which treats managerial behaviours which when implemented can bring progress and achieve objectives. Mintzberg said that a manager’s work is fast, varied, fragmented and interrupted and does not reflect the emphasis on systematic planning that Fayol proposed.
Despite having contributed to a significant proportion of the management theory, Fayol’s work has been somewhat criticised by others in the same field. Some have gone on to argue that his work is only applicable to administration as opposed to management in general. (Fayol’s initial work was based on administration) Moreover Herbet Simon is quoted as saying Fayol’s “administrative theory suffers from superficiality, oversimplification and a lack of realism” this could perhaps indicate that Fayol’s functions are too vague, only stating the obvious and merely just a generalisation with a lack of scientific backing. At this point I think it’s appropriate to consider how both Fayol and Mintzberg formulated their theories and the research they conducted; Henri Fayol established numerous hypotheses which he would then test by putting them into practice, and subsequently alter based on his observations. This led to fourteen refined principles that had been corrected over time to ensure they presented an accurate representation of a managers’ role in the workplace. Mintzberg, on the other hand conducted considerable research during which he accredited Fayol. He observed 5 CEOs for a week collecting data on how they operated and how they managed their time. These findings ultimately informed his own personal views on management. Similar to Fayol, Mintzberg’s work has also come under scrutiny; Mintzberg focuses on what functions managers actually fulfil, and his observations suggest that what managers do in general might not necessarily represent what they want to do or indeed should be doing. The methodology of Mintzberg’s observation has been criticised because Mintzberg only had a small sample size of five, and, although he tried to portray the roles of managers in the majority of organisations, people have argued that his results are not representative of organisations as a whole. Lamond (2004) goes on to criticise Mintzberg because he believed Mintzberg did not have a theoretical premise but instead Mintzberg’s had just produced definitions based upon observations. Moreover, it appears as though with his managerial roles Mintzberg tries to fabricate a connection between the managerial functions that were created by Mintzberg in 1949 and his observations over the duration of his study. Fells (2000) goes further suggesting that Mintzberg’s work actually confirms Fayol’s theories despite Mintzberg believing the contrary. Both Mintzberg and Fayol had different approaches to management which both have seen criticism for; Fayol had a more theoretical approach and consequently his model is a more aspirational one as such, and has faced criticism for being perhaps too idyllic whereas Mintzberg’s model relates to experience and has been formed through observable practice.
It could also be argued that Mintzberg is simply building on Fayol’s theories and that Mintzberg’s roles can be compared to Fayol’s functions; both agree that a manager needs to plan to fulfil their objectives and success is not likely without planning. One of Fayol’s functions was organising similar to Mintzberg who has stated that organising is a crucial part of management. Similarly both theories recognise, in different ways, the importance of leadership skills in managing a team in delivery of key objectives. I would argue that Mintzberg’s theories have a lot in common with those of Fayol and that Mintzberg has slightly adapted the points, expanding on them and adding detail. This argument is supported by Lamond (2004) who argues that “what Mintzberg has done, albeit unwillingly and unwittingly, is reaffirm and elaborate Fayol’s ideation on management”.. Despite the alleged contrast between the two, recognition or acceptance of Mintzberg’s ten roles does not invalidate Fayol’s five functions and the importance of organising, planning, leading, controlling and commanding. I do not believe that the image portrayed by Fayol is conclusively superior to that of Mintzberg but rather they both provide different viewpoints as to the nature of management. Lamond (2004, p. 351) argues that “they represent two sides of the same coin” and that the models of Fayol and Mintzberg are actually complimentary, representing “different levels of the same ontological reality.” Duncan (1999) who questions the appropriateness and assesses the merits of both Fayol and Mintzberg is quoted as saying “Controversies seldom answer questions such as who is right, Fayol or Mintzberg?” This is because people are looking for a definite answer, Mintzberg or Fayol? whereas in reality it is neither Fayol nor Mintzberg but collectively the works of both encapsulate ‘Management”.
Mintzberg was very critical of Fayol’s approach in his article “Folklore and Fact” stating that Fayol’s ideas are assumed folklore and passed down the generations without any real questioning whereas Mintzberg’s ideas are fact by way of conducting his own personal investigation into the roles of a manager. Mintzberg 1989 P.9 is quoted “If you ask managers what they do, they will most likely tell you that they plan, organise, coordinate, and control. Then watch what they do. Don’t be surprised if you can’t relate what you see to those four words” showing us that despite the apparent similarities between the two authors Mintzberg categorically rejects Fayol’s work in favour of his own approach.
Evidently there is contrast between Fayol’s original functions and what Mintzberg deemed to be correct, however Fayol received backing from other classical theorists notably Max Weber when he introduced the concept of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy focuses on an organisation having a formal structure and organisation which supports Fayol’s views on management. Mintzberg on the other hand criticises the approach of bureaucracy, perhaps due to the negative connotations that surround it in a modern workplace. Weber and his theory of bureaucracy were seen to be very credible however more recent authors including Mintzberg have criticised it and see it as not being very efficient, instead a reduction in bureaucracy would see enhanced flexibility in an organisation which could perhaps promote high performance.
An important consideration in analysing the different perspectives and approaches is the time the
studies were undertaken. Whilst both are still relevant today, the business environment in 2018 is very different to that observed when the original works by Fayol and Mintzberg were published.
Today’s business environment is characterised by rapid and ever increasing rate of change with ‘effective management’ continuously assessed by reference to performance (and ideally over the medium term rather than just short term). Managers of today have to deliver performance in the context of all stakeholders of the firm’ ie the owners, the employees, the clients and the wider community/society in which the firm operates. Some of these elements are not necessarily considered in the theories of Fayol and Mintzberg eg. sustainability is a growing factor in management but not really a consideration in the work of Fayol and Mintzberg. Ultimately effectiveness of management is judged by results and the theory is only as good as its relevance in a practical context. In practice one can observe elements of both theories eg Fayol’s approach is very evident in large organisations demonstrating some of the centralisation principles in multi national corporations. Equally Mintzberg’s empirical observations of managers’ are useful in a practical context, particularly in training of managers.
As detailed in this essay, I do not support the view that Fayol is superior to Mintzberg. To argue ,as the question does, that “the image portrayed by Fayol is superior to that of Mintzberg and the latter’s description is of rather ineffective management” you presumably take the view that Mintzberg’s description is “ineffective” because his theory looks at what is actually happening ie the status quo rather than focusing on optimising in the future. Similarly the fact Mintzberg’s empirical observations show that much of management’s time is spent with subordinates (in contrast to a classical view of what management should be doing eg planning etc) may lead some to a view that Mintzberg merely provides a description of rather ineffective management. I do not support that view. My view is, at its simplest Fayol’s theory is focused on what management should be, whereas Mintzberg is focused on what management actually is in practice. Both theories have value in analysing management organisations but provide a different perspective with Fayol emphasising the desired end point and Mintzberg the starting point. Ultimately the value of both is their success in practice in educating managers and improving performance of managers in organisations. They are not mutually exclusive and I do not believe either is necessarily superior to the other.