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Management exists in business and human organisations

Management exists in business and human organisations; it is the act of getting people together to achieve a common desired goal and objective through co-ordinating activities. You need structure for this to occur successfully. Henri Fayol is a Classical Theorists along with others such as Max Weber and Frederick W Taylor; they hold a rational approach towards management and organisations.

Fayol felt that management could be studied, he believed management was a non-contextual ‘technical’ issue, their approach is ‘prescriptive’ there is a structure to how a manager should behave in order to produce efficiency; emphasis was placed upon the need for bureaucratic structures and processes. In contrast to Fayol’s ideas the Human Relations School believe in informal structures and a less scientific approach, they are more interested in the psychological processes rather than the classicalist’s physiological interests.

Fayol’s views are considered idealist and unrealistic of what a manager in reality can achieve. It is believed that strategic planning and strategy cannot be carried out and fail together, they are an oxymoron as planning is about analysis and strategy about synthesis, its believed for this reason that the process has failed so often (Henry Mintzberg 1994).

Planning, organising, co-ordinating and control are four words

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that have dominated management since Fayol’s introduction of his theory in 1916 yet according to Mintzberg, who followed and studied what managers actually did, the conclusion from his research found these words tell us little about what managers actually do, they are simply vague objectives managers have when they work which although ideal in actuality they cannot be achieved.

He suggested in reality managers often attempt, and frequently fail, to sequence their roles logically in the pursuit of their objectives. Planning where a manager’s job is concerned is unrealistic because they work at a fast pace where they respond to the needs of the moment, acting on natural instincts. This approach is necessary to respond to the pressures of the job successfully. Luthens, Hodgettes and Rosenkratz published a study in 1988 of ‘Real Managers’ showing what activities they carried out on a day to day basis.

Findings revealed that effective managers spent 45% of their time on routine communication such as paperwork and exchanging information where successful managers spent 48% of their time networking; socialising and interacting with outsiders. Effectiveness was judged on subordinate satisfaction and the performance of the managers unit where success was measured by the speed of career progression. This study concludes that it is who you know not necessarily what you do that is fundamentally important for success which contradicts to the classical theorist’s view that believed you got promoted by skill alone.

On the other hand, they found a small fraction of ‘Fayolistic’ practise to be important in both the success and effectiveness of managers, for the success of a manager there is a 13% fragment of traditional management which involves the manager planning, decision making and controlling. This is a modern study carried out in 1988, which supports the fact that the classicalist theory is still relevant and present in modern business. Mintzberg doesn’t disagree with Fayol’s ideas and principles he believed them to be important but he recognised the reality of what a manager should do and what they can physically do being different.

It is important to clarify the time difference between the two approaches. Fayol and Mintzberg’s theories have a 60 year age gap; clearly this is significant where the results are concerned. Fayol’s approach may have suited the ‘zeitgeist’ of the time, his research was carried out between the 1860s-1940s where America held an oppressive, controlling atmosphere but is inappropriate when looking from a modern perspective due to historical change and the advance in many areas of business.

Mintzberg’s presentation of a manager can seem slightly chaotic and unorganised, in comparison to Fayol’s ordered, structured manager; some people might question whether Mintzberg’s manager would be an effective one. Mintzberg researched what managers did but this doesn’t necessarily mean that their practise was correct therefore we cannot criticise Fayol on Mintzberg’s theory alone. Furthermore, a lot of theories about management and organisation revolve around what a manager should do for effective management rather than what does in reality happen, so Fayol is not alone in his idealistic views.

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