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Assessing Classical Management Theory

21st Century Organization

Fayolism in today’s world

In evaluating Henri Fayol’s classical management theory, the context upon which the approach is based has to be established. Fayol was a French mining engineer, mining executive, author and director of mines who developed a general theory of business administration. Although, according to Yoo, Lemak, and Choi (2006), Fayol considered his management principles to be guidelines that could accommodate any situation, the evaluation of the principles distinguishes whether the individual elements would be effective today or not. Yoo et al., (2006) also stated that the underlying management responsibilities of planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling are critical to the effectiveness of Fayol’s management principles. The efficacy of this theory will be measured by whether the application of the principles would help or harm a functional unit in the 21st century.


Most of the principles (see table below) seem to be applicable to current day management, however the unity of command and centralization principles present outliers. Fayol’s management theory is mechanistic in nature and facilitated the Industrial Revolution, where efficient production outweighed employee needs. As highlighted by Morgan (2006), mechanistic organizations work well in conditions where routines

are systematic and unvaried. The unity of command and centralization of management are almost nonexistent in global multinational corporations.

Specifically, in service economies where knowledge is the product and it is disseminated through projects, where direction may come from normal management flows or the customer. A matrix type functional unit would work in direct opposition to the unity of command and centralization principles. The characteristics of a matrix organization include vertical management functions aligned with horizontal tasks, processes, or projects (Matrix Organization, 2011). Although matrix organizations have their own problems, Goedert & Sekpe (2013) underscore the need for organizations to have an approach that addresses an ever changing environment and the matrix organization meets the need.


that are geographically dispersed as well as those that have a parent-subsidiary structure would benefit from a matrix organization and less from the unity of command and centralized management principles. More specifically, the 21st century organization leverages the heroic qualities of individuals toward achieving strategic objectives. No longer are workers seen as a means to an end as suggested in the mechanistic environment, today’s organization seeks the contribution of its human capital and is regarded as a competitive advantage.

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Goedert, J. D., & Sekpe, V. D. (2013). Decision Support System-Enhanced Scheduling in Matrix Organizations Using the Analytic Hierarchy Process. Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management, 139(1), 11. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0000734

Matrix Organization. (2011). Business: The Ultimate Resource. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from

Morgan, G. (2006). Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Yoo, J. W., Lemak, D. J., & Choi, Y. (2006). Principles of Management and Competitive strategies: Using Fayol to implement Porter. Journal of Management History, 12(4), 352-368. doi:

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