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Henri Fayol

Henri Fayol Biography
UnknownUnknown author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henri Fayol Biography

Henri Fayol (July 29, 1841 – November 19, 1925) Engineer and theorist of business administration. He was born in Istanbul, Ottoman Empire. He grew up in a bourgeois family, so he could study in the best institutes in the city. He studied civil engineering of mines and finished in 1860. When he finished, he got a job as an engineer in the mines of an important mining and metallurgical group: the Comantry Fourchambault Corporation. Fayol witnessed the irruption of the Industrial Revolution and later its consequences. Also, he experienced the consequences of the First World War.

From the age of 19, he began his experience in the field of metallurgy and coal. Due to the above, at age of 25, he was appointed mining manager. In 1878, Fayol was invited to the Paris Congress of the Mining Industrial Society, held on the occasion of the Universal Exposition, to present a report on the alteration and spontaneous combustion of the coal exposed to the air. This work was very well received and received very positive reviews, consecrating Fayol as an influential man in the world of science. His contributions to the field of administrative thinking are remarkable.

Several of his postulates are well developed in the work Industrial and General Administration (1916), this work first came out in the French countryside. Fayol was influenced by the theory of Frederick Taylor in the field of scientific organization of work, whose influence emerged in the second stage of the Industrial Revolution. Fayol developed an administrative model of great rigor for his time, based on a positivist methodology, which focused on observing the facts, making experiences and extracting rules.

In 1921, he published The Industrial Disability of the State, made a defense of the postulates of free enterprise against the intervention of the State in economic life. During his academic life, he developed three essential aspects within the administrative model: the division of labor, the application of an administrative process and the formulation of technical criteria that should guide the administrative function. For Fayol, the administrative function has as its object only the social body: while the other functions affect not only the personnel of the company but also the raw material and the machines.

His knowledge allowed an important company: the Compagnie Commentary Fourchambault et Decazeville, which was in a difficult administrative and economic situation, to get out of this crisis. His administration was very successful, Fayol was CEO until 1918 when, due to his advanced age, he decided to pass on his company to his successor. Later, Fayol dedicated his life to write and deepen his administrative theories. Management and development of various concepts, for example, the division of labor, discipline, authority, unity and command hierarchy, centralization, fair remuneration, staff stability, teamwork, initiative, general interest, etc.

His contribution is very important because in the field of business management he distinguished four functional areas: planning, organization, command and coordination and control. In Industrial and General Administration (1916) each one of these important areas is developed. The aforementioned work was translated into English until 1930 and did not have much impact until its second translation in 1949. By that time, Fayol had already died because of his advanced age, specifically died on November 19, 1925, in the French capital. Shortly before his death, he published an important and controversial work: The industrial incapacity of the state (1921), where he defended the postulates of free enterprise against the intervention of the State in economic life.

We must indicate that his contributions were very important since the second half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century, marked a before and after in the administrative method, in the dynamics of companies, being then the precursor of the administrative model known as “Fayolism.” Just as many Fayol also criticized the antihumanist method of Frederick Taylor, Taylor’s intention was really to eliminate downtime in the actions of the workers to comply with the system design that was to increase production.

Although he took some lessons from him, he decided to focus on various aspects. The studies of this subject were more valued well into the Industrial Revolution. Currently, studies have linked their thinking with the postulates of economic liberalism. From their contributions we can emphasize: To take care that the human and material organization is directed to fulfill the objective, and needs of the company, to establish a unique, competent, energetic authority that serves as a guide, to harmonize the activities, to analyze the responsibilities of the Director General, create a “General Staff” that is a group of men endowed with the energy, knowledge and time that support the Director.

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