This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on Management.

“YOU MUST PLAN! The implications for administrators who do not plan are serious today and lethal tomorrow.”Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925)

It is worth remembering that a lot of what we take for granted and value (law, democracy, capitalism) are not naturally occurring, like sunshine and rain, but have in fact been arrived at by debate and thought over the centuries and millennia. Going back to these first principles can often be interesting.

Management is no different…

Henri Fayol is generally considered the father of what was called planning. Today, I think it would be called management.

Fayol offered some key principles for transforming businesses. This is essentially his management philosophy:

1. Division of work – this is about allowing people to specialise, to do what they are good at with minimal associated garbage like box ticking.

2. Authority – management’s right to manage. This country is a democracy, but the workplace isn’t. If you are respected and respectable, you may get a tacit vote, but this is not a right.

3. Discipline – employees must obey (but will not do so in the face of poor leadership). Leaders need to remember you can condition people very quickly – if you allow indiscipline to go unremarked, you will quickly find more of it that you can handle, and it will be your fault. I don’t operate a no-blame culture in these pearls – it will be your fault.

4. Unity of command – one boss only please. With two bosses, someone always gets abused. Sometimes the subordinate, but in my experience usually one or both of the managers.

5. Subordination of individual interest – the goals of the firm are always paramount. If you have some prima ballerinas, and you are not running a dance troupe, you have a problem. They’re going for self-actualisation and sending you the bill.

6. Remuneration – payment is an important motivator (I know they love working here but they wouldn’t turn up if you didn’t pay them. And neither would you.)

7. Line of authority – you need a hierarchy. Worker’s co-ops have failed to take over the world for a reason.

8. Equity – kindliness and justice is required. Absolutely, and the effective worker being treated the same as the ineffective worker looks like an injustice to both. But only one of them is laughing.

9. Stability of tenure – always good but no fur-lined ruts please. Dead wood is the fastest growing tree I’ve ever seen.

10. Initiative – allow it, but you need a process (see 5 above). This is a workplace, not a I-think-I’ll-do-whatever-I-like-place. That’s called a playroom.

11. Esprit de Corps – a real trick. Probably results from clarity of purpose, attractiveness of vision, good communications, a coaching environment, a supportive performance culture and the open and swift resolution of dysfunction.

Seems like a reasonable foundation to me.

Fad alert…

Because of the elusiveness of effective management, it is susceptible to fad. Fads are not worthless, but they are often presented as the cure-all, the panacea. Therefore managers place too much faith in the miraculous ability of the fad to solve all their management dilemmas. Then, when disappointment sets in, managers totally reject the fad, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Some notable fads in my life time have been –

  • One-minute management
  • Total quality management
  • Learning organisations
  • Excellence
  • Chaos
  • Management by objectives
  • Matrix management
  • Process-re-engineering

They all had value, but were all presented as a new religion, which leads to cynicism (and the creation of a few millionaires, who I suspect are also cynical).

There is one exception…

…matrix management. This has no known value because, like time travel, it cannot be achieved. If you don’t know what matrix management is, do NOT Google it – it will not enrich your life.

I do believe that good management is essential but rare. Good management is something you get better at as you get older. Good managers are NOT born. Management must be taught, seldom is and cannot be mastered in a classroom.

If you are a manager…

I salute you. Your job is hard. And essential.



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