Henri Fayol: biography of the father of Positive Administration

Who was Henri Fayol (1841-1925)? He is a very relevant author in the field of business administration; engineer and theorist of this sector, born in Istanbul, Fayol developed an administrative model called Fayolismo, in addition to the classical theory of administration.

In this article, in addition to commenting on his most relevant theoretical contributions, we will a brief review of his life through a biography of Henri Fayol.

    Short biography of Henri Fayol

    Henri Fayol (1841-1925) was an engineer and business administration theorist, born July 29, 1841 in Constantinople (Istanbul), and died November 19, 1925 in Paris, at the age of 84.

    Fayol is considered one of the main contributors to the classic approach to administration, Because he developed the so-called classical theory of administration, which we will see later.

    This researcher was born on July 29, 1841 in Constantinople, Istanbul, into a bourgeois family. Only a year had passed since the end of the industrial revolution (1840), so Fayol and his family suffered the consequences.

    As for his university life, Henri Fayol obtained his diploma in mining civil engineering in 1860, when he was only 19 years old. soon he started working as a mining engineer, more precisely at the Commentry Fourchambault Corporation, A large group in the mining and metallurgical sector. In this company, it was where they stayed all their lives to work.

    Little by little, Fayol started working for the same company. When I was 25, he was appointed director of mines. Twenty-five years later, at age 47, Fayol was appointed Managing Director (Managing Director), and held this position for thirty years and until his retirement, between 1888 and 1918. At that time, Henri Fayol left the company to his successor, under fairly favorable and stable conditions.

    Contributions to the mining company

    It should be noted that the company has gone through difficult stages, especially during these years. However, during the years when Henri Fayol was director of the company, his administration was really good.

    At that time, Fayol also devoted himself to writing various articles related to the administration.. In 1916, two years before retiring, the bulletin of the Société de l’Industrie Minérale rocked to highlight one of its works, titled Industrial and General Administration – Organization, Direction, Coordination, Control of Forecasting .

    A few years later, in 1949, this work (“Administration générale et industrielle de Constance Soorrs”) was translated into English.

    In 1978, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, the Congress of the Industrial Mining Company was held in Paris. During this event, Henri Fayol presented one of his works, through a report addressing the following theme: the alteration and spontaneous combustion of coal exposed to the air.

    His work was very well received and from that moment Fayol began to stand out in the scientific field. Then we will know his two great contributions: Fayolismo and the classical theory of administration.


      Henri Fayol developed an administrative model which he called Fayolism. Other synonyms that this model has received are: Positive administration, administrative process approach or anatomical approach.

      Through Fayolism, Henri Fayol analyzed problems not addressed by Frederick Taylor, then considered the father of scientific administration. If so, Taylor had developed Taylorism, a method of industrial organization based on the division of tasks in the production process, within the organization of labor.

      Taylor did research primarily in the factory or workshop area; instead, Fayol investigated the directions of organizations. In addition, Fayol has created “main schools” and provided great information about the different administrative levels that we find within an organization.

      In his work “Industrial and General Administration”, we find the ideas of Fayolism, through its philosophy, but also its most relevant contributions in this field.

      Definition and characteristics

      We’ve briefly put Fayolism in context, but what exactly is it? What are its main characteristics? The fayolismo consists of an administrative model based on three essential aspects, Which are:

      • Division of labor
      • The application of a certain administrative process
      • The formulation of technical criteria that guide the administrative function

      As we will see later, Fayolismo describes several functions within an organization, where the administrative function is the most important. In fact, this function refers to the social part of the company (i.e. its workers), while the others relate to raw materials and machinery. What does each of these functions consist of? Let’s find out:

      Functions in the organization

      As we said, beyond the three essential aspects enumerated of Fayolismo, through this model of administration, Henri Fayol specifies a series of functions which must take into account any industrial company, and which are as follows:

      1. Technical functions

      They are the ones who perform the function of provide certain goods and services.

      2. Commercial functions

      Business functions are those that relate to efficient production and the buying and selling of the business.

      3. Financial functions

      Financial functions have to do with managing money and making the most of it.

      4. Safety functions

      In that case, the security functions fulfill the mission of protecting people and their property against possible theft or other altercations (For example a flood), within an organization.

      5. Accounting functions

      These are the functions related to inventories, Balance sheets, costs, statistics …

      6. Administrative functions

      Finally, the administrative functions proposed by Henri Fayol in his model of Fayolismo allude to the coordination and synchronization of the five other functions, already explained.

      In reality, administrative functions are, for Fayol, his main object of study (still in full development at the time).

      The classic theory of administration

      Through his classical theory, Henri Fayol develops a series of ideas in the administrative context, focused on increasing the efficiency of the company.

      These ideas go in the direction of optimizing the form and arrangement of the organs that make up the organization in question (i.e. its departments), as well as their structural interrelationships. In this line, in his classical theory, Fayol emphasizes the importance of the anatomy of the company (i.e. its structure) and its physiology (i.e. its functioning).

      So, Fayol attaches particular importance to taking care of the organizational structure (This is the fundamental characteristic of classical theory); that is, its elements, principles, departments, etc.

      However, Fayol also does not neglect the synthesis of these elements and their interrelations, which end up generating a global vision of the company, which in turn allows a better subdivision of it under the centralization of a senior manager. .

      Bibliographical references:

      • Heames, J., Pryor, MG and Taneja, S. (2010). Henri Fayol, practitioner and theorist, revered and insulted. Management history journal.
      • Peaucelle, JL and Guthrie, C. (2012). Henri Fayol’s private life and his motivation to build a management science. Management history journal.
      • Sasaki, T. (1995). Henri Fayol’s family relations. Management history journal.
      • Taylor, FW (1911). The principles of scientific management. Harper & Brothers. p. 144.

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