The classic theory of administration: what it is and what are its key ideas

Many ideas have been proposed for organizational management, but the classic is one of the most important and widespread.

Below we will collect the most important data in order to have a comprehensive understanding of everything related to these studies, to know why it was born and what are the fundamental principles on which it is based. classical theory of administration.

    What is the classical theory of administration?

    The classical theory of administration is a thesis proposed by the French mining engineer, Henri Fayol, as a method of managing the organization. This theory was proposed in 1900. Fayol’s goal was to achieve a remarkable improvement in the efficiency of the various administrative processes involved in production within a company.

    One of the keys to achieving this goal was to eradicate or at least minimize all possible misunderstandings that could arise at every step of all these processes and which would ultimately lead to minimization of the use of resources, including of course the time and manpower required.

    Henri Fayol tried to promote the classical theory of administration by trying to transmit these concepts and practices directly to those responsible for the management of different industries, so that they could implement this methodology in their respective organizations. Thanks to these ideas, an improvement in the efficiency of the whole system would soon be observed.

    To understand the keys to the classical theory of administration, we must first place ourselves in the historical moment when it arose. It was France at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It was a country which had just gone through the metamorphosis of the revolution and which had completely changed the social order. The bourgeoisie had established itself as the ruling class while the working class was the basis of emerging industry.

    Fayol argued that the key to achieving maximum productivity was to properly control worker activity through flawless management.. This is where the classical theory of administration comes in, a system that suits both organizations themselves and state institutions themselves and even the management of national economies.

    What Henri Fayol underlined with this method is that it was essential to make a forecast of the situations that the entity would face throughout its activity and to draw up a plan in line with this scenario, so that When the time comes, he simply sticks to the planned plan instead of improvising or making bad decisions and having to rectify it afterwards.

    Thanks to this simple but effective approach, the organization would be prepared in advance for a whole series of situations and, as a result, the uncertainty and waste of company resources would be reduced. In the event of a certain incident, the planned scheme should only be reviewed to know how to act quickly and efficiently, without wasting time and more resources than necessary.

      The principles of this theory posed by Henri Fayol

      To develop the classic theory of administration, Henri Fayol established fourteen points which are those that any organization had to fulfill if it wanted to reap the fruits of this thesis. Below we will take a look at each of them.

      1. Division of labor

      Within an organization, there are many tasks that need to be done and most require specialization. So, it will be necessary to have adequate personnel to be able to carry out each part of the production process, Make each staff member the specialist in his specific task.

      This way it is much more efficient than if the same person has to deal with very different activities that require training in each of the areas involved. It would be inefficient and even unrealistic to expect a worker to be an expert in each of the processes implemented in the company.

      2. Authority and responsibility

      The second point proposed by the classical theory of administration concerns authority and responsibility. Fayol claimed that the presence of a leader responsible for the work of all subordinates was essential and represented an authority to them.

        3. Discipline

        In line with the previous point, discipline would be a key element for workers to assume the authority that the bosses represented to them. also, this discipline would make them perform their tasks in the most appropriate way to achieve the goals of the worker himself, of his team and, ultimately, of the whole organization.

        4. Unity of command

        For the classical theory of administration, it was also an indispensable requirement that of unity of command. Fayol he felt that power should ultimately be represented by one personBecause if there was more than one, there was a risk of falling into non-unanimous decisions, differences in criteria and, ultimately, a series of issues that would weaken the authority we talked about earlier and that would affect the effectiveness of the organization.

        5. Management unit

        Not only is a control unit required, but also a steering unit. In other words, that is to say each member of the company will have their own tasks and responsibilities, but they all have to go, inevitably, in the same line, In the same direction. If a task causes harm to another department, it is because it is not well thought out and therefore reduces the efficiency of production processes.

        6. Subordination of the individual interest to the general

        Fayol, in his classic management theory, argued that the general interest is what should always prevail when making decisions for the company, to the detriment of individual interest. In other words, when faced with a decision in which one option favors one or more and another that favors more people or processes in the organization, the second alternative should always be chosen..

        7. Remuneration

        The seventh point of the classical theory of administration program speaks of compensation as a form of employee motivation. Therefore, this salary must be fair and appropriate to the task he performs. But in addition to the money as such, other things can be used to supplement the worker’s payroll and make them feel valued and motivated.

        8. Hierarchy

        Although other previous points already anticipate this point, Fayol wishes to point out that the hierarchy is essential for a good implementation of the classical theory of administration. Places and responsibilities should be clear from the start. Each employee must know to whom he is answering and must know that he is subordinate to that person, who in turn will be in front of another, until he reaches unity of command.

        9. Centralization

        Likewise, this unity of command that we were talking about must also result in a centralization of authority over a few people, distributed among the different services in a hierarchical manner. We observe that all points of classical administration theory are related to each other and they are needed among themselves to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to improve efficiency.

        10. Order

        Order must prevail in the distribution of spaces and tasks in the organization. If two departments perform complementary tasks and interact regularly, it makes sense to place them as close as possible to that there is no waste of time in communicating with each other.

        11. Equity

        The treatment of all parts of the business should be governed by fairness, according to classical management theory. this does not mean that everyone should receive the same remuneration, for example, because not everyone performs the same tasks. But between two people performing similar functions, indeed, the compensation must be the same, unless other variables come into play which determine the opposite.


        The structure of the organization must be as stable as possible. If there is a large turnover and new people have to constantly learn how to do it, the production of the company will be slowed down, which will have an impact on the efficiency.

        13. Initiative

        Within the hierarchy and the rules to follow, it is good that there is a certain initiative in carrying out the activities within the organization. This proactivity will be a good indicator of the good work of employees and should be valued as such.

        14. Team spirit

        The last point of classical management theory is none other than team spirit. Each member, each in his place, is part of a whole, And as such must be considered.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Breeze, JD, Frederick CM (1980). Henri Fayol: a new definition of administration. Proceedings of the Academy of Management. Management Academy.
        • Fayol, H. (1916). General principles of management. Classics of organization theory. Harcourt Brace Orlando, Florida.
        • Pearson, NM (1945). Baeanism as a necessary complement to Taylorism. The American Journal of Political Science.

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