Paradox of the week – Henri Fayol

Mar 31, 2017 | 1 comment

2 minute read

This Friday, another installment in my “Paradox of the week” series of posts.

These are instances in which a management author/”expert”/advice-giver/guru offers contradictory advice or makes paradoxical claims, typically without any awareness of having done so. [For more examples of this phenomena, click here. For an explanation as why this happens—and why it happens so often—check out my post “Why you can throw out that management advice book” (Parts 1,2&3).]

For today’s edition, two examples from the work of Henri Fayol, a 19th Century French mining engineer and executive.

Fayol, along with Frederick Winslow Taylor, is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern management methods. In 1916, he published his seminal work on the subject, General and Industrial Management, which has been referred to as “the first complete theory of management.”[1] It is from this text that I offer the following paradoxical assertions for your consideration:


  • On page 37, Fayol writes of organizational “order” and its importance: “A diagram [organization chart] representing the entire premises divided up [my emphasis] into as many sections as there are employees responsible facilitates considerably the establishing and control of order.” And yet on page 40, he insists “Dividing enemy forces to weaken them is clever, but dividing one’s own team is a grave sin…”
  • On page 33 Fayol argues, “Each employee, intentionally or unintentionally, puts something of himself [sic] into the transmission and execution of orders… He does not operate merely as cog in the machine.” But later (p. 35), he has this to say: “…unless the sentiment of the general interest be constantly revived by higher authority…each section tends to regard itself as its own aim and end and forgets that it is only a cog in the machine…”


See you next Friday.




[1] Shafritz, Jay M., and J. Steven Ott. Classics in Organization Theory (Fifth Edition). 2001. Harcourt College Publishers, Philadelphia, PA), p. 10.

1 Comment

  1. Mark G

    never trust a man with a wide collar!


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