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Category: Business

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Identify and compare the contributions of Taylor, Fayol and Mayo to management today.


This essay outlines the main contributions of Taylor, Fayol and Mayo to the study of management. It then evaluates the contribution of these writers to management as it is practiced today. It does this by discussing in turn their work, explicitly and implicitly drawing comparisons between them. It argues that the various contributions reflect the differing circumstances and needs of the theorists, and are complementary in their contributions to modern management.

Management is essential to organized human endeavor, and as such has been practiced for thousands of years (for example see Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter, 2000, p. 41; Lock and Farrow, 1988, p.4). It is however, only since the early part of the twentieth century that management has been formally studied (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 41).

Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1917), Henri Fayol (1841-1925) and Elton Mayo (1880-1949) are recognized as important early management theorists, although each built to some extent on the work of earlier writers (for example, see Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 21; Robbins et al., 2000, pp. 51-54). They are recognized not only for their own contributions, but as founders of recognized schools of management thought, and as important influences on later theorists (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 4).


Many writers see the publication of ‘Principles of Scientific Management’ by Taylor in 1911 as the beginning of modern management theory (for example, Robbins et al., 2000, p. 43; Massie, 1979, p.13), and his book as “perhaps the publication that has influenced management more than any other” (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 4). He is recognized as the ‘father of scientific management” (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 5), and perhaps his main contribution was “his insistence upon the application of scientific method” (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 22). It is said that he helped managers move “out of the realm of intuition, toward conscious analysis” (Mintzberg, 1989, p. 55).

Taylor drew upon his own experience working (first as a worker, and then as a mechanical engineer) in American industrial enterprises in the latter part of the nineteenth century (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 43; Massie, 1979, p. 16).

Taylor was struck by the inefficiency of industrial enterprises, and the antagonism between workers and management. ‘Scientific management’ was a means of addressing these issues (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 91). He was vitally concerned with improving the production efficiency of industrial enterprises, and with the role of managers in achieving this end. The main object of management is to “secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity of each employee” (Taylor, quoted in Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p90).

Taylor devised four ‘principles of management’ to achieve his aims - “replacing rule-of-thumb methods with scientific determination of each element of a man’s job; scientific selection and training of workmen; cooperation of management and labor to accomplish work in accordance with scientific method; and a more equal division of responsibility between managers and workers” (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 22, see also Robbins et al., 2000, p. 44; Massie, 1979, p. 16).

His ideas were quickly and widely adopted by American industry, and later by other industrialized nations (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 45). However, he faced considerable opposition in his lifetime, particularly from organized labor (due to the real and imagined effect on employment), and appeared before a congressional committee in 1911. There he outlined in some detail his ideas, based on examples of his work (Taylor, 1947, pp. 39-73; Massie, 1979, p. 16). Taylor’s methods can still be seen in modern workshop practice (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 4).

Taylor also had some interest in organizational structure, proposing a ‘matrix’ structure, which was a radical departure from the one worker/one boss concept, although this was never taken up (Saskin, 1981, p. 208; Massie, 1979, p. 19, 81). He was an early advocate of the separation of planning and performance (Massie, 1979, p. 87), and of setting standards for workers (Massie, 1979, p. 198).

“Taylor’s contributions, however, were not an unmixed blessing. Through his stress on efficiency at the shop level and economies gained through time and motion study, he caused attention to be drawn so completely to the shop that for a time the study of management became in effect the study of shop management, while the more general aspects were overlooked…. had the work of Henri Fayol not been overshadowed by enthusiasm for Taylorism, the history of management theory might well have been different and the principles of general management advanced much earlier” (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, pp. 22-23).


Henri Fayol drew upon his experiences as the managing director of a large French coal-mining firm (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 47; Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 23). Deploring the lack of managerial teaching available, he set himself the task of providing a developed theory of management (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, pp. 24, 426).

Fayol focused on the entire organization and was specifically interested in describing and analyzing management (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 46). He was not just interested in industrial enterprise, but in all forms of organized human cooperation (Massie, 1979, p. 22; Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 85). His was the “first attempt at a complete theory of management” (Loch and Farrow, 1988, p. 5), and Koontz and O’Donnell (1972, p. 23) for example have no difficulty in describing him as “the real father of modern management theory”.

Although a contemporary of Taylor, his work did not become integrated into wider management theory until the 1950s, (Luthans, 1978, p. 40; Loch and Farrow, 1988, p. 5; Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 36).

Fayol analyzed industrial undertakings and identified 6 main groups of activities – technical, commercial, financial, security, accounting and managerial. He devoted most of his book to the ‘managerial’ activity, reasoning that much was already known about the other five (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 24; Pugh and Hickson, 1989, pp. 85-86). His five ‘management functions’ – to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate, to control (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 86) – although since modified and reduced to four – have influenced virtually all management theorists, remain in almost universal use amongst management writers to this day (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 89), and form a conceptual basis for countless management texts and writings (for example Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972; Robbins et al., 2000). He devised ‘14 principles of management’ (Fayol, 1949, pp. 181-202), and these, while less widely accepted as universal, have continued to form an important frame of reference for later management theory (Robbins et al., 2000, p. 49).

Fayol was the founder of the ‘General Administration’ school of management thought. He was, however, aware of that his theories should not be overly prescriptive and later management theorists have noted both structure and flexibility in his formulations (Saskin, 1981, p. 209). Fayol saw management as an ongoing process rather than an event or technique (Sharma, 1978, p. 36), and later writers have built on his insights in developing the process school of thought (Sharma, 1978, p. 37: Luthans, 1978, p. 40).


Elton Mayo, (an early Australian expatriate! (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 152)) was a professor at Harvard University. His work drew attention to the role of human behavior in organizations, and role of interpersonal and group factors. He played an important early role in the field of Organizational Behavior (Robbins et al., 2000, pp. 52-54), and has been called “the founder of both the Human Relations movement and of industrial sociology” (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 152).

Mayo’s work was based on research rather than on personal experience (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 6). His initial interests were related to “fatigue, accidents and labor turnover and the effect on these of rest pauses and physical conditions of work” (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 152). However, his best known work was his role in the Hawthorne studies.

Mayo (1990, p. 357) explained how the results were not as intended; “The Hawthorne interview programme has moved far since its beginning in 1929. Originally designed to study the comfort of workers in their work as a mass of individuals, it has come to clear specification of the relation of working groups to management as one of the fundamental problems of large-scale industry”. Koontz and O’Donnell (1972, p. 503) summed up his findings thus; “Man is basically motivated by social needs and obtains his basic sense of identity through relationships with others. As a result of the industrial revolution and the rationalization of work, much of the meaning has gone out of work itself and must therefore be sought in the social relationships on the job. Man is more responsive to the social forces of the peer group than to the incentives and controls of management. Man is responsive to management to the extent that a supervisor can meet a subordinate’s social needs and needs for acceptance”.

Mayo’s work led “to a fuller realization and understanding of the human factor in work situations” (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 155). He found that workers were not motivated solely by self-interest, such as financial incentives. The role of management was to create an atmosphere where there was spontaneous cooperation between workers and management (Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 154).

Mayo had strong views about the then prevailing orthodoxy of scientific management, and well before the Hawthorne experiments had written forcefully about the impact of Taylorism, deploring loss of autonomy in workers that resulted, and advocating for better treatment of workers by management (Saskin, 1981, p. 212).

While Mayo and others challenged the ‘machine’ view of workers, it cannot be assumed that earlier writers such as Taylor and Fayol had neglected the human factors, although some of their more zealous followers may have done so (Koontz and O’Donnell, 1972, p. 30; Pugh and Hickson, 1989, p. 93).

Management today

“The organizational world that existed when Taylor, Fayol, Weber…. were writing no longer exists” (Robbins et al., 2000, p64; see also Loch and Farrow, 1988, p. 6). Many of the issues that affect management and managers today (Robbins et al., 2000, pp. 58 – 70 outline some of these) could not have been imagined in the early part of last century. Further, it has been argued that the essential features of industrial organization are no longer appropriate in the modern organizational environment (Golembiewski, Gibson and Miller, 1978, p. 11).

What then is to be said about the three theorists, and their contributions? Scientific management, general administrative theory, organizational behavior along with the various other approaches are recognized as having much to offer managers but none has provided an overarching model (Robbins et al, 2000, p. 56).

Management writers have tried to integrate the various strands of management theory from an early stage (Lock and Farrow, 1988, p. 6; Robbins et al., 2000, pp. 56-58). Koontz and O’Donnell (1972, pp. 34-44) explores some of the similarities and differences between the various schools of thought and point out that semantics, differing definitions, and a lack of distinction between the content and tools of management study account for some of the difficulties of reconciling the various strands.

While some later theorists have looked not to build upon, but to supercede the early theorists (for instance Mintzberg (1989, p. 9, see also Mintzberg, 1975, p. 50)) made a point of setting his ideas against the formulations of Fayol, though it is interesting to note that his research into management roles owes something to Taylor’s time and motion studies!), most contemporary approaches in management thought have tended to be more integrative.

Sharma (1978, pp. 32-39), for instance, identifies stages in administrative (by which he means management) thought – “scientific management” (Taylor), “organization and system”, ”administrative process” (Fayol) with the “eclectic approach” that builds on a range of disciplines representing the future of management theory. Lock and Farrow (1988, p. 6) recognize that a common set of principles is not applicable to all situations.

Modern management theories such as the Process approach, Systems approach and Contingency approach are integrative approaches that recognize that management is as much an art as a science, and that modern managers need draw on a wide range of skills as the situation requires (Lorsch, 1979, pp. 175-176; Robbins et al., 2000, pp. 57-58; Sharma, 1978, p. 3). These newer approaches build strongly on the past, and all owe much to Fayol in particular, but also to scientific management and human relations (Luthans, 1978, pp. 40-41).


Taylor, Fayol and Mayo have each made very important contributions to management today. As early theorists in the field, they pioneered approaches to management theory that have been build upon by countless other writers, and remain relevant today. Each writer drew upon their own unique background – engineer, manager, sociologist – to give them insights into management and to the functioning of organizations. As current management theory make increasing use of the eclectic, situational and contingency approaches it is more useful to see the formulations of the theorists as complimentary, rather than competing, in their contribution to the rich and diverse fabric of modern management.

Reference List

Fayol, H. (1949), “General and Industrial Management”, Pitman, ch. 4, in Pugh, D.S.

(Ed) (1990), Organization Theory, selected readings, (3rd Edn), Penguin Books,


Golembiewski, R.T., Gibson, F. & Miller, G. (Eds) (1978), Managerial Behavior and

Organization Demands; Management as a linking of levels of Interaction, (2nd Edn),

F.E. Peacock Publishers, Inc., Itasca Illinois.

Koontz, H. & O’Donnell, C. (1972), Principles of Management: An Analysis of

Managerial Functions, (5th Edn), McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

Loch, D. & Farrow, N. (1988), The Gower Handbook of Management, (2nd Edn),

Gower Publishing Company, Aldershot, U.K.

Lorsch, J. (1979), Making Behavioural Science More Useful, Harvard Business Review, March-April, pp171-180.

Luthans, F. (1978), “The Contingency Theory of Management: A Path Out of the

Jungle”, in Golembiewski, R.T., Gibson, F. & Miller, G. (Eds), Managerial Behavior

and Organization Demands; Management as a linking of levels of Interaction, (2nd

Edn), F.E. Peacock Publishers, Inc., Itasca Illinois.

Massie, J.L. (1979), Essentials of Management, (3rd Edn), Prentice-Hall, Inc.,

Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Mayo, E. (1949), “The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization”, Routledge, ch.

4, in Pugh, D.S. (Ed) (1990), Organization Theory, selected readings, (3rd Edn),

Penguin Books, London.

Mintzberg, H. (1975), The Manager’s Job: Folklaw and Fact, Harvard Business Review, July-August, pp49-61.

Mintzberg, H. (1989), Mintzberg on Management; Inside our strange world of

organizations, The Free Press, New York.

Pugh, D.S. & Hickson, D.J. (1989), Writers on Organizations, (4th Edn), Penguin Books, London.

Robbins, S.P., Bergman, R., Stagg, I. & Coulter, M. (2000), Management, (2nd Edn), Prentice Hall Australia Pty Ltd, Frenchs Forest.

Saskin, M. (1981), “Overview of ten management and organizational theorists”, in Jones and Pfeiffer (ed), The 1981 annual handbook for group facilitators, University Associates California, pp206-221 (Monash University database)

Sharma, C.L. (1978), “Administration as A Field of Study”, in Golembiewski, R.T.,

Gibson, F. & Miller, G. (Eds), Managerial Behavior and Organization Demands;

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