Administrative Theory of Management: Definition, History, Examples, and FAQs

What is Administrative Management Theory?

Administrative Management Theory, pioneered by Henri Fayol, focuses on organizing and managing the entire structure of an organization. It involves creating formal structures, defining roles and responsibilities, and dividing tasks for increased efficiency.

Fayol’s 14 principles of management offer essential guidelines, including division of labor, authority and responsibility, unity of command, and more, to ensure effective management practices.

Administrative Management Theory adopts a top-down approach, emphasizing efficient top-level management as a foundation for overall productivity. Fayol, known as the father of modern management, emphasized planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling as the five essential functions of managers.

Although it provides valuable insights, this theory has limitations concerning its applicability to dynamic and complex modern businesses and its neglect of human behavior and relations within organizations. Nevertheless, Fayol’s principles remain influential in shaping management practices worldwide.

A Brief History of Fayol’s Administrative Theory

The history of Administrative Management Theory can be traced back to the early 20th century, pioneered by Henri Fayol (1841-1925), a French industrialist. In 1916, Fayol published the book “General and Industrial Management,” which presented his revolutionary management principles. He proposed five key management functions: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling, forming the foundation of this theory.

Fayol’s 14 principles, including division of labor, authority and responsibility, unity of command, and more, provided essential guidelines for effective organizational management. His theory evolved from the need to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.

Today, Administrative Management Theory remains relevant as it emphasizes formal structures, clear roles, and efficient coordination in organizations. Fayol’s principles continue to influence modern management practices, guiding managers in various industries to create functional and productive work environments. Despite some limitations, this theory’s timeless principles remain valuable in shaping management strategies worldwide.

Related: Scientific Management Theory

Functions of Management by Henri Fayol

Although, planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling are the most popular functions of management. Henri Fayol in his administrative theory has suggested another five functions of a manager – which in short termed as POCCC:

  1. Planning: It involves setting objectives and outlining the steps to achieve them. Managers analyze the future, make forecasts, and develop strategies to steer the organization in the desired direction.
  2. Organizing: This function focuses on arranging resources, both human and non-human, to optimize efficiency. Managers divide tasks, delegate responsibilities, and create a structured framework for smooth operations.
  3. Commanding: Managers lead and direct their subordinates, giving clear instructions and guidance. They foster a positive work environment and motivate employees to work towards shared goals.
  4. Coordinating: Coordinating ensures all elements of the organization work harmoniously together. Managers synchronize activities, align efforts, and promote collaboration to avoid conflicts and improve productivity.
  5. Controlling: Involves monitoring performance against established standards and taking corrective actions when necessary. Managers assess outcomes, compare them to plans, and make adjustments to ensure progress.

These Fayol’s management functions provide a practical guide for managers to navigate the complexities of running a business. They provide a practical framework for managers to achieve organizational success through strategic planning, efficient organization, strong leadership, effective coordination, and continuous evaluation.

Principles of Management by Henri Fayol

Fayol has further suggested 14 universal principles of management. Let’s shortly explore those Fayol’s principles.

  1. Division of Work: Tasks should be divided and assigned to individuals to enhance efficiency and specialization.
  2. Authority and Responsibility: Managers must have the authority to give orders and the responsibility to ensure tasks are accomplished.
  3. Discipline: Employees must adhere to rules and regulations to maintain order and efficiency in the organization.
  4. Unity of Command: Each employee should receive instructions from only one manager to avoid confusion.
  5. Unity of Direction: The organization should have a unified plan to achieve common goals.
  6. Subordination of Individual Interests to the General Interest: The interests of the organization should prevail over individual interests.
  7. Remuneration: Employees should receive fair compensation for their work and contributions.
  8. Centralization: The degree of decision-making authority should be balanced between top management and lower levels.
  9. Scalar Chain: The chain of command should be followed for effective communication and authority flow.
  10. Order: Proper arrangement of resources and personnel to achieve maximum efficiency.
  11. Equity: Fairness and kindness in dealing with employees to foster a positive work environment.
  12. Stability of Tenure: Providing job security to employees to build loyalty and stability in the workforce.
  13. Initiative: Encouraging employees to take initiative and contribute innovative ideas.
  14. Esprit de Corps: Promoting team spirit and unity among employees to enhance cooperation and productivity.

Read More: Fayol’s 14 Principles of Management

Who are the Contributors to Administrative Theory Management?

Various scholars have contributed to the development of administrative management theory. They include the followings:

  • Henri Fayol (1841-1925): Considered the father of administrative management, he introduced the 14 principles of management and emphasized the importance of organizational structure and coordination.
  • Max Weber (1864-1920): Introduced the concept of bureaucracy and its principles, which laid the foundation for understanding formal organizational structures.
  • James D. Mooney (1884-1957): Applied administrative management principles to various domestic and international organizations in his book “Onward Industry!”.
  • Luther H. Gulick (1892-1993): Extended administrative management principles to government and private organizations.
  • George Terry (1909-1979): Developed the “Principles of Management” book, incorporating Fayol’s functions system and advocating for teaching and controlling.
  • Harold Koontz (1909-1984): Focused on human relations within the organization and promoted treating employees fairly and with empathy. He co-wrote the book “Principles of Management” with Cyril J. O’Donnell.
  • Ralph Davis (1894-1960): Expanded on Fayol’s management functions model and emphasized rational planning. He authored “The Fundamentals of Top Management.”
  • Henri Mintzberg (1939 – Present): Criticized Fayol’s work and highlighted the multiple roles managers play within organizations.
  • Robert L. Katz (1933-2010): Addressed the individual skills managers need at different levels within an organization.

Contributions of Administrative Theory

The following points resemble the major contributions of administrative theory to the field of business management.

Related: Levels in Management Hierarchy

  1. Formalized Organizational Structure: Administrative management theory emphasizes the importance of creating a formal structure within the organization, with clearly defined levels of authority and responsibility, to ensure smooth operations and effective decision-making.
  2. Hierarchical Management: The theory advocates for a clear chain of command, where each level of management reports to the one above it, ensuring a well-defined flow of communication and accountability.
  3. Division of Labor and Specialization: Administrative management stresses the need to break down complex tasks into smaller, specialized activities, allowing employees to focus on specific areas of expertise, leading to increased efficiency.
  4. Defined Roles and Responsibilities: This theory highlights the significance of establishing clear roles and responsibilities for each position within the organization, reducing conflicts, and promoting effective teamwork.
  5. Coordination of Activities: Administrative management focuses on achieving coordination among different departments and functions, ensuring that their efforts align with the overall organizational goals.
  6. Emphasis on Top-Down Approach: Unlike some other management theories, administrative management prioritizes enhancing the efficiency of top-level management, believing that effective leadership at the top positively impacts the entire organization.
  7. Focus on Managerial Efficiency: The theory underscores the importance of managerial skills, knowledge, and expertise, emphasizing that effective managers are essential for achieving organizational success.
  8. Standardization of Processes and Operations: Administrative management advocates for standardizing processes and operations throughout the organization, promoting consistency, reducing errors, and optimizing overall performance.

Limitations of Administrative Management Approach

Henri Fayol’s administrative management approach also has some limitations. They include:

  1. Mechanistic Approach: One limitation of administrative management theory is its mechanistic approach, treating employees as mere cogs in a machine rather than recognizing their individuality and potential. This approach may lead to demotivation and hinder creativity and innovation.
  2. Lack of Focus on Human Relations: The theory tends to overlook the importance of human relations and interpersonal dynamics within the organization. Ignoring the emotional and social aspects of work can result in lower employee satisfaction and hamper teamwork.
  3. Limited Applicability in Modern Dynamic Environments: Administrative management theory was developed during an era of stable and predictable environments. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, its rigid principles may not always be suitable to address complex and dynamic challenges.
  4. Overemphasis on Top-Down Decision-Making: The theory’s top-down approach may bury employee empowerment and participation in decision-making processes. In modern management, fostering a participative and collaborative culture is often seen as more effective.
  5. Ignoring Informal Organizational Networks: Administrative management theory mainly focuses on the formal structure of organizations, overlooking the significance of informal networks and communication channels. This may lead to missed opportunities and hinder efficient information flow within the organization.

Also Read: Middle-Level Management

Examples of Administrative Theory of Management

Let’s look at some examples of how businesses are implementing administrative theory principles in their operation.

General Electric (GE)

GE, under the leadership of Jack Welch, implemented administrative theory by adopting a formalized organizational structure. They divided the company into various business units, each with defined roles and responsibilities. This division of labor allowed GE to focus on specialized tasks and improve overall efficiency.


Toyota is known for its effective coordination of activities, and implementation of administrative principles to streamline its production processes. They have embraced the principle of standardization to achieve consistent quality across their vehicles and manufacturing plants. Toyota’s emphasis on continuous improvement (Kaizen) is also a reflection of administrative theory, as they strive to optimize efficiency and productivity at every level of the organization.


McDonald’s exemplifies administrative theory by using a hierarchical management structure in its global operations. They have standardized processes for food preparation and service, ensuring consistent quality and customer experience across their thousands of outlets. The division of labor is evident in the specialization of employees in specific roles within the restaurant, contributing to the efficient and speedy service McDonald’s is known for.

Procter & Gamble (P&G)

P&G effectively utilizes administrative theory to manage its diverse product lines. They have established separate departments for each product category, enabling better focus and expertise in managing individual brands. P&G’s emphasis on coordination and communication among various departments ensures efficient supply chain management and innovative product development.

Read Next: What is Participative Management?

Administrative Theory of Management: FAQs

What is the Administrative Theory of Management?

The administrative theory of management focuses on creating a formalized organizational structure with clear hierarchies, specialized roles, and defined responsibilities. It emphasizes the top-down approach to enhance managerial efficiency and coordinate activities effectively for achieving the organization’s objectives.

What is Fayolism?

Fayolism, also known as Administrative Theory, is a management approach developed by Henri Fayol. It emphasizes the organization’s formal structure, division of labor, and managerial hierarchy. Fayolism aims to enhance efficiency by defining roles and responsibilities clearly and coordinating activities within departments. The principles of Fayolism have influenced modern management practices and continue to play a significant role in organizational management today.

What are the Functions of a Manager by Henri Fayol?

Henri Fayol’s functions of a manager include – planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.

What are the Industrial Activities in Administrative Theory?

Fayol’s industrial activities include the followings – technical activities, commercial activities, financial activities, security activities, accounting activities, and managerial activities.

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