It is undeniable that there are challenges in managing a diverse team of employees(Hill 2003, Robbins 2009). It is imperative that managers rely on the use of guidelines in order to lead and manage more effectively (Weihrich and Koontz 1994). Unfortunately, in the early 1900s there were very few management tools available to guide successful managers. Right from the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century, theorists like Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol, Max Weber, Abraham Maslow, Luther Gulick, Urwick, among other forerunners of management, recognized this gap hence begun to conduct researches and experiments to develop management tools (Witzel 2003).
The outcomes of their experiments and/or experiences to work for ancient industries in America and Europe led to the development of the management principles, also called theories or philosophies (Witzel 2003). One of them is a “classical theory” that signifies the beginning of the study of management as a study.
The classical theory combines three philosophies: Fayol’s administrative management; Taylor’s scientific management; and Max Weber’s Bureaucracy (i.e. organizational authority structures, rules and procedures, etc.). All three philosophies aim at helping an organisation attain greater efficiency. However, Henri Fayol’s 14 principles of management is the most comprehensive and popular among other principles of management. This is clearly true since many management authors (Fells 2000, Rodrigues 2001, Wren, Bedeian et al. 2002, Parker and Ritson 2005, Brunsson 2008) believe that his work is the foundation of the administrative management theory as we know it today (Urwick 1949, Wren, Bedeian et al. 2002, Witzel 2003).
Management researchers over years believe that organisations today are influenced by Fayol’s 14 principles of management(Rodrigues 2001, Brunsson 2008). But in the contemporary business environment, organisations are changing and so are the roles of managers (Todnem By 2005, Mullins 2007). For example, in the United States of America, many of its manufacturing industries have been relocated to other countries like China. Many Americans are therefore currently employed in the service sector which constitutes professions such as teaching, nursing, law, economics, among others (Morley and Frankel 1974). The US society has transitioned to a postindustrial era as result (Trist 1970).
Fundamentally, in the business environment today, there are ongoing changes in markets, cultures, laws, communication systems and technology (Simon 1973). These changes affects the way managers perform their responsibilities (Burke and Litwin 1992). For example, the decision making process becomes more complex in the today’s complex organizational structure than it was in the past (Morley and Frankel 1974). Hence, it is likely that modern managers translate these principles of management quite differently from the way they were used translated in the past. It is on this premise and based on the existing literature, the objective of this paper is therefore, to critically examine whether Henry Fayol’s 14 principles of management have any real value or application in the today’s business environment; where modern organisations use multi-disciplinary project teams to adapt to specific customer needs and environmental changes.