British management theory and practice: the impact of Fayol

Ian Smith (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Trevor Boyns (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of Fayol's ideas on both British management thought and practice.


The paper presents a schematic which seeks to illustrate the links between the various strands of scientific management theory, especially that of Fayol, in Britain between the 1920s and the 1960s/1970s and, for the same period, the links between the theory and practice of scientific management. The links indicated in the schematic are assessed first through an examination of the development of British management thought, in particular the exemplification of Fayol's ideas by Lyndall Fownes Urwick and the British neoclassical school. Using archival evidence from a small number of engineering companies, the impact on practice of the ideas of Fayol and other aspects of scientific management is then examined.


The paper concludes that, while Fayol's theoretical influence has stood the test of time, his impact on practice was much more limited.


By focusing on the historical impact on practice of management theory, this paper not only provides a basis for future research by business and management historians, but also throws light on the relevance for practice of theory, an issue of relevance for all theoreticians and management practitioners.



Smith, I. and Boyns, T. (2005), "British management theory and practice: the impact of Fayol", Management Decision, Vol. 43 No. 10, pp. 1317-1334.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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