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Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

 Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

American business executive and expert on management (pictured right)

He died in 1961.


See also...

Chester Barnard in the Management Gurus section. 


Book summary


The functions of an executive  

 Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

1. Defining purpose

An organization’s success depends on:

  • creating a common purpose.
  • building great relationships with customers, suppliers, creditors and employees.

 Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

2. Co-operation

Making sure:

  • people work well together.
  • employees are effectively co-ordinated (to achieve the organization’s objectives).

All acts of the organization and its employees are

“directly or indirectly interconnected and interdependent”.


3. Persuasion

Inspiring excellent results by:

  • financial and non-financial rewards like interesting work.
  • satisfying employees’ motives or needs (Barnard’s definition of efficiency).
  • the integrity (see point 4) and interpersonal skills of management.Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

A manager’s authority doesn't depend on hierarchical position but on:

  • consent.
  • functional skills.


4. Moral action (integrity)

Ensuring that managers’ (and their employees’) actions are based upon their personal morals.

So managers must:Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

  • deal with conflicting moral demands (for example, to family, religion and organization).
  • improve the organization’s performance whilst keeping people’s integrity, free will and self-respect.

So leadership and management must:

  • have a moral purpose.
  • ensure that work is seen as rewarding and morally right.


5. Communication

Effectively communicating the objectives of the organization and its employees through:Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

  • the informal organization (informal contacts).
  • the formal organization (managers’ official communications in the hierarchy).

People accept a manager’s communication when they:

  • understand it and are physically and mentally able to do it.
  • believe it helps their objectives (through work that is morally right and rewarding).

 Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (1938)

6. Teamwork

Managers must:

  • delegate.
  • encourage people to take responsibility for making decisions.


Key quote on management

The inculcation of belief in the real existence of a common purpose is an essential executive function.


Key quote on leadership

The endurance of organizations depends upon the quality of leadership and that quality derives from the breadth of the morality upon which it rests.

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