Skip navigation

2. The famous theories on the functions of management

As experts began studying and theorizing the essence of management, different ideas and concepts regarding the functions were born.

Although the theories about the functions of management lead to rather similar results, it can be helpful to study the differences as well as the historical journey to our current understanding of the functions.

Here are a few of the most influential theories and theorists, who’ve outlined their ideas about the functions of management.

George R. Terry

After Fayol, many theorists have looked at the functions and crafter their own ideas, deviating only slightly from Fayol’s core functions. George R. Terry wrote a book Principles of Management in 1968 and outlined his view on the principles. Terry believed there to be four core functions, each function posing and responding to a specific question the management must solve.


 Henri Fayol

Henri Fayol was the first to attempt classifying managerial activities into specific functions. The French engineer established the first principles of the classical management theory at the start of the last century.

As well as setting out 14 general principles of management, Fayol also defined the five core functions of management, which are still used and which form the basis of much of the later theories.

According to Henry Fayol,

 “To manage is to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, & to control”.

Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell

In 1976, Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell published an essay Management: A Systems and Contingency Analysis of Managerial Functions. They felt the previous studies have been effective in describing the functions, but believed the division should be more detailed. Koontz and O’Donnell believed there to be five key functions of management:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing
  • Directing/Leading
  • Controlling

These five functions of management have become perhaps the most cited.