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Fayol's Principle of Division of Work - Meaning, Example, Explanation

Principle of Division of Work

In context of this article, let's revise the meaning of following words:

  1. Division of something (e.g. an object, a process, work, etc.) means to divide, chop or break it up into smaller parts to facilitate a better understanding, easier handling and operation, and focused observation on a fixed set of goals. It is a way to separate things apart based on some established criteria like quality, quantity, nature of work, so on. It untangles, simplifies, and narrows down various complexities that were involved prior separation. It helps to ease and enhance the efficiency of managing a giant complex task through smaller chunks that are easy to handle.
  2. Work is any assigned job, task, duty, goal or an objective one is supposed to accomplish (achieve) before the deadline (on-time) and as expected at the expense of one's mental and physical labour to earn the desired reward (usually monetary but not always) in return.

With this understanding, let's grasp the meaning of division of work:

meaning of division of work

Image credits © Gaurav Akrani.

  1. Division of Work means to divide or break up a single complicated job into different smaller specialised tasks.
  2. Here, each of these smaller tasks is handled separately probably by an expert or a team working under his command.
  3. In case, these tasks are dependent on each other's completion, they are achieved separately and procedurally one after another.
  4. When all smaller tasks complete as expected, they all together help to accomplish the single complicated job.

Study the following image depicting an example of division of work.

example of division of work

Image credits © Gaurav Akrani.

Consider for an example, for the first time in your life you have planned to construct a beautiful dream house at your favourite location. Before initiating the actual phase of construction work, you do some pre-research regarding how to build a house systematically. You figure out which crucial steps you'll need to carry out and professional services you'll need to access, communicate, negotiate and hire. After getting acquainted with the basic construction procedure and having the necessary funds in hand, you start further planning accordingly.

You divide the combined work of house construction as follows:

  1. First, you hire an Architect to prepare the layout plan of your house as per your needs.
  2. Once the house plan is ready, you then contact and hire a civil contractor to build your house as per the approved plan.
  3. When primary construction phase ends, you finally hire an interior designer to enhance the beauty or aesthetic feel of your dream house.

The division of work does not stop at the above three steps else it further bifurcates into numerous specialised works as listed below.

Architect divides his work of preparing the layout plan of house among:

  1. Draftsman,
  2. 3D-Designer,
  3. Structural Designer, etc.

Civil contractor divides his work of house construction among:

  1. Civil Engineer,
  2. Supervisor,
  3. Masons,
  4. Labours,
  5. Welder,
  6. Electrician,
  7. Plumber, so on.

Interior Designer realises his creative aesthetic concept from:

  1. Carpenter,
  2. False Ceiling installer,
  3. Painter,
  4. Tiler,
  5. Windows installer,
  6. Handyman,
  7. Electrician,
  8. Landscaper, etc.

In fact, efficient completion of each of the above listed numerous specialised works overall helps to progress gradually and ultimately finish the single difficult job of a house construction.

Explanation of Henri Fayol's Principle of Division of Work:

principle of division of work

Image credits © Gaurav Akrani.

  1. In French, Henri Fayol originally called it ‘La Division Du Travail’ in his influential book ‘Administration Industrielle et Générale.’
  2. According to Fayol, the ‘Division of Work’ or ‘Specialization’ is of the natural order. That is this principle is present and seen operating in nature too.
  3. It is noticeable in the animal world. If a creature is highly developed, then its organs are also highly differentiated to efficiently carry out numerous specialized bodily functions to sustain the whole body itself. For example, a unicellular animal called Amoeba is physically less complicated than a multicellular Human Being. In other words, the Human body has more specialized organs compared to Amoeba‘s body.
  4. It is also noticeable in our human societies or communities. When society grows from its primitive stage to a developed (civilised) one, new dedicated social organs (agencies) also start appearing and developing within its sphere by dividing and replacing the functions of old organs. For example, when a small town transforms into a giant metropolitan city the role, functions, scale of operation of its local administrative body also expands, divide and becomes much more complicated than its previous stage.
  5. When an entrepreneur starts a company, most of the important business activities at the initial phase of setup are personally managed and handled by himself. However, as the company grows, he hires staff to support such a growth. He assigns his newly appointed staff various duties and some key responsibilities that earlier he was personally handling and managing. In other words, he now doesn't do the same work he was earlier doing else he now get it done from his qualified staff instead. As the activities of the company expand further, newer branch offices, departments, positions, personnel, etc. also starts expanding and widely replacing the functions of a single person who once founded the business. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, who founded the Facebook.
  6. The objective of the division of work is to get more work done in a better way with the same effort and become productive.
  7. If a person is engaged routinely in the same type of occupation, after some time, as a consequence of his routine he automatically acquires some expertise, skill, sureness, accuracy and precision over how to do it in a better and efficient way. Such an ability develops as a result of his numerous hours of work and regular practice. Knowledge acquired through routine work process makes him more competent than those who lack such an experience.
  8. According to Henri Fayol, when there is a change in individual's occupation (work) it results in the phase of adaptation that demands efforts for adjusting to the new job. Each change of routine work reduces the output, decreases the yield or productivity of an individual. However, an individual's performance can be regained through quality training, regular practice, earned experience, and passage of time.
  9. Division of work helps to reduce the number of objects (*) towards whom some attention and efforts need to be focused and directed. It is the best-recognized means (way) to make the best use of individuals and teams (groups of people) in most work-related environments. Note: (*) Here, objects are those individuals whose regular job (duty) has been changed or altered and on whose shoulders newer responsibilities are laden, and are, therefore, going through the phase of adaptation.
  10. The principle of Division of Work not just applies to the technical work. It is also applicable to all other types of jobs where there is a need or demand for less or more individuals who specializes in different areas and have the essential set of skills or talents.
  11. As a consequence, the division of work mainly results in:
    1. Specialization of functions - Here, tasks are separated into different functions or roles according to the expertise of one's nature of work.
    2. Separation of powers - It means there is a distribution of authority.
  12. The advantages of division of work are now universally recognized.
  13. Even though the principle is applicable in most work-related scenarios, it is still subjected to limitations like:
    1. Doing the same type of work for a longer period makes it monotonous.
    2. Since labor or work is divided, it greatly increases interdependency.
    3. Also, since the focus in only on executing one's assigned part of work, there is a lack of the spirit of collective responsibility.
  14. Conscious of such limitations or shortcomings, Sir Henri Fayol, recommended using:
    1. The principle of division of labour in moderation and not in excess.
    2. One's wise judgement earned from years of work experience.

Read following articles related to Henri Fayol:

  1. Henri Fayol's 14 Principles of Management.
  2. Administrative Management Theory by Henri Fayol.

References (2)

Following authoritative books were referred to compile this article and are also recommended for further clarity on the Principle of Division of Work:

  1. Henri Fayol. Administration Industrielle et Générale. Part 2. Chapter No.1. Page No.26 and 27.
  2. Constance Storrs. General and Industrial Management, 2013 Edition. Part II. Chapter No.IV. Page No.19 and 20. Martino Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61427-459-9.

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