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The Functions of the Executive: 30th Anniversary Edition 30 Anv Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674328037
ISBN-10: 0674328035
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Editorial Reviews


Mr. Barnard has made a masterly contribution in his realistic treatment of such topics as informal organization, incentives, and the moral aspects of leadership. (Harvard Business Review)

From the ranks of the country's leading executives comes a major contribution to the understanding of our society... The author presents an analysis of the nature of business organizations and the functions of executives in them. He has been able to stand apart from the minutiae 0f his everyday experiences and to view them as part of the orderly functioning of the organization as a whole ... The work has important implications, for it points the way to the development of more effective co-operative systems and at the same time to the development and communication of the executive techniques essential to such systems. (The American Journal of Sociology)

One of the contemporary classics on administration. It has contributed a great deal to organization theory. Often quoted, it is a basic work by a successful executive. (Business Management)

From the Back Cover

Now reprinted for the eighteenth time, 'The Functions of the Executive' has steadily increased in influence and circulation since its first appearance.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 30 Anv edition (January 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674328035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674328037
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Outside the Barnard Society and a few scattered industrial-psychology departments, this book is, unfortunately, no longer taken very seriously. It is used mostly as a historical piece, "see how management theory used to be," or as a foil for the arguments of competing theories.
Barnard's perspective is that of human cooperation, management by consensus, and voluntary effort. Employees who are treated well will work well; managers should gain respect through kindness; any workplace conflict signals a failure of the management; and so on and so on. He was either an idealist (as some claim) or a cunning, cynically manipulative defender of capitalist organization during an economic downturn (as others claim). He was either a genius (as some claim) or a businessman with little formal education and professorial prtentions (as others claim).
Historically speaking, Barnard's book represents a focus on the human side of employee management, and away from the Frederick Taylor -esque treatment of all employees as production machines. This "softness" of his has made him unpopular today -- just as his failure to acknowledge any "class conflict" made him unpopular in the 60s and 70s.
But Barnard is an original, not someone to be pigeonholed into a category, and the ultimate test of a book like this is not authorial intent, but what it does for your mind, and what it does for you as a manager. For me, on both counts, it has been tremendously useful. Reading Barnard gave me powerful intellectual insights -- something I wouldn't even hope to get in today's "management books" -- and has informed the way I think about and deal with coworkers and subordinates on a daily basis. A very valuable read; perhaps one of the first three books I would give an up and coming manager or entrepreneur.
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Format: Paperback
I've been teaching from this book for 29 years. Barnard's insights on authority, executive morals, responsibility, formal and informal organization,
organizational purpose, and decision making are fundamental to the understanding of human behavior in the organizational setting.

Members of the Barnard Society (U.S.A and International) meet regularly and exchange papers that share their latest insights and applications of his wisdom. Industrial engineering and political science are the predominant backgrounds of the legions of Barnard fans.

The book is a difficult read, but worth the effort. As Chester might say, "the benefits-to-burdens ratio is greater than one," so readership grows annually.

........ G. L. Smith,
Professor and Chair Emeritus,
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering,
The Ohio State Univeristy
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By A Customer on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
Chester Barnard is the Peter Drucker from before World War II. Many of the concepts and of ideas Chester Barnard are essential in the teachings of Peter Drucker and Jim Collins. Like for example the importance attached to defining the purpose of a business and that the purpose of a business is not to make a profit. Profit is an essential condition for survival.
Given that the ideas can be found in other more recent books, is it still worthwhile to read this book? It definitely is if you are interested in very precise, almost philosophical formulations, about what the purpose of a company is, and what the essential functions of chief executives are.Chester Barnard writes as a superb academic but was a highly successful Chief Executive. That makes this book unique. There is no better book, yet.
One original concept presented is that businesses are alive. This same concept was further developed in the book "The living company " by Arie de Geus and is still an innovative concept to day.
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Format: Paperback
I am impressed by Barnard's work. He has magnificently put on paper, issues that are taught in any business school today, as if they had always been natural. But it is obvious that the process to deduct from simpler to complex his theory demanded hard work and a life experience. What strikes me most is the immensity of his work, which embodies all the managerial aspects, challenge that would be unthinkable today. But I must say, if only he had done it simpler. Anyhow, it is amazing how often one finds issues such as the recognition of informal organizations, his conception of authority, his conception of efficiency and effectiveness and many others in nowadays oral business tradition. Also, his approach to the organization conceptually and as a system of cooperation formed by individuals, seem strongly logical today, moreover when he considers the relevance of the recognition of informal organizations within the formal ones. This means that the result of his work is not only updated but also in use.
I can see how his predecessors as Taylor, Mayo and Fayol influenced him, and I can understand them and value their work much better now. This relation is evident to me, when I remember having criticized Fayol for his "should be" executive. However; I can see clearly now, through Barnard's description of the decision process as a moral activity more than intellectual which helps me perceive Fayol's meaning. This is obvious if one considers the executive process as a balance, more than a technique, seen by its outputs. On the other hand, Barnard's concept of efficiency, considering the distribution of a surplus, whether economic or not, is somehow similar to Mayo's search in his book.
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