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48 Principles of Management

 , updated on March 18, 2023
Management principles are guidelines that can be established to shape the management culture of an organization or the career of a manager. These are typically broadly applicable first principles that you can hold to be true if you find that they improve your work. Whether or not they are universally true is debatable as their validity and utility are more likely to depend on your industry and mission. The following are useful management principles.
Division of work
Dividing work into specialized tasks that require specialized skills to increase productivity, efficiency and quality.
Business as usual
In the midst of disruption, problems and rapidly evolving change keep your core business running as normally as possible i.e. don't panic and shut everything down.
Interchangeable parts
Use standard things that can be replaced quickly i.e. try not to depend on unique and irreplaceable things.
Unity of command
The management team of an organization cooperate in the interests of the organization e.g. no empire building.
Unity of direction
Management issue clear direction to employees that isn't absurdly paradoxical.
Chain of command
Authority is clear allocated and employees are expected to follow orders.
Chain of accountability
Accountability is tied to authority. Blame can't be shifted to those without power.
Latent human error
Human error is designed out. Blaming human error is indicative of a lack of accountability.
Subordination of individual interest
Organizations pursue common goals. This generally requires individual sacrifice.
Division of power
Teams and individuals need the right amount of authority to complete their work.
Fit for purpose
The quality of things, including internal processes, should be suited to their purpose. Excessive quality such as perfectionism may be required for high value work but not for low value work.
Disagree and commit
There is a time to speak your mind and a time to get behind a strategy that has been adopted by management.
Customer obsession
Doing what's best for the customer as a first principle.
Ownership
It's not acceptable to say "that's not my job." Help to move things forward.
Structure follows strategy
The structure of an organization, such as a hierarchy, is a crucial element of strategy. Never build an org structure based on office politics but rather based on what the organization is trying to achieve.
Essential complexity
Make things exactly as complex as they need to be. Avoid senseless minimalism and complexity for the sake of complexity.
Keep it simple
Avoid the common tendencies to overthink, overplan, oversocialize decisions and overengineer things.
Law of holes
If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Recognize failure and try to learn from it or find value in it.
Fail well
Test ideas with experiments that fail quickly, cheaply and safely.
Fail often
Frequently experiment and take calculated risks. A lack of failure is a hallmark of mediocrity.
Segregation of duties
Strategically divide duties to prevent misuse of power.
Least privilege
Avoid granting more authority and authorization than is required to achieve objectives.
Radical transparency
Avoid needless secrecy. If your power or competitive advantage is based on secrecy, this is pretty weak.
Management by walking around
Managers are visible at every level of an organization.
Heliotropic effect
Build people up and expect much of them and they might deliver.
Productive assumptions
Assumptions don't need to be accurate as much as they need to help you achieve objectives.
Pareto principle
The rule of thumb that the first 20% of work can produce 80% of value.
Ship often
The principle that you deliver value frequently in small chunks.
Minimum viable product
Getting things in front of the customer, client and user as quickly as possible to improve it.
Creative tension
The principle that social tension such as arguments improve creativity. Avoid mediocrity in the name of social harmony.
There's more than one way to do it
There is no perfect approach, just many good approaches.
Contingency theory
Managers need not have a single style as it's more rational to adapt your style to the situation.
Last responsible moment
The principle that you not make decisions or complete work until it is really required.
Worse is better
The observation that removing things can add value. For example, removing steps from a process.
Think global act local
The principle that you think-through the full impacts of your actions on the world.
Preserving ambiguity
Avoid making assumptions too early.
Critical mass
There is a size or volume that is required to be efficient.
Regression toward the mean
Usual events and results tend to normalize.
Eliminate waste
Eliminate needless materials, energy use, work and cost.
Genchi genbutsu
A Japanese management principle often translated "go and see." Suggests that managers need to understand all the roles, processes and projects under their authority.
Kaizen
Continually improve all things.
Long-term Philosophy
Change often but root things in a long term philosophy.
Visual problems
Design things so that problems become immediately apparent.
Jidoka
Automation is understood and monitored by accountable humans.
Safety first
All employees have authority to stop processes that aren't safe.
Heijunka
A steady workload is preferable to peaks and valleys.

Notes

Several of the principles above are the ideas of Henri Fayol. Others originated with Amazon leadership principles and Toyota management principles. See references below.

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References

Fayol, Henri. General and industrial management. Ravenio Books, 2016.
Kantor, Jodi, and David Streitfeld. "Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace." The New York Times 15.08 (2015): 1-19.
Liker, Jeffrey K. Toyota way: 14 management principles from the world's greatest manufacturer. McGraw-Hill Education, 2021.

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