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Functions of the Executive

Chester I. Barnard’s The Functions Of The Executive presents the theories distilled by Barnard from decades at AT&T (Bell). Barnard sees the organization as “A system of consciously cooperative personal activities or forces” (72). Barnard is not an academic and his popularity has waned in recent decades among academics and executives. However, modern global and multicultural organizational realities on both the internal and external level that mandate Barnard’s worldview have created a renewed interest in his theories. Barnard views the functions of the executive as threefold: 1) To provide a system of communication, 2) To promote the securing of essential personal efforts, and 3) To formulate and design a purpose for the organization.

Barnard views the organization from a systems perspective. He argues that the condition of efficiency can only be satisfied by meeting the needs of employees. Individual motives must be satisfied to create what Barnard calls a “surplus of satisfaction” (58). Without this, the organization will not be efficient. While the cooperative system maintains a system goal, it is only possible to achieve if efficiency is generated by meeting individual needs “Although effectiveness of cooperative effort relates to accomplishment of an objective of the system and is determined with a view to the system’s requirements, efficiency relates to the satisfaction of individual motives” (Barnard 56).

Aside from these two processes (the system of cooperation as a whole in relation to the environment and the creation or distribution of satisfaction among individuals), Barnard argues that there is another element critical to the effectiveness of cooperative systems – innovations of specialization. As he notes “The effectiveness of cooperative systems depends almost entirely upon the invention or adoption of


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Functions of the Executive. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:13, February 21, 2017, from