Chester Barnard

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Chester Irving Barnard (November 7, 1886June 7, 1961) was an American business executive, public administrator, and the author of pioneering work in management theory and organizational studies


  • It is what we think we know that keeps us from learning.
    • Attributed to Chester Bernard in: Brand, Richard A. "Hypothesis-based research." Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 28.2 (1998): 71-73.

The Functions of the Executive (1938)[edit]

Chester Barnard 91938) The Functions of the Executive

  • At a crisis in my youth he taught me the wisdom of choice: To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.
    • p. 31
  • Effectiveness relates to the accomplishment of the cooperative purpose which is social and non-personal in character. Efficiency relates to the satisfaction of individual motives and is personal in character.
    • p. 60
  • The inculcation of belief in the real existence of a common purpose is an essential executive function.
    • p. 87
  • Planning is one of the many catchwords whose present popularity is roughly proportionate to the obscurity of its definition.
    • p. 112
  • An organization can secure the efforts necessary to its existence, then, either by the objective inducements it provides or by changing states of mind. It seems to me improbable that any organization can exist as a practical matter which does not employ both methods in combination. In some organizations the emphasis is on the offering of objective incentives — this is true of most industrial organizations. In others the preponderance is on the state of mind — this is true of most patriotic and religious organizations.
    • p. 141
  • The making of decisions, as everyone knows from personal experience, is a burdensome task. Offsetting the exhilaration that may result from correct and successful decision and the relief that follows the termination of a struggle to determine issues is the depression that comes from failure, or error of decision, and the frustration which ensues from uncertainty.
    • p. 189
  • Organizations endure, however, in proportion to the breadth of the morality by which they are governed. Thus the endurance of organization depends upon the quality of leadership; and that quality derives from the breadth of the morality upon which it rests.
    • p. 282

Organization and Management: Selected Papers (1948)[edit]

Barnard, C.I. (1948) Organization and Management: Selected Papers, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • When a condition of honesty and sincerity is recognized to exist, errors of judgment, defects of ability, are sympathetically endured. They are expected. Employees don’t ascribe infallibility to leaders or management. What does disturb them is insincerity and the appearance of insincerity when the facts are not in their possession.
    • p. 11
  • Prestige, competitive reputation, social philosophy, social standing, philanthropic interests, combativeness, love of intrigue, dislike of friction, technical interest, Napoleonic dreams, love of accomplishing useful things, desire for regard of employees, love of publicity, fear of publicity – a long catalogue of non-economic motives actually condition the management of business, and nothing but the balance sheet keeps these non-economic motives from running wild. Yet without all these incentives, I think most business would be a lifeless failure.
    • p. 15
  • It is in the nature of a leader’s work that he should be a realist and should recognize the need for action, even when the outcome cannot be foreseen, but also that he should be idealist and in the broadest sense pursue goals some of which can only be attained in a succeeding generation of leaders. Many leaders when they reach the apex of their powers have not long to go, and they press onward by paths the ends of which they will not themselves reach. In business, in education, in government, in religion, again and again, I see men who, I am sure, are dominated by this motive, though unexpressed, and by some queer twist of our present attitudes often disavowed. Yet, ‘Old men [and old women] plant trees’... to shape the present for the future by the surplus of thought and purpose which we now can muster seems the very expression of the idealism which underlies such social coherence as we presently achieve, and without this idealism we see no worthy meaning in our lives, our institutions, or our culture.

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