Luther H. Gulick

American academic (1892-1993)

Luther Halsey Gulick (17 January 1892 - 10 January 1993) was an American political scientist, Eaton Professor of Municipal Science and Administration at Columbia University, and Director of its Institute of Public Administration, known as an expert on public administration.

The efficiency of a group working together is directly related to the homogeneity of the work they are performing.



"Notes on the Theory of Organization," 1937


Luther H. Gulick (1937), "Notes on the Theory of Organization," in: L.H. Gulick & L. Urwick (eds.), Papers on the science of administration. New York,: Institute of Public Administration, Columbia University, 1937. p. 1-46

  • It is appropriate at the outset of this discussion to consider the reasons for and the effect of the division of work. It is sufficient for our purpose to note the following factors.
Why Divide Work?
  • Because men differ in nature, capacity and skill, and gain greatly in dexterity by specialization;
  • Because the same man cannot be at two places at the same time;
  • Because one man cannot do two things at the same time;
  • Because the range of knowledge and skill is so great that a man cannot within his life-span know more than a small fraction of it. In other words, it is a question of human nature, time, and space.
In a shoe factory it would be possible to have 1,000 men each assigned to making complete pairs of shoes...
  • p. 3 ; on the division of work
  • The theory of organization... has to do with the structure of co-ordination imposed upon the work-division units of an enterprise.
    • p. 3
  • The efficiency of a group working together is directly related to the homogeneity of the work they are performing.
    • p. 9-10
  • What is the work of the chief executive? What does he do?
The answer is POSDCORB.
POSDCORB is, of course, a made-up word designed to call attention to the various functional elements of the work of a chief executive because "administration" and "management" have lost all specific content. POSDCORB is made up of the initials and stands for the following activities:
Planning, that is working out in broad outline the things that need to be done and the methods for doing them to accomplish the purpose set for the enterprise;
Organizing, that is the establishment of the formal structure of authority through which work subdivisions are arranged, defined and co-ordinated for the defined objective;
Staffing, that is the whole personnel function of bringing in and training the staff and maintaining favorable conditions of work;
Directing, that is the continuous task of making decisions and embodying them in specific and general orders and instructions and serving as the leader of the enterprise;
Co-ordinating, that is the all important duty of interrelating the various parts of the work;
Reporting, that is keeping those to whom the executive is responsible informed as to what is going on, which thus includes keeping himself and his subordinates informed through records, research and inspection;
Budgeting, with all that goes with budgeting in the form of fiscal planning, accounting and control.
  • [POSDCORB as]... statement of the work of a chief executive is adapted from the functional analysis elaborated by Henri Fayol in his "Industrial and General Administration." It is believed that those who know administration intimately will find in this analysis a valid and helpful pattern, into which can be fitted each of the major activities and duties of any chief executive.
  • Students of administration have long sought a single principle of effective departmentalization just as alchemists sought the philosophers' stone. But they have sought in vain. There is apparently no one most effective system of departmentalism.
    • p. 31
  • The power of an idea to serve as the foundation of co-ordination is so great that one may observe many examples of co-ordination even in the absence of any single leader or of any framework of authority.
    • p. 38
  • It may also be noted that the authoritarian states are in trouble internationally. Some regard this as intentional, as part of the diversion and scapegoat technique, while others think that it is more or less inevitable because of the very co-ordination of the economic activities of the individual nations in question.
    • p. 40
  • A workman subject to orders from several superiors will be confused, inefficient, and irresponsible; a workman subject to orders from but one superior may be methodical, efficient, and responsible.
    • p. 43

"Science, values and public administration," 1937


Luther H. Gulick, "Science, values and public administration." Papers on the Science of Administration (1937): 189-195.

  • Administration has to do with getting things done; with the accomplishment of defined objectives. The science of administration is thus the system of knowledge whereby men may understand relationships, predict results, and influence outcomes in any situation where men are organized at work together for a common purpose.
    • p. 189; cited in: Marshall W. Meyer (1985), Limits to Bureaucratic Growth, p. 18
  • Public administration is that part of the science of administration which has to do with government, and thus concerns itself primarily with the executive branch, where the work of government is done, though there are obviously administrative problems also in connection with the legislative and the judicial branches. Public administration is thus a division of political science, and one of the social sciences.
    • p. 189
  • At the present time administration is more an art than a science; in fact there are those who assert dogmatically that it can never be anything else. They draw no hope from the fact that metallurgy, for example, was completely an art several centuries before it became primarily a science and commenced its great forward strides after generations of intermittent advance and decline.
    • p. 189; cited in: W. Bartley Hildreth et al. (eds.), Handbook of Public Administration, Second Edition,1997, p. 754
  • The fundamental objective of the science of administration is the accomplishment of the work in hand with the least expenditure of man-power and materials. Efficiency is thus axiom number one in the value scale of administration. This brings administration into apparent conflict with certain elements of the value scale of politics, whether we use that term in its scientific or in its popular sense. But both public administration and politics are branches of political science, so that we are in the end compelled to mitigate the pure concept of efficiency in the light of the value scale of politics and the social order. There are, for example, highly inefficient arrangements like citizen boards and small local governments which may be necessary in a democracy as educational devices. It has been argued also that the spoils system, which destroys efficiency in administration, is needed to maintain the political party, that the political party is needed to maintain the structure of government, and that without the structure of government, administration itself will disappear. While this chain of causation has been disproved under certain conditions, it none the less illustrates the point that the principles of politics may seriously affect efficiency. Similarly in private business it is often true that the necessity for immediate profits growing from the system of private ownership may seriously interfere with the achievement of efficiency in practice.
    • p. 192-193

Quotes about Luther H. Gulick

  • Gulick divided the work of chief executives into seven functional elements. He used the acronym POSDCORB, representing the initials of the following activities, Planning... , Organizing... , Staffing... , Directing..., Coordinating..., Reporting..., Budgeting... Although Gulick visualized management as universal activity, his description of the preceding elements of a chief executive’s job primarily pertained to governmental administration. Gulick went on to identify four basic systems of departmentalization: purpose, process, person or things, and place. He held that "the major purpose of organization is co-ordination." In Gulick’s scheme, there is no one most effective system of departmentalization.