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In the modern period of human history, the division of labour in all but the smallest organisations has come to include the specialist role of a manager.
These people are required to step back from and stand above the basic operations and tasks of the organisation and in the famous words of Henri Fayol, ‘forecast, plan, organise, command, co-ordinate and control’.
Henri Fayol and Frederick Taylor who coined the term scientific management, pushed the notion that there should be a body of specialist knowledge and expertise which managers would apply to work organisation. This notion gives us what Tony Watson 2006 characterises as a systems control notion of management.
Systems control thinking frames the organisation as a big machine, which is designed by expert managers, who then staff it with employees, who fulfil the organisations goals through playing out the designed roles.
Systems control framing of managerial work, suggests a
- managers work is to design, control and maintain the organisation as a big social machine.
- This work is done by managers only who are skilled and knowledgeable experts as they are the organisation designers and drivers.
- And it involves the application of neutral technical expertise (often affected by informal, implicit understanding, self interest, politics, and negotiation).
- It also suggests that managers do not further their own interests but to fulfil the organization’s goals.
But organisation don’t have goals, they aren’t living. It is only humans which can give them goals, top management sets the goals, and these top managers will have self interests, so this framing is not realistic or the way things are in practise.
Why systems control thinking is attractive and used
The concept of highly trained individuals engineering the big organisational machine that is present in modern societies has proved to b seductive and powerful.
This is because it gives those in the profession of educating and training managers an essential purpose, a raison d’etre. Not only this, but the belief in the possibility of a body of objective knowledge and politically neutral managerial expertise provides further comfort and reassurance by avoiding recognition that managing and controlling in any filed of human activity is bound to meet resistance an is bound to involve managers in conflicts and power relations.
The implicit modernist faith that all of this is being done for the sake of general human progress helps avoid tricky questions about right and wrong, and who might win and who might lose with regard to any to any particular organisational innovation or managerial initiative. Anything that is done in the name of reason, it is assumed , is bound to be for the best.
No matter how attractive this concept is, it is weak as it is not realistic and thus unhelpful. Because organisations do not have goals, they have tasks that must be done e.g. manufacture cars, and at the same time it is the people in the organisation who have diverse interests and goals what are not that of the organisation. The attraction of the idea of organisational goals , is that it gives the organisation a politically neutral existence and an politically neutral managerial activities.
It is only human beings who can have goals, in the organisations goals emerge out of the thoughts and wants of the individuals in it. if we personify the organisation if can lead to a danger of over simplifying really complex matters in the organisation. And we would be leaving out the analysis of all the human actions, choices, interpretations, negotiations, and choices that must be taken into account if we seriously want to understand what is going on. For example if a manager adopts a systems control frame in destining and allocating tasks in work, they may not consider people work orientation, ie why they come to work, the task allocation they design and dictate may them be inappropriate to motivate individuals, and this may lead to poor productivity, and wasted human resources that would not be contributing to taking the organisation into the future.
Individuals in the organisation will all have diverse goals and interests and for a manager to start out by assuming that they are presuming the same organisational goals in naïve, and the job of a manager in reality is to align these interest, through negotiation, manipulation etc.
Because of the above limitations of systems control framing we need an understanding of managerial work that which is derived from a more sophisticated and realistic process relational was of understanding the organisation.
Process relational framing of the organisation suggests that the organisation is an association of people or a set of relationships always in flux. Organising thus involves continuous social, political, cultural, technological, economic and moral processes to achieve certain tasks.
These relationships of cooperation do not automatically come about they need to be shaped and managed, they have to be worked for and won by the manager. A manager cant directly control people to do what they want, they have to indirectly manipulate and negotiate with them to achieve successful task completion. Shaping and reshaping, negotiation and renegotiating, mediating, persuading, exchanging, and trading will have to continually occur if the organisation is going to complete the tasks undertaken in its name an to continue into the future.
This was of understanding organisational life, togther with the research evidience of how manager behavive and actually do in pratice, suggests that magaerial work is not a matter of excerising specialised scientific knowledge to drive the big social machine challed the organisation as systems control pushes us to think. A more realistic under standing of managerial work is:
- Managerial work is not a matter of applying a science or a bundle of knowledge
- It is a social, moral political , cultural and economic art, requiring skills in negotiating, persuation, politicking. Trading, ie it is craft requiring
- It needs the ability to sensiviely interpret the thoughts and wants of other as they are human not physical resources
- The ability to shape meanings value and human commitments.
The above is what in process relational terms is managerial work, rather than management, this is done so that it is easier to under stand the function and the broad activity of managerial work or ‘managing’ and distinguish between them.
Management- is the over all shaping of relationships , understandings and processes within a work organisation to bring about the completion of the tasks undertaken in the organisation’s name in such a way that the organisation continues into the future.
However this dimension of the overall phenomenon has to be seen alongside two other dimensions. Management is the function that must be fulfilled in every organisation, maybe by own person, or by many members in the organisation. The first of these is the activity of the ‘managerial work’. Is the action or things that are done to give direction to the range of activities that go on in the organisation.
The other dimension is the set of working roles that make up the set of people, who are the ‘managers’ in the organisation. This is the formal role. In practise we confuse these 2 dimensions because we use one term, which is management for all three. It is important to keep this 3 way distinction in mind whenever we sre thinking analytically about management.
The relevance to managerial practice of this three-dimensional view of the management can be illustrated by looking at the participant observation research in which the distinction was first developed by Watson 2001.
In a discussion with Ted Meadows, a manager in the company being stuied, he pointed out that, the company wants to distinguish between problems caused by having the wrong managers, and problems caused by having the right managers, who are non the less performing they wrong activities. Distinguishing between these problems was essential, as the manager was contemplating getting rid on he ‘managers’ as the over ‘management’ of the company was weak, but the managers he had were very skilled and good but the ‘managerial work’ they were doing was not right.
Had he sacked these managers he would have lost talented managers, and the management of the company would have further declined. The researcher found that the managers in the company were very capable and skilled, contrary to Meadows view that they weren’t good, but the tasks they were given by top management and the priorities imposed on them were such that their abilities were not being used in a good way. Thus we can see that the distinguishing of the terms is essential as it leads to very different practical consequences, i.e. task redesign or firing the managers.
The simplistic inference that bad management is a result of having bad managers can be a very dangerous one, in practical terms, given the very real possibility that bad management can arise from the misuse of managerial talents, as readily as from the appointment of incompetent individuals to fill managerial roles.
Thus we can see a great deal of difference from blind adoption of theory, and material work in practice.
(Distinguishing also important was just because you cant see or define clear cut managerial activity, or panning, controlling etc does not mean that the function is not being fulfilled, it is but in an indirect way).
There are two other implications of the three dimensional model of management:
- Management is a strategic matter, and the logic of both the job of the manager and the work of managing is on one on contributing to the shaping and the directing of the organisation as a whole. Some managers are more directly involved in strategic matters than other. And some more clearly take on leadership roles than others.
- While there cannot be organisations without management, it does not follow that the organisation needs formal managers to have management.
Management is conceptualised very deliberately as being concerned with the continuation of the organisation into the future. We could call this a strategy centred view of organisational management.
It would be less helpful to recognise managers as people who are simply in charge of a particular activity and who fulfil the function without any refrence to how the activity relates to the over all shaping, directing and performance of the organisation.
A manager is most usefully seen to be a manager by vitue of how they relate the particular tasks they do to the over all pattern of tasks and priorties of the organisation as a whole.
The second point is that, organisations must have management but not neceaarly managers. It is often sensible and practical to create posts within the organisation’s overall division of labour who involve them self more in the shaping and directing og work activities, than in the direct work of production, or manufacturing or goods or services. But this is only a matter of organisational design choice and not something that is essential. And this goes against the systems-control thinking which see it vital to have an engineer and driver of the organisation, special to all other employees.
This is related to contingency thinking, that suggests that the way an organisation is managed and organisational choices is dependent on factors such as technology, size etc, so at times it may be appropriate to have a manager position, while at other times for example a very small firm such as a two man surveying company, the people who do the work could also manage the organisation which out the name tag of a manager. However once an organisation reaches a certain size it is often more efficient to have managerial only roles. We can thus clearly see that a manager is not needed to manage the organisation in all situations.
There are many way of managing an organisation, for example worker cooperatives and self managed enterprises have come into and gone out of fashion at several times in history, and it is possible that some of their principles with be considered once again as new options are sought for organising work in a technologically and globally changing world, this again this high lights that organisational choices are made in the light of contingencies.
But at present, what actually do managers do, and how do we make sense of what we observe when social scientists go out to study every day managerial behaviour.
Research on what managers actually do in the real world rather than text books, was carried out from the 1950 to the 1960 by for example, Tom Burns, Tony Watson, and Melville Dalton.
(talk about direct and indirect control, official and unofficial structure, this un official behaviour and activities supports the official culture and goals. Barnard 1938 argued that an executives job was not to attend directly to the official structure and culture of an organisation but to shape what he saw was the more informal aspects of the organisation, that in aggregate contribute to the strategy that will take the organisation into the future)
The picture that emerges from what mangers actually do is one of which:
- Managers are endlessly on the move from one task to another. Their day is highly fragmented as they rapidly switch from one issue to another and from one social interaction to another (might be to understand each employees work orientation, manage all constituencies make a decision, negotiated order, ) (garbage can)
- They spend a great deal of time talking with people. This occurs on the telephone, in formal meetings, and in conversations what occur inside and outside the workplace, in offices, in corridors, (various consistencies)
When walking to see people on the job. A large proportion of these conversations are with people who the manager has no authority (constituencies that he has no direct control over, but he has to stratigically get them on his side so the organisation can progress, politicking).( or indulgency theory allowing so that when organisation needs something in the future they do it for him)
- Managerial looks reactive, and rarely appears to follow a sequence of reflective planning followed by actions to implement specific decision (this may be because of the garbage can model , there are many choices, problems, solutions, people, interests, that all have to be managed as things happen to make a decision thus even if a planned decision was made it may have to be changed in the light of all these things)
- Managers rely a great deal on gossip hearsay and guess work to keep informed. Formal reports and management information systems play only a small part in informing managerial thinking, and what is taken from these tends to be contextulaised by more informal sources of knowledge and insight.
- They thus spend little time analysing formal information in the office or systematically plan how they are going to spend time (consider the motivation of employees, a manager can plan this in isolation, they have to interact with employee and decide what to do in the light of the workers work orientation and changes in their life etc, they cant just plan and implement)
- Manager are rarely seen getting their was or getting tasks done by giving direct command to subordinates ( it is a trade, give and take, and negotiation and manipulation if the implicit contract, direct command does not lead to productive work, because they are humans not physical resources)
These studies taken as a whole suggest that managers rarely behave in the ways we might expect, as planners, designers and implementers of systems, of instruction giving managers.
Instead they are handling their dependence on other people through endless talking, listening, and persuading.
They do this primarily by negotiating, trading, exchanging with all the parties whom they rely on to achieve the tasks for which they have responsibility ( as the have to manage many consistencies in and out of the organisation, it explains a lot of the frenzy and fragmentation, and the impact contract of many people they have to deal with)
There is however logic behind this apparently frenzied managerial whirl of activity.
There is a risk of misunderstanding what is going on and people from the outside looking in may feel that management of the organisation as an over all function is not occurring. But if we use the three dimensional model of management we can see that although the tasks being done appear to be pointless, this type of managerial work is in fact working towards a clear strategy that is in the form of indirect control, and negotiaction that leads to over all management of the organisation to continue into the future.
Thus real work of managers is not anything like Fayols classic description of managerial work of, planning, organising, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Although the outcome of their activities still leads to the desired results that would come from using Fayols more direct and unrealistic forms on managing.
Fayols list has been taught to many students, and this has not helped many in understanding the real way managers manage, and thus many students are socked when they first graduate and entre the world of work, they often feel lost, and many comment that they are taught too much theory and not enough about practical situation.
Fayols list has functioned as a slogan for the systems control thinking perspective about managerial thinging in the organisation. And process relational thinking helps us make sense of managerial behaviour of negotiating and manipulating process and relationships that shapes the organisation.
Just because we can’t see Fayols command element in real life does not mean it doesn’t not occur. Although there might not be direct command, the function can still be achieved by other ways that are not so direct, such as manipulation or trading. Thus commanding may not be seen but it is done.
A study that helps us understand why managers act the way they do is KOTTER 1982 study, where he studied 15 general managers that were seen as very successful by a variety of people.
Kotter 1983 observed that these managers were not very systematic, they were more informal, less reflective, more reactive, less well organised than we might expect the typical manager to be. Kotter makes sense of this at first sight, puzzling situation by recognising the inevitability of the immense ambiguity and uncertainty that surrounds the managers job.
Decision therefore cannot emerge from cool calculated analysis of clear and objective data. Reality is not like that thus managers cannot act like that, Kotter states that the decision making environment is characterised by uncertainty, great diversity, and an enormous quantity of potentially relevant information (GARBAE CAN).
Thus kotter is giving recognition to one of the most ideas in social science, that of bounded rationality. The concept of bounded rationality suggests that, the human ability to calculate the most appropriate means of achieving a specific end is limited or bounded by two ways, firstly that only a small proportion of all the knowledge and information which is potentially relevant to any rational analysis can ever in reality be obtained.
And secondly, the human mind would only cope with a fraction of all the relevant information had it been obtainable.
But to give emphasis to these limitations to instrumental rationality in actual human behaviour is not to turn ones back on the principle of instrumental rationality. Instead it is to come to terms that instrumental rationality can only take us so far, in helping us achieve or purposes. This means that in doing managerial work or in trying to understand the managerial practices to be observed in real life organisations, we have to come to terms with ambiguity in organisational situations, and with what follows from it : uncertainty about the future.
To be fully rational be have to come to terms with the inescapability of ambiguity and uncertainty. Ambiguity exists when the meaning of a situation or and event is unclear or confused and is therefore open to a variety of interpretations. Uncertainty exists when the understanding of a future event or situation is unclear or confused and is therefore open to a wide variety of interpretations. In an organisational setting there is ambiguity and uncertainty as manager are concerned with taking the organisation into the future, but it is open to a variety of interpretation of if this will happen and how,
We thus have to understand that we can never really know precisely what we are doing in managerial situations any more than we can ever really know exactly where we are going. But this doesn’t not mean that we give up trying to organise and manage a complex work tasks. It means that manager have to ‘work at’ organising these affairs while
- Recognizing that the world is a complicated and unpredictable place
- Accepting that people that managers deal with are complicated and un predictable beings
- Coming to terms with the fact that manager them self are complicated and unpredictable beings
What does these observations mean in practise?
Returning back to kotters research, he went on to point out that managerial decisions could not in the real world be implements by straight forward issuing of subordinate.
Instead they gave to be implement through a large, diverse, group of subordinates, peers, bosses and outsiders, people who them effectively the manager have little control over. The methods that these managers used to get things done were therefore much more about influencing people than commanding people, and this explains the indirect way the manage people. ( they don’t have power over people work orientation they can only manipulate the implicit contract.)
They used a great deal of face to face contact and were constantly encouraging, manipulating and persuading people. They were demanding of others and used a wide range of ways to reward people for producing what was required (implicit contract exchange to control people not direct control)
The networks established by managers were such that their members would influence each to work towards fulfilling the agenda around which the networks have been developed
In fact the series of agendas that managers identified for themselves mediated between the longer term strategic priorities of the business as a while and the day to day activities orchestrated by the general manager.
We could perhaps see these agendas as mental maps that manager used to make sense of what is happening and help them understand how unfolding events might be linked to the overall directing of the organisation( eg strategic exchange with employees in the contract to get them motivated to go tasks that take the organisation into the future)
There are various ways of managing people, various tasks and activities and various projects, that could be adopted by the manager to contribute to the meeting of the agenda. Thus can explain managements behaviour of a manager.
However these agendas (look up strategy), are not conceived away from the everyday activities.
The constant monitoring of information coming from a wide range of sources, eg gossip, rumour, etc contributes to the development if the agenda, and the managers were skilled and assertive at questioning people and obtaining with information ( from multiple constituencies).
Thus we recognise the method behind the seemingly mad behaviour of managers in reality, ie the efficiency behind seemingly inefficient behaviour, we can see that all the fragmented behaviour adds up to a degree of organisational system-ness.
The process relational framing draws our attention to the range of social, political, cultural and economic processes that managerial and organisational work involves. And it rejects the systems control assumption that the organisation is a system.
Yet it does not reject the notion of an emerging from the processes that go on, just rejects looking at the organisation as a system from the start.
Process relational thinking sees system like qualities as emergent, fragile and temporary, it has to we won and re-won by skilful managerial action.
All of the unofficial things they do support the official aspects and strategy of the organisation ie the agendas, to take the organisation into the future.
This managerial work involves indirect control and all of this seemingly fragmented behaviour is for a reason such as, this indirect control and way or managing the organisation shapes the structural side of the organisation, such as a flat hierarchy and in turn the culture is shaped, which is based on equality, trust etc.
It is all part of a bigger picture, the way a manager runs the organisation affects everything else.
Indulgency theory may also explain why sometimes we see manager acting irrationally, but in reality they do it as they see it was a tool for meeting the agenda, such as they may turn a blind eye to a person taking a sick day to go see their child in a school play, in turn they will get the employees cooperation if they for example need them to do some last minute over time.
Also the manager runs round from one person to another and from dealing with one issue to another because the organisation is associated with many strategic constituencies. And the exchange with all these parties and their contribution to the organisation is essential to the long term survival of the organisation. Some times one group of the consistencies may be more important than another, and at another time some one else is more important than the other. Thus the manager has to manage these different constituencies ranging from investors, to employees, to politicians. This is to work towards the long term strategy they have to make the company continue into the future. Eg politicians, investors, owners, media etc. endlessly monitoring the activities and expectations of all the various parties and constituencies with which they need to deal and pulling people towards compliance with in the agenda they had developed for shaping the enterprise
Managers have to thus be skilled at managing these diverse sets of people to ensure long term continuation.
Manager are more likely to be skilled than other manager in their jobs if they are skilful at managing relationships and commitments in a way which comes to terms with all the ambiguities and uncertainties with which they are inevitably confronted.
This suggests that we should be able to identify some capabilities that managers and leaders within organisations are likely to require if they are going to contribute to the effectiveness of the organisation.
A variety of attempts have been made to identify successful managers differ from less successful ones. The danger from these research is that these skills identified are then seen as traits a person should have and if they do they are given a managerial role.
But in reality just because a person has these traits does not mean they will be a competent manager. Also a manager may have these skills, but things that are out of their control such as how the job has been set up and the tasks they have been allocated may not be appropriate thus, they have the skill but other things prevent them from being a competent manager.
Thus we can infer that come traits and skills do make managers potentially better managers than others, but this potential is affected by many other factors such as the job design.
Thus we need to look at what managerial potential a person has, and how effective they might be in practice. Managerial effectives is the successful application of the skills, knowledge and aptitudes to the fulfilment of tasks in a managers area of responsibility so that as great contribution as possible is made to the performance of the organisation and its long term survival.
Tony Watson suggests some broad characteristics of more able and less able managers and leaders.
There are three categories of characteristics
- personal orientation
- cognitive style
- interpersonal style
in each of the three sections there are traits that distinguish between able and less able managers.
1 personal orientation: achievement and results orientation, an able manager would set high but realistic standards of achievement for self, and for others, and seek continual improvement, in processes and results, and monitor progress against targets.
A less able manager would muddle through without clear objectives, and is happy with adequate performance and judge success as avoidance of trouble.
Cognitive style: vision and strategic thinking:
Good manager: can relate to current activities to a clear coherent image of a future state of affairs for the whole organisation and their part of it, they understand the links between every day activities and the long term effectiveness.
They manage their segment of the organisation as a contribution to the whole organisation. The appreciate the global context in which all organisations increasingly work and are sensitive to differing cultural norms within and across societies.
Bad manager: have a short term perspective and an inward looking approach to managing their responsibilities- their department or functional objectives are seen as the ends themselves rather than as the means to more effective performance of the business as whole. Minimal attention is paid to customers or clients and there is little awareness of changing global circumstances or cultural variations that exist within a and across societies.
Interpersonal style: sensitivity and listing (important for implicit contact)
Good: are sensitive to preferences and emotions of both themselves and those they work with ( inside and out side the organisation and this is needed for strategic constituencies and to exchange with them, resources and information )
They treat others and their ideas with respect ( they don’t plan and enforce own ideas only as they see them self as the specialist with the specialist knowledge)
Listen carefully to the ideas and opinions of others, work actively to elicit positive contributions from them ( needed for successful implicit contract manipulation. ( also to understand misbehaviour and what it means to successfully manage it rather than label it as act of ignorance they get to route of problem so that resistance does not persist.
Bad manager: have little regards fro the people they work with, they are insensitive to the feelings of others, concentrate on their own ideas and feelings and objectives and don’t consider the interests of others.
The first thing we notice about the table put together by Tony Watson 2006 is that it is consistent with the process relational conception of the human individual as emergent. It departs from the systems control way of understanding the human individual as a fixed entity or miniature system with certain given characteristics, personality traits and attitudes like pervious research has suggested. Less successful managers can change and adopt these more preferred way of managing to help them in their work.
The competent manager or effective leader is not a particular type of person but someone who acts or thinks in a particular way. Hence the model uses the term orientation and style to give an emphasis to this dynamic or process-ual view of the human individual.
The model is not compatible with the view of management as a specialist occupation activity equivalent to e.g. engineering. The criteria of managerial capability fits closely with the process relational way of forming managerial work.
This frame of reference strongly supported by research into what managers actually do suggests that managerial work is not most helpfully understood as involving the application of a body of specialist knowledge to running an organisational machine.
It is much more understood as a matter of deploying social , political and cultural skills in a particular way. The vital competencies are therefore basic human social ones. these skills will be strongly sought by employers, and even though no one is super human and has all the skills the most successful managers will be those who master most of the skills.
This pulling and shaping occurred through the application of a range of social, interpersonal, political, learning and analytical skills, such as those described in the managerial competencies criteria, it did not occur through overt and direct attempts to control behaviours. But why??/
This is because they are highly dependent on a large number of people to achieve their porous, and in spite of their significant degree of authority and formal power, they have little direct control over the majority of people they are dependent on, eg investors, media, local MPs etc. thus they can only exchange and negotiate and indirectly control them
They also have to reply on highly ambiguous information gathered from a diverse range of sources to inform all of their persuading and influencing activities. A high level of cognitive skill is need to make sense of all the information with which the manager is bombarded, as is a capacity to learn continuously from what they see hear and experience.
This agrees with the process relation view of an emergent manager. And that leaning does not just occur at university , and you cant just learn theory about how to be a good manager because the dynamics of real life is very different.
We can thus see why in the real world makers often make a decision that is like guess work, they are leaning from experiences.
They also have to have emotional intelligence
To operate successfully in a social context which is the organisation.
Manger status can also hold social status, and when carrying out the task of being a manager one must not get carries away with the status it hold as this can be inefficient.