According to Stephen Robbins, management is the process of coordinating work activities so that they are completed efficiently and effectively with and through other people. The process represents the primary activities engaged in by managers. These functions are typically labeled planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
Efficiency refers to getting the most output from the least amount of inputs. Since resources are strictly limited in supply, managers try their level best by using the minimum resources at the lowest possible cost in the process of achieving goals. Management is also concerned with being effective, completing activities so that organizational goals are attained. Effectiveness is often refers as “doing the right things”- that is those work activities that will help the organization reach its goals. Efficiency deals with the means of getting things done and effectiveness deals with the ends or attainment of organizational goals.
The management process consists of four basic functions, namely, planning, organizing, leading and controlling. These functions are the manager’s tools to achieve the organizational goals and objectives. These functions are interrelated and interdependent so that a significant change in one function affects the functioning of others. This relationship is shown as follows:
Figure 1: Management Functions
Planning is considered to be the central function of the management and determines the organization’s direction. It is a rational and systematic way of making decisions that will affect the future of the company. It involves the ongoing process of developing the business mission and objectives and determining how they will be accomplished. Peter Drucker has defined planning as follows:
“Planning is the continuous process of making present entrepreneurial decisions systematically and with best possible knowledge of their futurity, organizing systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decisions and measuring the results of these decisions against the expectations through organized and systematic feedback.”
Examples of planning are assigning deadlines, scheduling employees, and establishing when to reorder goods or supplies.
The function of organizing involves the determination of the required resources and activities that need to be done in order to achieve the company goals, assigning these activities to the proper personnel and delegating the necessary authority to carry out these activities in a coordinated and cohesive manner. Therefore, the organizing function is concerned with:
Identifying the tasks that must be performed and grouping them wherever necessary.
Assigning these tasks to the personnel while at the same time defining their authority and responsibility.
Delegating such authority to these employees.
Establishing a relationship between authority and responsibility.
Coordinating these activities
Leading involves influencing the employees towards the attainment of organizational objectives so that they perform their activities in the most efficient manner possible. Effective leading requires the manager to motivate subordinates, communicate effectively, and effectively use power. The communication must be open both ways so that the information can be passed on to the subordinates and the feedback received back from them. Motivation factor is very important, since highly motivated people show excellent performance with less direction from superiors. Supervising subordinates would give continuous progress reports as well as assure the superiors that the directions are being properly carried out.
The function of controlling consists of those activities that are undertaken to ensure that the events do not deviate from the pre-arranged plans. It is the process of devising ways and means of assuring that planned performance is actually achieved. The controlling function involves:
Setting up standards of performance.
Determining methods for measuring such performances.
Measuring the actual performance using these methods.
Comparing these measurements with the pre-established standards.
Taking corrective action, when necessary, to correct any deviations between the measured performance and expected performance.
For example, in the modular home assembly process, the standard might be to have a home completed in eight working days as it moves through the construction line. This is a standard that must be communicated to managers who are supervising workers, and then to the workers they know what is expected of them.
Types of Managers
First-line managers are the lowest level of management and manage the work of non-managerial individuals who are involved with the production or creation of the organization’s products. They are often called supervisors but may also be called line managers, office managers, or even foremen.
Middle managers are those in the levels below top managers. They are responsible for carrying out the goals set by top management. These managers manage the work of first-line managers and may have such titles such as department head, project leader, plant manager, or division manager.
Top managers are responsible for making organization-wide decisions and establishing the plans and the goals that affect the entire organization. These individuals typically have titles such as executive vice president, president, managing director, chief operating officer, chief executive officer, or chairman of the board.
First Level Management
Figure 2: The Management Pyramid
According to Henry Mintzberg, a prominent management researcher says that what managers do can best be described by looking at the roles they play at work. The term management roles refer to specific categories of managerial behaviour.
Interpersonal roles are roles that involve interacting with other people both within their own organizations as well as outside. These people include peers, subordinates, superiors, suppliers, customers and government. The three interpersonal roles include being a figurehead, leader and liaison.
Figurehead – Managers act as figureheads performing social or legal obligations. These duties include greeting visitors, signing legal documents, attending a subordinate’s wedding or taking important customers to lunch. All these, are duties of a ceremonial nature but are fundamental for the smooth functioning of the organization. The manager is seen as a symbol of status and authority.
Leader – Since manager is responsible for the activities of his subordinates, he must lead and coordinate their activities in meeting task-related goals and he must motivate them to perform better. He must be an exemplary leader for subordinates to follow his directions and guidelines with respect and dedication.
Liaison – The managers must maintain a network of outside contacts in order to assess the external environment of competition and must engage in information exchange to gain access to knowledge bases. The liaison with external sources of information can be developed by attending meetings and professional conferences, by personal phone calls, trade journals and by informal personal contacts within outside agencies.
These involve receiving, collecting and disseminating information. The three interpersonal roles include being a monitor, disseminator and spokesperson.
Monitor – The managers are constantly monitoring and scanning their environment, both internal and external, which enables him to better understand the functioning of their organization and the outside environment affecting their organization. This can be done by reading reports and periodicals, by asking their liaison contacts and through gossip.
Disseminator – The managers must transmit their information regarding changes in policies or other matters to their subordinates, their peers and to other members of the organization. This can be done through memorandums, phone calls, individual meetings and group meetings.
Spokesperson – A manager must assume the spokesperson role by sending relevant information to people outside his unit or making some demands on behalf of his unit. This may be in the form of the president of the company making a speech to a lobby on behalf of an organizational cause.
On the basis of the environmental information received, a manager must make decisions and solve organizational problems. In that respect, a manager plays four important roles.
Entrepreneur – As entrepreneurs, managers are continuously involved in improving their units and facing the dynamic technological challenges. They are constantly on the lookout for new ideas for product improvement.
Conflict handler – The managers are frequently involved in solving differences among the subordinates or the employee’s conflicts with the central management. These conflicts may arise due to demands for higher pay or these conflicts may involve outside forces such as vendors increasing their prices. Managers must anticipate such problems and take preventive action to bring stability back to the organization.
Resource allocator – The managers are placed in a position to establish priorities among various projects as they are responsible for the allocation of organizational resources. They make budgetary allocations to the different activities of the organization based upon these priorities. They assign personnel to jobs, they allocate their own time to different activities and they allocate funds for new equipment, advertising and pay raises.
Negotiator – The managers represent their units or organizations in negotiating deals and agreements within and outside of the organization. They negotiate contracts with the unions. For example, a production manager must negotiate with the personnel department to obtain employees with specialized skills.
A skill is an acquired and learned ability to translate knowledge into performance. It is necessary for all managers to possess technical, human, conceptual and communicational skills. It is the manager’s job to achieve the organizational objectives through the proper utilization of its human and material resources. Human skills are the most important assets of any successful manager.
Technical skills: These skills basically involve the use of knowledge, methods and techniques in performing a job effectively. This is a specialized knowledge which is utilized in dealing with day-to-day problems and activities. For example, engineers, accountants, computer programmers and system analysts, all have technical skills in their areas and these skills are acquired through education and training. This skill is highly necessary at the lower level of management and as one moves to higher levels of management, the relative importance of technical skills usually diminishes. This is so because unlike first level supervisors, managers at higher levels have less direct contact with technical operating problems and activities.
Human skills: Human skill is the ability to work with other people in a cooperative manner. It involves understanding, patience, trust and genuine involvement in interpersonal relationships. These are interpersonal skills and are necessary at all levels of management. Managers who have excellent technical skill, but poor interpersonal skill are unlikely to succeed in their job. This skill is gaining more importance as the work place is becoming more and more ethnically diversified. Furthermore, since the businesses are becoming more multinational and global, managers are required to learn new ways of dealing with people in different countries with different cultures.
Conceptual skills: Conceptual skill is the ability to view the organization as a whole and as a total entity. This skill is specially crucial for top level executives who must keep the whole system under focus. They must understand the complexities of the overall organization, including how organizational units work together and how the organization fits into its competitive environment. This skill deals with understanding of various functions of an organization, their interdependence and the relationship of the organization with the outside environment in terms of threats and opportunities.
Communicational skills: Good communication is the foundation of sound management. Proper communication eliminates delays, misunderstanding, confusion, distortions and conflicts and improves coordination and control. All the four communicational skills, namely, writing, reading, listening and non-verbal gestures are important ingredients of successful leadership.
The Management Challenge.
The managers today face an increasingly complex and dynamic environment. The forces of change, from both within and outside the organization, are constantly providing new challenges for management. Some of the challenges facing the management are:
Transition from an industrial to a knowledge based society
Knowledge is the most powerful strategic tool of successful organizations. Knowledge of changing technology assists in creating new products and services. Knowledge about customers can also give an organization a competitive edge. Industrial economies will be more and more dominated by computers so that more skilled labour will be required for service-dominated economy. Accordingly, knowledge about all aspects of environment at an international level will become very crucial for survival and growth of the company and the skilled labour will have to be knowledge based to be innovative to meet the challenge of competition.
All industries have become dynamic due to changes in technology and managers must be prepared to adapt to these changes and be innovative to maintain their strategic advantage. New technological developments such as cellular phones, laptop computers, satellite communications, electronic networks for online communication, fax machines, computer-aided designs and computer-aided manufacturing have been instrumental in improvements in product technology, process technology and information technology. These technological developments have posed strong challenges for the managers of the future and by understanding how to create and apply new technology, managers can formulate winning business strategies.
With the increasing of competitive pressures of international business, managers must maintain a global perspective and learn to cope with different cultural values. Managers should treat all the workers equally irrespective of their race, culture and sex.
Ethics and social responsibility
Ethics are more personal in nature and are primarily formed by cultural, religious and family influences. They provide the insight for differentiating between what is right and what is wrong in terms of standards set by the person himself and by society. Social responsibility refers to the obligations of the organization to protect and enhance the society in which it functions. The increasing competition for global resources and markets will severely test the social and ethical integrity of the management. To cope with different cultural values will be highly challenging to the management of the future. For example, bribery in some countries may be considered highly unethical while in other countries it may be socially acceptable and a way of doing business.
Managers may not only basically be doers but also be thinkers and visionaries. They must anticipate the world of future and be fully prepared to meet it. They should also contribute in making the world of future and position their organizations in strategically significant spots in such a world. The vision of the business reflects its aspirations and specifies its intended direction or future destination. Managers should have a vision to achieve its goals in the long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.
Problems facing managers
Stress and conflict
Longing working hours, target pressures, high competition add stress and conflicts in the organization. It is the duty of the manager to have proper responses to the stress and conflict before it causes damage to someone’s personality.
As the organizations are going global, this is one problem faced by many organizations of managing the change in the organization and how to make people acquainted with the changes.
Balancing work and personal life
Huge responsibility is on the shoulder of manager to create a balance between the work life and personal life by flexi work hours, paternity leaves and vacations are some of the options in hand.
Risk and Uncertainty
Manager is faced with risk if the outcomes of the solution are still in doubt. Uncertainty occurs when the manager lacks pertinent information and cannot estimate the likelihood of the outcome of their actions.
Conclusion and Recommendations
All the four functions are immensely important and no one function is better than another. These four functions must be coordinated to have management operate as a whole. Management must continue to check on the functions to make sure that they are being achieved and constantly updated.
One of the keys of success in building a successful management team is that the team is capable of exploiting the business opportunities in a manner that is sustainable. The roles of different types of managers are essentially the same, with some having a different focus than others potentially resulting in different goals. The often conflicting goals can be overcome if there is a clear understanding of the individual roles of different managers.
A manager must avoid jumping to conclusions. Collecting information from more than one source to avoid bias, and completely assessing all pertinent information prior to rendering a decision is recommended. Effective management is not about the latest philosophy. It is about a fundamental trust and respect for people and treating them accordingly. Integrity and ethics must be the foundation for all of your decisions and actions. To overcome stress, managers should have positive affirmation on a regular basis.
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