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Introduction to Management

Although we tend to think of management in terms of the organisation of a company, and some may regard management as equivalent to business administration and therefore exclude management in places outside the commercial sector, in reality, management structures are evident throughout society, from government bodies through military forces, right down to personal home environments.

This is because management may be defined as all the activities carried out by one or more people with the aim of planning and controlling the activities of other people so that an object can be achieved that would not have been possible through individuals acting independently.

Most accepted authorities on management believe that there are several parts to the concept of management:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing
  • Leading
  • Controlling

This means that anyone in a managerial role will carry out the above functions of planning, organize, staffing, lead, and control to varying degrees, depending on the specific needs, practices, and methods of the organization, and according to the level at which the managing is taking place. For example, lower level managers may not have too much input on staffing, as this might be handled by an authority above them. However, a team that does run through all levels of management is that managers are engaged in getting things done through other people.

This concept, in which all managers perform the same functions of planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling at each of their particular levels, is sometimes called the universality of management. It is the practices, methods, activities, and tasks within each of these functions that will alter according to the type and purpose of the organization or enterprise.

In the commercial sector, the primary function of management is to satisfy the stakeholders of the company or enterprise. This usually involves making a profit, creating quality products at a reasonable cost, and providing good employment opportunities. In most management models, shareholders vote for the board of directors, the board then hires the senior management team, which then has the responsibility of putting in place lower levels of management.

Planning

Planning involves the selection of the organisation’s goals and ambitions and formulating the specific actions that will be necessary to achieve them. This involves a significant degree of decision-making so that the correct choices can be made once all possibilities have been identified and assessed.

Planning takes in the whole gamut, from the most obvious decisions such as the location of business premises, and employing the right people for the available jobs, right down to the exact details of each component of any manufactured product. Plans do not become plans until such decisions have been made. Prior to these decisions, managers are analysing, studying, and making proposals.

Organizing

The management function of organizing has at its heart the concept of “role”. That is, which employees are to be tasked with carrying out what jobs, and how they are to be put to work.

People working together in teams must know their exact purpose if the organization’s objectives are to be realized most efficiently and in the shortest period of time.

That involves all employees understanding where they fit into the overall picture, and how their job objective contributes to the overall aims. Management of this function further requires that everyone involved has the appropriate equipment, authority, and information to accomplish the task.

In short, organising establishes a structure to help create an environment in which human performance can excel. The structure must define the tasks necessary, and the roles must be geared to the abilities of the workers.

Leading

Leading is the managerial function that deals with influencing employees. This requires that the manager possesses interpersonal skills so that their team feels motivated and inspired. Without this influential leadership, employees may feel out of touch with the importance of fulfilling the organization’s goals.

Management problems mostly arise from issues with employees. These may be employee conflicts with the manager, employees failing to work together, or individuals suffering behavioural or attitudinal problems. Wherever the problem derives from, it is the manager’s job to lead the way out of the mire for all concerned, which means leading from the front. This will require skills in communication, listening, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, and a chameleon-like quality of adapting to the various personalities that populate the workplace.   

Controlling

The first part of controlling is monitoring. Effective management involves paying attention to the organization’s ongoing plans, and how closely they are being adhered to and their objectives fulfilled.

This will necessitate measuring and perhaps correcting the activities of employees. Without peak human performance, even the best-laid plans are prone to failure. Plans are only the starting point. It is humans who enact them, and humans can become easily distracted or lose motivation.

Although controlling sounds like quite a manipulative process, it is not always the case. It may take as little as a few words of praise or encouragement to keep an employee on track, or it may take formal sanctions and threats of job termination. Good management means being able to gauge the exact level of control that needs to be exerted to realign performance with objectives.

As effective controlling means monitoring achievement against objectives, the previous issue of organizing becomes important in terms of job roles. Managers need to know exactly who to look at if a certain area is falling behind schedule or missing the mark in any way.

Clearly-defined job roles should enable quick identification of the problem source. This not only means it can be easily rectified, but it also avoids the problem of targeting the wrong people as culprits. Criticisms mistakenly levelled at people who are performing well can instantly create new problems for previous model employees.


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