When a person moves into a managerial role, they are always faced with some challenges when adapting to the new responsibilities. Working under a manager might make one think that they know how to be a manager, but there are a lot of things to learn. There are four important functions that everyone needs to know when they get into management. These are Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling.
Before going into the functions of management, we need to know what management is about. Wikipedia defines management as the administration of an organization. It involves setting strategies and coordinating efforts for the organization’s success. When a person gets into a management position, they face a number of surprises. They realize that it is hard to lead and that they do not always know what is happening with their subordinates. Sometimes, what they do or not do sends messages and signals. Without understanding the basic functions of management, it is difficult to adapt into a management role.
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Managers have to plan in order to meet company goals. The first step in planning is to establish the company’s goals and then they decide on how to achieve them. They delegate responsibilities to subordinates and set appropriate timelines for the completion of tasks. Another important part of the planning stage is the feasibility assessments. Managers have to determine whether the resources they have are enough to achieve the set goals. Some of these resources are finances, competitors, customers, economy of the country and availability of suppliers if there is need.
There different types of planning. We can classify planning into three categories which are Strategic, Tactical and Operational planning. Strategic planning is normally carried out by upper management. This is long term planning and the plans can even be for up to three years. It involves carrying out a SWOT analysis of the organization and then coming up with a plan according to the SWOT analysis.
Tactical planning is usually carried out by middle management and is for a shorter term, such as a year. It focuses on a certain area or department of the organization. Operational planning focuses on how to use tactical planning to achieve the goals and plans set during strategic planning. It results in the creation of a timeframe for achieving set goals. Operational planning is usually done through frequent meetings, for example weekly meetings.
This involves establishing internal structures and processes for the organization’s success. Managers need to know the right employees for the right tasks and assign tasks accordingly. They also need to adjust what was planned in order to improve productivity. For example, adjustments can be made to timelines for set tasks.
There are many definitions of leadership. Most of the definitions say that leadership involves motivating subordinates, handling conflicts, being a role model, recognizing employees’ needs and so on. An important part of leadership is using interpersonal skills when engaging with subordinates. A leader needs to be approachable in order for subordinates to be comfortable at work.
In a TED talk, Jim Whitehurst, who moved from a top position at Delta to a top position at Redhat, describes his experiences after the move. He had been used to traditional leadership, where leaders delegated tasks and subordinates gave reports. There were no intense discussions or disagreements over certain issues between management and subordinates. He explains how, when he was at Redhat, a junior level employee disagreed with a senior manager in a meeting where there were many senior employees. He was surprised because this never happened at the organization he worked for previously. He also explains how he adapted to this and realized how it improved productivity and enabled employees to be comfortable at work.
There are various leadership styles that can be incorporated into management. These are
Each of these styles needs to be applied appropriately.
This is mainly evaluating how the plan is being executed. It involves monitoring things such as performance, quality of work and so on. Controlling makes sure goals are met and adjustments are made if there is need. Some adjustments that can be made are Budget adjustments and Staffing adjustments. If a department is understaffed, there might be need to hire more employees in order to meet the set objectives.
Managers can also allow training programs for employees so that they improve their skills and achieve that organization’s goals. They can also use other activities to boost employees’ performance such as offering incentives for performing better than a set target.
Some literature states that these functions should be followed, in practice, as a step by step approach. Managers should develop a plan, organize resources and delegate responsibilities to employees according to the plan, lead others so that they can carry out the plan efficiently, and then control the quality of output produced. However, this leaves no room for acting on unplanned scenarios.
Is management only defined by these functions?
According to the functions of management, the manager’s job is Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling. However, in reality, a manager’s job includes more than that. The functions give a guideline, but they are not the full description of what a manager does. Henry Mintzberg, in his article, The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact, gives a few scenarios that show that management is not always fixed in the functions stated above. When a manager gives a watch or other token of appreciation to an employee, can we say that they are Leading, Planning, Organizing or Controlling? We can try to make this case fit in one of the functions, however, is that right or we should accept that there are some parts of management that do not always fit in the functions.
The planning function states that managers always plan ahead, but you cannot plan for scenarios such as buildings burning or accidents encountered by employees. When a building burns down and a manager is called to make decision about how to move forward, they do not plan, but act with brevity.
It is always important to know that the functions of management are basic guidelines for very manager but managers should not be restricted to these categories only. They should be agile and easily adapt to new situations. Nowadays, things are quickly changing especially when it comes to technology. Every working professional is encouraged to be innovative in their work. If managers stick to the four functions only, they will risk performing poorly in their work.
Tatenda Emma Matika is a Business Analytics Trainee at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.
Hill, L. (2007) Becoming the Boss, HBR, January, pp. 48-56.
Mintzberg, H. (1975) The Manager's Job: Folklore and Fact, Harvard Business Review. July/August.
The Four Functions of Management: What Managers Need to Know, Available at https://www.aiuniv.edu/degrees/business/articles/functions-of-management#:~:text=Originally%20identified%20by%20Henri%20Fayol,each%20may%20look%20in%20action.
What Are the 4 Basic Functions of Management? Available at https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/basic-functions-of-management
What I learned from giving up everything I knew as a leader, Jim Whitehurst, TED Institute, Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0gyYcOAcFE