MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS, ROLES, AND SKILLS

Management is defined as the process of working with and through others to achieve organizational objectives in a changing environment. The job of a contemporary manager can be conceptualized in many different ways. The most widely accepted approaches, however, are from the perspectives of basic managerial functions, common managerial roles, and fundamental managerial skills.

Managerial Functions

The four basic managerial functions in organizations are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. By applying these functions to the various organizational resources-human, financial, physical, and informational-the organization achieves different levels of effectiveness and efficiency.

Planning The managerial function of planning is the process of determining the organization`s desired future position and deciding how best to get there. The planning process at Sears, Roebuck, for example, includes scanning the environment, deciding on appropriate goals, outlining strategies for achieving those goals, and developing tactics to execute the strategies. Behavioral processes and characteristics pervade each of these activities. Perception, for instance, plays a major role in environmental scanning, and creativity and motivation influence how managers set goals, strategies, and tactics for their organization.

Organizing The managerial function of organizing is the process of designing jobs, grouping jobs into manageable units, and establishing patterns of authority among jobs and groups of jobs. This process designs the basic structure, or framework, of the organization. For large organizations like Sears, the structure can be extensive and complicated. As noted earlier, the processes and characteristics of the organization itself are a major theme of organizational behavior.

Leading Leading is the process of motivating members of the organization to work together toward the organization`s goals. A manager must hire and train employees. Major components of leading include motivating employees, managing group dynamics, and leadership per se, all of which are closely related to major areas of organizational behavior.

Controlling A final managerial function, controlling, is the process of monitoring and correcting the actions of the organization and its people to keep them headed toward their goals. A manager has to control costs, inventory, and so on. Again, behavioral processes and characteristics play an important role in carrying out this function. Performance evaluation and reward systems for example, are all aspects of controlling.

Managerial Roles

In an organization, as in a play or a movie, a role is the part a person plays in a given situation. Managers often play a number of different roles. Much of our knowledge about managerial roles comes from the work of Henry Mintzberg.

Mintzberg identified ten basic managerial roles clustered into three general categories.

Interpersonal Roles Mintzberg`s interpersonal roles are primarily social in nature; that is, they are roles in which the manager`s main task is to relate to other people in certain ways. The manager sometimes many serve as a figurehead for the organization. Taking visitors to dinner and attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies are part of the figurehead role. In the role of leader, the manager works to hire, train, and motivate employees. Finally, the liaison role consists of relating to others outside the group or organization. For example, a manager at Intel might be responsible for handling all price negotiations with a major supplier of electronic circuit boards. Obviously, each of these interpersonal roles involves behavioral processes.

Informational Roles Mintzberg`s three informational roles involve some aspects of information processing. The monitor actively seeks information that might be of value to the organization in general or to specific managers. The manager who transmits this information to others is carrying out the role of disseminator. The spokesperson speaks for the organization to outsiders. For example, the manager chosen by Apple Computer to appear at a press conference announcing a merger or other major deal, such as a recent decision to undertake a joint venture with Microsoft, would be serving in this role. Again, behavioral processes are part of these roles because information is almost always exchanged between people.

Decision-making Roles Finally, Mintzberg identified four decision-making roles. The entrepreneur voluntarily initiates change, such as innovations or new strategies, in the organization. The disturbance handler helps settle disputes between various parties, such as other managers and their subordinates. The resource allocator decides who will get what-how resources in the organization will be distributed among various individuals and groups. The negotiator represents the organization in reaching agreements with other organizations, such as contracts between management and labor unions. Again, behavioral processes are clearly crucial in each of these decisional roles.

Managerial Skills

Still another important element of managerial work is the set of skills necessary to carry out basic functions and fill fundamental roles. In general, most successful managers have a strong combination of technical, interpersonal, conceptual, and diagnostic skills.

Technical Skills Technical skills are those skills necessary to accomplish specific tasks within the organization. Assembling a computer, developing a new formula for a frozen food additive, and writing a press release each require technical skills. Hence, these skills are generally associated with the operations employed by the organization in its production processes.

Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal skills comprise the manager`s ability to communicate with, understand, and motivate individuals and groups. As we have already noted, managers spend a large portion of their time interacting with others. Thus, it is clearly important that they be able to relate to, and get along with other people.

Conceptual Skills Conceptual skills refer to the manager`s ability to think in the abstract. A manager with strong conceptual skills is able to see the "big picture." That is, she or he can see potential or opportunity where others see road-blocks or problems. Managers with strong conceptual skills can see opportunities that others miss

Diagnostic Skills Most successful managers also bring diagnostic skills to the organization. Diagnostic skills allow the manager to better understand cause-and-effect relationships and to recognize the optimal solution to problems.

Of course, not every manager has an equal allotment of these four basic skills. Nor are equal allotments critical. For example, the optimal skills mix tends to vary with the manager`s level in the organization. First-line managers generally need to depend more on their technical and interpersonal skills and less on their conceptual and diagnostic skills. Top managers tend to exhibit the reverse combination-a greater emphasis on conceptual and diagnostic skills and a somewhat lesser dependence on technical and interpersonal skills. Middle managers require a more even distribution of skills.

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