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What Is Management?

management, organization, business, administration, managers, planning, organizing, staffing, directing, controlling

The term management is used in a variety of ways. It can refer to members of the organization who make key decisions regarding how and in what way products or services are produced. Or we may use the term to refer to a body of knowledge that has accumulated over the years through applications of scientific research and observation of managers in practice. Hence, management can also refer to the collective wisdom that has evolved from scientific study that can then be applied to specific managerial situations. The most common definition of management is the process of planning, organizing and staffing, directing, and controlling activities in an organization in a systematic way in order to achieve a common goal.

While uses of the term may be multiple, it is useful to think of management as a process, an ongoing and related set of activities and tasks. These activities, in turn, are systematic in that managers are required to introduce order into their activities and conduct their tasks in a manner that is recognizable and consistent with the expectations of other members in the organization. Finally, management is a systematic process in pursuit of a common goal. That is, the practice of management, requires that tasks and activities be derived from the desire to achieve the goals set forth by the members of the organization.

If management can be defined as a process whereby activities are systematized and directed toward a goal, management activities can be classified as planning, organizing and staffing, directing, and controlling. While managers may focus on one activity more than another depending on personal skills, aptitudes, and organizational requirements, all the activities are coordinated.

•Planning. Planning is the selection and sequential ordering of tasks that are required to achieve an organizational goal. Plans may be short-term or long-term depending on the context of the organization and the importance of the goal to the success of the organization.
•Organizing and staffing. The assignment and coordination of tasks to be performed by members in the organization and the assignment and distribution of resources necessary to perform each task are known as organizing and staffing. This often requires activities directed toward the recruitment, placement, training, and development of organization members. Ideally, training and the assignment of tasks and resources evolve from the planning activity. Each member is thus required to contribute output in his or her activities which will ultimately contribute to the overall success of the organization.
•Directing. Directing is the process of motivating, leading, and influencing activities of subordinates. Managers are required to motivate employees to do their best in a task assigned, to lead them toward the appropriate goal, and to influence their approach in completing the task.
•Controlling. Controlling involves the collection, evaluation, and comparison of information in order to correct for tasks that are improperly performed as well as to identify where activities by members in the organization can be improved.

Managers continually coordinate the four activities in order to arrive at decisions that will lead to the attainment of organizational goals. Managers make plans to implement future activities. They organize and staff planned activities with members who will produce a good or service. Managers must then direct members by motivating and leading them in their task activities. Finally, task activities are controlled by managers who evaluate the task activities to determine if they are attaining the desired goal.

Again, we can think back to our example of the three students who decided to meet in the student union once a week for lunch. Management techniques were applied when efforts were made to systematize their meetings in order to achieve the common goal of enhancing their friendship. Plans were established to meet at a specific time and at a specific place. Tasks were organized by assigning individuals responsibility to perform certain activities with available resources.

Efforts were directed to motivate attendance by offering a congenial atmosphere and an opportunity to revive friendships. And activities were controlled by establishing criteria directed toward attendance at the weekly meetings. If we assume this small organization grew in size and took on different goals, then we would find that its management might take on a different form. But the requirements to engage in management are still the same.
Published: 2007-05-05
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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