What are Management Processes?

In the early part of the twentieth century, the French industrialist Henri Fayol wrote that all managers perform five management activities referred to as the management process. They plan, organize, command, coordinate and control. In the mid 1950s, two professors at UCLA used the terms planning, organizing, staffing directing, and controlling as the fame work for a textbook on management that for 20 years was unquestionably the most widely sold next on the subject. The most popular textbooks still continue to be organized around the management process, though these processes have generally been condensed to the basic four: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Let us briefly define what each of these processes encompasses. Keep in mind, however, that even though we will look at each as an independent task, managers must be able to perform all four activities simultaneously and realize that each has an effect on the others; that is, these processes are interrelated and interdependent. If you don’t much care where you want to get to, then it doesn’t matter which way you go, the Cheshire cat said in Alice in Wonderland. Because organizations exist to achieve some purpose, someone has to define that purpose and the means for its achievement. A manager is that someone. The planning component encompasses defining an organization’s goals, establishing an overall strategy for achieving those goals, and developing a comprehensive hierarchy of plans to integrate and coordinate activities. Setting goals keeps the work to be done in its proper focus and helps organizational members keep their attention on what is most important.

Management processes: Planning, organizing, leading and controlling

Planning: Includes defining goals, establishing strategy and developing plans to coordinate activities

Organizing: includes determining what tasks are to be done, who is to do them, how the tasks are to be grouped, who reports to whom, and where decisions are to be made.

Leading: includes motivating employees, directing the activities of others, selecting the most effective communication channel and resolving conflicts.

Top managers are also responsible for designing an organization’s structure. We call this management activity organizing. Organizing includes determining what tasks are to be done, who is to do them, how the tasks are to be grouped, who reports to whom, and where decisions are to be made.

We know that every organization contains people. And it is part of a manager’s job to direct and coordinate those people. Performing this activity is the leading component of management. When managers motivate employees, direct the activities of others, select the most effective communications channel, or resolve conflicts among members, they are leading.

Controlling: The process of monitoring performance comparing it with goals, and correcting any significant deviations

The final activity managers perform is controlling. After the goals are set, the plans formulated, the structural arrangements determined, and the people hired, trained and motivated something may still go amiss. To ensure that things are going as they should, a manager must monitor the organization’s performance. Actual performance must be compared with the previously set goals. The appearance of any significant deviations requires that the manager get the organization back on track. The responsibility for monitoring, comparing and correcting is the basis of the controlling process.

The continued popularity of the process approach is a tribute to its clarity and simplicity. But is it an accurate description of what managers actually do? Do they actually plan, organize, lead, and control? Fayol’s original analysis was not derived from careful survey of thousands of managers in hundreds of organizations. Rather, it merely represented observations from his experience in the French mining industry. In the late 1960s, Henry Mintzberg provided empirical insights into the manager’s job.

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