Management’s first Job is managing a business

This apparently obvious statement leads to conclusions that are far from being obvious or generally accepted. It implies both severe limitations on the scope of management and manager and a major responsibility for creative action.

It means in the first place that the skills, the competence, the experience of management cannot, as such be transferred and applied to the organization and running of other institutions. In particular a man’s success in management carries by itself no promise, let alone a guarantee of his success in government. A career in management is, by itself not a preparation for major political or for leadership in the Armed Forces, the church or a University. The skills the competence and the experience that are common and therefore transferable are analytical and administrative extremely important, but secondary to the attainment of the primary objectives of the various non-business institutions. Whether Franklin D Roosevelt was a great President or a national disaster has been argued hotly in US for twenty years. But the patent fact that he was an extremely poor administrator seldom enters the discussion, even his staunchest enemies would consider, it irrelevant. At issue are his basic political decisions and no one would claim that these should be determined by the supply of goods and services desired by the consumer at the price the consumer is willing to pay, or by the maintenance or improvements of wealth producing resources.

A second negative conclusion is that management can never be an exact science. True, the work of a manager can be systematically analyzed and classified; there are, in other words, distinct professional features and a scientific aspect to management. Nor is managing a business just a matter of hunch or native ability; its elements and requirements can be analyzed, can be organized systematically can be learned by anyone with normal human endowment.

It is assumed that the manager can improve his performance in all areas of management including the managing of a business, through the systematic study of principles, the acquisition of organized knowledge and the systematic analysis of his own performance in all areas of his work and job and all levels of management. Indeed, nothing else can contribute so much to his skill, his effectiveness and his performance. And underlying this theme is the conviction that the impact of the manager on modern society and its citizens is great as to require of him the self discipline and high standards.

And yet ultimate test of management is business performance. Achievement rather than knowledge remains, of necessity, both proof and aim. Management in other words is a practice, rather than a science or a profession, though containing elements of both. No greater damage could be done to economy or to society than to attempt to ‘professionals’ management by ‘licensing’ managers, for instance, or by limiting access to management to people with a special academic degree.

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