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Discovering management
Discovering management

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1 Exploring ideas

What is management?

It looks like a simple and obvious question, and you may even be expecting to find the ‘right answer’ here at the start of this course. If you are, then an important word of warning is needed. It is actually a profoundly difficult question to answer. There is certainly no single, commonly accepted and agreed answer or definition of ‘management’.

Management means different things to different people in different circumstances and at different times. For practising managers – rather than academics and linguists – it is also a seriously misleading question, as it assumes that there is one right definition of management and consequently one right way of being an effective and competent manager.

The real challenge for you is to develop an understanding of the different ways in which management is defined, perceived and practised and to be able to draw on those different – and even contradictory – ideas to help you adjust your practice to be effective in different contexts and situations.

The following sections and activities will introduce some contrasting ways of thinking about management, the languages and debates about it, and issues and questions that may emerge from these differences. Exploring different perspectives on management in this will introduce you to ways of working with ideas – as a manager and as a student.