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Discovering management
Discovering management

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2.1.1 Exploring what managers are supposed to do

 Writing at the start of the First World War, with 25 years’ experience ‘under his belt’ as managing director of a large French mining company, Fayol (1917) defined the management task in terms of five distinct elements or functions. He also developed a general theory of business administration, based on his own experience, which set out how management should be conducted.

The five core activities/functions of management, which define the management role, are sometimes identified by the abbreviation POCCC (see Figure 9).

Described image
Figure 9 POCCC: five functions of management

  1. Planning. Although the first of Fayol’s elements is usually translated as ‘planning’ in English, he actually used the word ‘prévoir’ in the French original, which has a connotation of anticipation and forecasting, as well as planning. So planning is as much about looking into the future as it is about drawing up action plans.

    Interestingly, this very point was echoed by Peter Drucker (1980) more than 60 years later, when he wrote that one of the most important managerial skills during times of great turbulence is anticipation.

  2. Organising involves putting in place the capital, human resources and other materials needed for the day-to-day running of the business, and building a structure that will support the work, e.g., lines of authority and responsibility.
  3. Commanding, also referred to as directing, involves putting the plan into action and maintaining activity among the staff.
  4. Coordinating involves unifying and harmonising activity and effort.
  5. Controlling is about monitoring and adjusting, and ensuring conformance with rules and instructions.

Critics of Fayol often react strongly to his language and object to his use of terms such as command and control, which have an authoritarian ring to them. While it may be true that such words enjoy less currency nowadays, we should not forget that Fayol was writing from his own experience of management at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Stop and reflect

How accurately do Fayol’s functions of management describe the job you do as a manager in the twenty-first century?

In 1937, Luther Gulick and Lydnall Urwick added to Fayol’s list and coined yet another acronym, POSDCORB, which, despite the eight letters, refer to just seven activities:

  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Staffing
  • Directing
  • COordinating
  • Reporting
  • Budgeting.

In many respects, it is difficult to take issue with either the Fayol or Gulick and Urwick lists. They appear to be logical statements of what needs to be done from a management point of view. They provide those new to management with a framework for sorting out the different things they should be doing and the particular competences they need to develop. Although managers today operate in a very different context from those of Fayol or Gulick and Urwick, many of the listed management activities or functions are arguably as relevant today as they were 70–90 years ago. They certainly bear more than a passing similarity to Peter Drucker’s own thinking on management.

One of the most prolific and influential of all business gurus, Drucker died in 2005 after a distinguished career as a management writer and theorist. His output was impressive: 39 books which include classics such as The Practice of Management (1954). Zahra (2003, p. 17) usefully summarises some of his key thinking on management and its responsibilities below:

  1. Management is a distinct and important function that determines the viability and success of the firm.
  2. The managerial task, though amenable to scientific analysis, is practice-oriented. Management education enhances and sharpens managerial skills.
  3. The managerial task combines creative and adaptive components.
  4. There are two entrepreneurial dimensions to management: marketing and innovation. Marketing focuses on identifying customers. Innovation centers on creating products, goods, systems, processes, and services. It also requires acquiring and honing the skills necessary to develop products, services etc.
  5. Managers should follow a systematic decision-making process that focuses on: defining the problem, developing alternatives, examining the merits and shortcomings of these alternatives, selecting the approach to be followed, implementation, and using feedback.
  6. Managers are responsible for building the organisation and integrating its different functions.
  7. Managers are responsible for developing and leading knowledgeable workers.
  8. Integrity is the hallmark of managerial character. Along with integrity comes a sense of accountability.
(Source: Zahra, 2003, p. 17)u1

Later, in another seminal text, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker (1973, p. 389) defined the manager’s role in terms of five basic functions:

  1. Setting objectives – the manager sets goals and decides what work needs to be done to meet them.
  2. Organising – having divided the work into achievable tasks, the manager chooses people to carry them out
  3. Motivating and communicating – the manager uses both incentives and his or her relationship with staff to motivate them to achieve objectives.
  4. Measuring – the manager establishes appropriate targets and measures, and both monitors and assesses performance.
  5. Developing people – in a knowledge economy, employees are the organisation’s most important resource, and it is up to the manager to train and develop them.

Drucker certainly provided a rounder overview of the scope of the core management activities and functions. It is debatable, however, how far this is descriptive of the situation which Drucker encountered in the decades following the Second World War and how far his ideas are also quite normative – albeit reflecting more contemporary concerns and values in management

We now turn to more recent attempts to identify what managers actually do with their time.