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Managing and managing people
Managing and managing people

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4.3 The roles of a manager

One of the best-known attempts to make some sense out of the seeming chaos of what managers actually do was made by Henry Mintzberg in 1971. He studied a number of chief executives and kept records of all their activities, all their correspondence and all their contacts during the period of the study. His analysis of the data concluded that managerial work had the following six characteristics.

  1. The manager performs a great quantity of work at an unrelenting pace.
  2. Managerial activity is characterised by variety, fragmentation and brevity.
  3. Managers prefer issues that are current, specific and ad hoc.
  4. The manager sits between his organisation and a network of contacts.
  5. The manager shows a strong preference for verbal communication.
  6. Despite his heavy obligations, the manager appears to be able to control his own affairs.

Note that the study related to chief executives. Mintzberg’s main question was ‘Why did the managers do what they did?’ His answer was that they were fulfilling certain roles. He identified 10 different roles into which he was able to fit all the activities he observed. He grouped the 10 roles under three broader headings on the grounds that, whatever they were doing, they were invariably doing one of three things: making decisions, processing information, or engaging in interpersonal contact.