Managing and managing people
Managing and managing people

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Managing and managing people

4.3.3 Decisional roles

Mintzberg argues that making decisions is the most crucial part of any managerial activity. He identifies four roles which are based on different types of decisions; namely, entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator.

As entrepreneurs, managers make decisions about changing what is happening in an organisation. They may have to initiate change and take an active part in deciding exactly what is done – they are proactive. This is very different from their role as disturbance handlers, which requires them to make decisions arising from events that are beyond their control and which are unpredictable. The ability to react to events as well as to plan activities is an important aspect of management. The resource allocation role of a manager is central to much organisational analysis. A manager has to make decisions about the allocation of money, equipment, people, time and other resources. In so doing a manager is actually scheduling time, programming work and authorising actions. The negotiation role is important as a manager has to negotiate with others and in the process be able to make decisions about the commitment of organisational resources.

Mintzberg found that managers don’t perform equally – or with equal frequency – all the roles he described. There may be a dominant role that will vary from job to job, and from time to time.

It is important to note that many non-managers in organisations seem to have these sorts of interpersonal, informational and decisional roles. For example, a hotel receptionist is fulfilling an interpersonal role when she meets the hotel guests’ needs by communicating with the room attendants and restaurant staff. A car park attendant who monitors how full the car park is and, when necessary, displays the sign ‘car park full’ is disseminating information. When the same attendant sends the larger cars to the areas of the car park where there is more space, he is acting as a resource allocator. But in each case routine situations are being handled in routine ways. In contrast, the situations managers deal with differ in the degree of routine, the size and scope and complexity of the activities in which they are involved, and the responsibilities associated with these activities.

Activity 1 The Mintzberg roles

Timing: Allow 20 minutes for this activity.

In this activity you will identify the Mintzberg roles you have performed in the last week.

First, consider Mintzberg’s 10 roles (figurehead, leader, liaison, monitor, disseminator, spokesperson, entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, negotiator). Look back over the previous few pages if you need reminding of the three categories, or any details. Then, think about the main managerial tasks you carried out last week.

Identify THREE different tasks that occupied you most and match them to three of Mintzberg’s 10 roles. Record the activities below in the appropriate dialogue boxes. The boxes will help you to structure your response to the activity. Next, think about any of Mintzberg’s roles that you don’t perform.

Finally, note what changes you would like to make in your roles to increase your contribution to the success of your organisation, or your part of the organisation. When considering changes it is always good practice to identify who might be affected by the changes, a timescale and whether consultation with other people is needed. Record your responses below.

The purpose of this activity is to help you to be more aware of the management roles you perform in your job and to consider changes or improvements.

The Mintzberg roles

Task 1:

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Task 2:

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Task 3:

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Mintzberg roles I don’t carry out:

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Changes I could make:

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The timescale of the potential changes:

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Who I should consult:

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Comment

Comment

It would be unusual if you carried out every one of Mintzberg’s 10 roles, either in one week of work or in your management job overall. But it would also be unusual if you did not undertake several of the roles. The type and range depend on the context in which you work. It would also be unusual for all your managerial activities to have equal importance in your job. The learning point to be gained is that while many people are engaged in something called management, they are not engaged in exactly the same thing, as you will see when you compare your results with those of other students. The important difference is context. This determines your management roles in any given situation, including what type of organisation you work for.

The following section takes you more deeply into the context of management – the particular situation that you work in. The text sets out different types of demands on you – things you must do; different types of constraints – factors that limit what you can do; and choices that you may have. As you read, consider your job in terms of each type of demand, constraint and choice. This will prepare you for Activity 2.

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