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Management, the study of what managers do, is a broad and controversial subject. Broadly speaking, management theory is a relatively new discipline that has only started around the end of the nineteenth century.

This article is a topic within the subject Managing Organisations and People.


Required Reading

Robbins et all, Managing Organisations and People MGMT1001, compiled from Management (6th ed) and Organisational Behaviour (6th ed), (3rd ed, Sydney, Pearson Australia, 2012), pp. 8-30.

What Managers Do

Managers are generally seen as those involved in an organisation with the role of making sure goals are achieved in an effective and efficient manner. The distinction between that two is that:

  • Efficiency is making sure things get done with the highest output but with lowest input. It is about the means of getting things done.
  • Effectiveness is making sure the goals get done. It is about the end product.

However these two ideals are related to each other and often increasing one means decreasing the other. Managers often find it hard to find the balance.

[1]On a more broad level, management is about the coordinating the work of others in order to achieve a goal. In general, management takes the form of different levels, each requiring a different set of skills. The different levels of management are:

  1. Top Management: involved in strategic planning
  2. Middle Management: Involved in implementing the strategy
  3. First Line Management: Involved in menial scheduling, supervision and training of employees
  4. Team Leaders: Involved in internal and external relations (customers and colleagues) and facilitation between them

Management Theories

Categorising management theory is fairly simple and in chronological order they are:

  1. Scientific management theory - attempted to find a science to management
  2. Administrative management theory - attempted to find the best organisation structure
  3. Behavioural management theory - attempted to find a model for how people work and on what motivates people
  4. Management science theory - attempted to find a way to evaluate management
  5. Organisational management theory

Fayol's Functions of Management

[2]According to Fayol, the five functions of management are planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling. These days these roles have been cut down to four:

  1. Planning - involves defining goals and establishing strategies to accomplish them
  2. Organising - involves arranging and structuring work to accomplish the goals
  3. Leading - involves working with and through people in order to accomplish goals
  4. Controlling - involves monitoring, comparing and correcting work performance

Mintzberg's Managerial Roles

[3]Mintzberg concluded that there are ten roles or behaviours that are expected from managers, however these can be categorised as:

  1. Interpersonal roles - all managers have to deal with people, whether its by speaking in public, handing out awards, mediating quarrels or hiring employees. Managers are expected to act as figureheads, leaders and as a liaison. That is they are often expected to liaise between department heads.
  2. Informational roles - all managers have to deal with data, be it analysing sales forecasts or output fluctuations over the past quarter. Managers are expected to monitor, to disseminate information as well as be a spokesperson when they represent their organisation to outsiders (with their data).
  3. Decisional roles - managers are expected to make entrepreneurial decisions to improve the organisation, they act as disturbance handlers by taking corrective action in response to unforeseen circumstances. They act as resources allocators as well as negotiators to gain resources.

Mintzberg also concluded that managers both reflect as well as do. They have to think in order to get things done (efficiently and effectively). Recently he has also concluded that "managing is about influencing action". However recent studies have shown that managers tend to do more than think.

Recent studies have shown that Mintzberg's analysis is correct though managers do not perform all roles equally. That is dependant on their management levels, so for example, top management focuses more on the roles of disseminator, figurehead, negotiator, liaison and spokesperson whereas lower management focuses more on leadership.

Fredrick Taylor's Theories

Taylor made a lot of contributions to the scientific management theory. He theorised that by specialisation and division of labour, both efficiency and effectiveness will increase. His ideas lay the groundwork for Ford's production line, contemporary offshoring and automation activities. He also came up with a scientific approach to management. His approach is:

  1. Develop a science for each job rather than rely on a 'rule of thumb' for procedures
  2. Select the right people to do the right jobs (specialisation)
  3. Managers should actively cooperate with workers
  4. Make sure that the work is equally distributed amongst employees

Other contributions to scientific management theories came through Frank and Lillian Gilberth who did time and motion studies to find better, more efficient ways of production.

Max Webber

Max Webber made contributions to administrative management theory by focusing o organisational structure. He theorised that:

  1. There should be formal rules and regulations
  2. Labour should be specialised
  3. Hierarchy should be well-defined
  4. Careers should advance based on work merit

X-Y Theory

Theory X and Theory Y involve two opposing ways of viewing employees. These extremes are summarised below:

Theory X Theory Y
Employees are lazy and hate work Employees are productive and motivated to work
Managers therefore have to closely supervise the employees Managers must come up with ways to allow initiative and self control
Managers should come up with a rigid system for rewards and punishment Management should decentralise authority


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"Textbook" refers to Robbins et all, Managing Organisations and People MGMT1001, compiled from Management (6th ed) and Organisational Behaviour (6th ed), (3rd ed, Sydney, Pearson Australia, 2012).

  1. Textbook, p.10
  2. Textbook, pp. 13-14
  3. Textbook pp. 14-17
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