Knowing What a Manager Does

Aim: after digesting these notes, you should be able to:


The art, or science, of achieving goals through people


Literally - looking over: making sure people do what they are supposed to do

There are as many definitions of these terms as there are writers of textbooks! However, these will suffice for our needs

Managers can also be supervisors; and supervisors in turn can be expected to practise management skills.

Three factors are in play - goals, resources and people - and managers are often seen as not being in direct contact with the two latter, whereas supervisors are. Many "managers" don't have any staff to "supervise" other than a deputy or two.

Supervisors can be seen as having the most difficult jobs in any organisation - the interface between the "workers" and the "management". Current terminology for both groups seems to be Frontline Managers - and as much of modern management practice and terminology was taken from the military, it seems appropriate.

Other terms in use: boss, foreman/woman, leading hand, director, owner, team/project leader, head of department ..... Whatever the name, the task is the same - to get the job done and keep the people motivated, whilst operating against numerous restrictions - time, limited resources ..... To get more done with less.

These notes are written principally for those people who have to deal with other people, call them what you will. There is very little on the financial side of management, but plenty on the 'human resources' side. My aim at work was to help frontline supervisors solve difficult problems and become more effective as managers and leaders.

I work on the theory that if people have to spend as much time at work as they do, daily and over the years, then it should be as enjoyable as possible. Managers have a moral responsibility to ensure that this is so - and by so doing, they should ensure greater productivity - or, as the current jargon has it, 'continuous improvement'.

 Have a look at a book I came across recently, called The Money or Your Life: Reuniting Work and Joy. The blurb on the back cover says:

Even those who have risen to great heights in their careers often feel frustrated, insecure, trapped, bored or isolated, although they may continue to present to the world an image of contented success. They look upon their work as an economic pursuit that offers external rewards like money and status, but little enjoyment or inner fulfilment, Such career angst is rife throughout the world of managers and professionals.

But it doesn't have to be like this. Work and joy can - indeed should - go hand in hand.

Management Theory

There is a body of opinion which says that "management" evolved during and after the Second World War; certainly, it has only been studied in depth since then. Early Days - Egyptians, Romans and Greeks - what evidence ? Could they have built empires, roads, buildings, trade etc without these skills? Ditto for Asian empires, Central and South America, Africa - everywhere there has been any development beyond the subsistence level.

Industrial Revolution: mass production, specialisation, people seen as resources, expendable. The Victorian work ethic - work was there to be done, whether you liked it or not, and you could expect it to be hard and boring, probably not well paid. You worked until you were no longer able - then enjoyed retirement [?]

Turn of the 19th century -

Taylor - Scientific Management -

Time and quantity -
  • analysed and timed movements,
  • worked out piece rates;
  • increased production, and
  • often pay,
but workers felt that working harder would exhaust the number of available jobs. That is, there was a certain amount of work to be done - if you worked harder, you would cut down the extent of that finite amount.

Gilbreths - motion study - efficiency -

eg, bricklaying, reduced 18 motions to 4;
used films and micro-chronometers;
proposed each worker should be
  • involved in doing own job,
  • preparing for next higher level, and
  • training their successors
Fayol - functions of management


One of first to believe that management was an acquired skill
universal application, including in the home - 14 principles:
  1. division of labour
  2. authority
  3. discipline
  4. unity of command
  5. unity of direction
  6. subordination of individual to common goal,
  7. remuneration for effort
  8. centralisation
  9. chain of command,
  10. order
  11. equity
  12. stability
  13. initiative , and
  14. team spirit

Weber - bureaucracy needed to ensure stability

leaders usually inherit status and authority, do not always have "charisma" - therefore, we need division of labour - hierarchy and authority - rules and regulations


Mayo and Hawthorne Studies


Production increased when workers knew they were part of a project
Group/peer pressure was important even in tedious work
Workers not machines - growing interest in the human resource

Recent times - see the bibliography for details of works relating to these theorists


Evolution of theories

Classical approach + scientific management - the one best way to do the job, general theories on what managers do and what constitutes good management practice. Developed from about 1911 when Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management was published - production was highly labour intensive. See Fayol's functional view of management, and Weber's discussions on the theories of bureaucracy.
Behavioural approach - people are good and essential - therefore, to stimulate performance, management needs to consider their needs and humanise work. Emphasis on group behaviour, motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and communication.
Quantitative approach - operations research and management science.: mathematical and statistical solutions to problems, optimisation models, computer simulations. Most effective in management decision making rather than managerial behaviour. Not many managers familiar with the necessary tools.
Situational or contingency approach - principles of management are not fixed but are affected by many variables - size, objectives, leadership styles, education and training of staff, availability of resources, nature of market, economic pressures, government policies.
Team building approach - quality circles, best practice, continuous improvement - reliance on teamwork. Flattening of management pyramid, reducing the levels of hierarchy; concensus management - involving more people at all levels in decision making.


Objectives of Management


Traditional Functions of Management


eg, meeting goals, being ready for crises


eg, recruiting, training


eg, time management, team building


eg, communication, motivation, discipline


eg, quality control - methods, productivity, people

Communicating is a factor affecting all functions

As my opening notes said, too many managers are promoted to their positions because they were technically expert in their chosen field, but now find themselves with little knowledge of the subject of management. More and more, that now involves less technical expertise and a concentration on


Next Step

Practise at work

Change in itself is fraught with difficulty, and you will not change yourself or others overnight. Being aware of possibilities is the first step, for only too often we stick to what is tried and true, simply because it is 'safe'. Ask yourself why you and others are there, why you do what you do all day, is there a better way to do it, how to create an environment where people can enjoy doing what they do and get satisfaction from it.

Further reading or study - see the bibliography and other outlines.

Feel free to follow up any problems with me.


Go to Bibliography

Return to List of Outlines

Go to Outline 2 - Leading from in Front

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