People often think that running businesses requires only extensive technical knowledge. But the reality is, even if you have the best understanding of a particular industry, the complexities of the production process, and the logistical challenges involved in a business process, without good fundamental knowledge on management.
Most positions and departments in businesses have very specific duties, requiring special knowledge and expertise to address company needs. What is special about managers however is the broadness of their responsibilities. Management as a discipline requires one to navigate a wide variety of process-related, structural, and even interpersonal challenges involved in guiding a team or an organization towards its goals.
What elements are involved in management? This is what past managers have figured out as their industry-specific expertise was eventually formalized into a discipline practiced to this day.
Back in 1916, a director of a French coal mine named Henri Fayol had written a book called “Administration Industrielle et Generale,” which in English translates into “Industrial and General Administration.” For a long time, managers had been practicing techniques that were highly specific to their businesses and particular industries. But after having written this particular book, he was able to identify five distinct functions of management that applied to any industry!
The five elements identified by Fayol were originally as follows: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. But this has since been reduced to a set of four functions of management in modern curricula: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.
By the 1950s some of Fayol’s ideas were incorporated into syllabi as management itself was formalized into an actual academic discipline. Today, management courses still use these century-old ideas to new generations of business students. And now, you too can easily learn these functions and apply them to your own organization or business!
One of the main roles of managers is none other than creating plans with the goal of meeting company goals and objectives. Planning involves allocating resources and delegating responsibilities to employees. It involves checking on one’s team continuously to ensure progress is being made and ensuring that adjustments are made when necessary without losing sight of the greater objectives of the organization.
Though sometimes, we cannot control the business environment that our organization finds itself in, ensuring there is a plan ensures that there is a direction and concrete objectives to be met in day-to-day operations, up to the long-term future of the organization as a whole.
As such, one aspect of planning is figuring out the steps a company must take, and setting its direction. Managers must be aware of the challenges their businesses face, and it requires them to be able to predict future business and economic conditions.
Planning also requires managers to formulate concrete objectives and reach certain deadlines, while choosing the correct steps to reach them. Managers must also reevaluate plans when necessary so as to ensure resources are allocated properly, and waste is avoided.
Planning as a function of management also usually involves working independently in determining responsibilities given to employees, setting the priorities for certain tasks, and creating timetables for when these tasks must be completed.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of planning involves effective communication. Managers must learn how to plan not just with their teams, but also the leadership of an organization to mediate between short term and long term goals. They must also learn to explain the specifics of projects to their teams and communicate regularly to ensure individual objectives are met in a timely manner.
Alongside planning, another function of management is ensuring that a company and its departmental units run smoothly. This may involve establishing internal processes and structures up to knowing which employees or teams are specifically suited for particular tasks. It also involves keeping daily operations organized, with employees’ functions being clear in the context of the organization.
However, apart from delegating tasks efficiently and ensuring employees are able to accomplish them, there’s more to organizing. Managers are challenged to be able to reorganize even existing internal processes and structures to respond to new challenges facing organizations.
In practice, organizing can sometimes involve slightly adjusting the timeline for projects, up to re-delegating some tasks from one team to another. Meanwhile, sometimes the reorganization process may involve some more radical steps such as altering the team’s internal structures and roles to respond to the company’s growth. Organizing thus finds itself as a crucial function of management that is practiced every day by managers and their teams.
Another important function of managers is to be leaders. The leading function of management, it must be noted, is not necessarily simply motivating team members in achieving the goals of the company. Leaders have a responsibility to give a solid sense of direction and leadership in their teams and the entire organization in accordance with the values and objectives of the company.
Managers should not be hesitant in commanding their team’s daily tasks, as well as carrying them through periods of significant changes or challenges. One also has to be capable of setting goals, communicating new processes, products and services, and even internal policies of the company.
It must be noted however that there is no one type of leadership. It can manifest in a diversity of forms even in daily responsibilities such as motivating and praising employees, up to handling conflicts between members of the team in a fair and decisive manner. Even during small non-work-related interactions, managers are able to exercise leadership by embodying supportive and encouraging qualities for others to emulate.
To make sure that the three other functions of management benefit a company, the last function of management is to ensure that employee performance, quality of work, and efficiency are being consistently monitored and controlled.
As managers, the function of control is all about ensuring that the company objectives of the business are met, and adjusting accordingly when they are not being met. In layman’s terms, controlling is basically all about determining whether everything is going according to plan.
The process of controlling involves the following steps:
Establishing standards to measure performance and quality of work
Actually measuring performance through key performance indicators
Taking actions to correct the trajectory of a project when necessary
Without a good way of measuring performance, there is no effective control. As such, here are some questions that managers can utilize in measuring the progress of a project or one’s team:
Are the key performance indicators met?
Is everyone able to provide quality work?
Are people efficient in carrying out tasks?
Do we need to adjust the current business process?
These questions will help ensure that you are able to identify any shortcomings of existing business processes and organizational structures, and leaves you with space to be creative in resolving these issues.
Now you know the basic functions of management, you can apply planning, organizing, leading, and controlling to your business. Behind every successful business is the adequate application of the basic principles of management. No matter what industry you are working in, whether it’s day-to-day operations up to long-term planning, these four functions of management will be sure to help you and your organization grow.