One of the fundamental issues within the science and practice of management is the consideration of the purposes, roles and functions of managers. Although the question “What managers do?” may initially seem as rather abstract and obvious, it occupies substantial research efforts, and calls for reconsideration in the face of the rapidly changing business world. Moreover, a solid line of thought on this basic question provides an essential basis for a wide array of economic and managerial issues, such as allocation of resources and performance appraisal.
Throughout the development of managerial science, more than a few theories have suggested different definitions and models to address the nature of management. One of the most influential of them is the Functional Approach, whose origins are dated back to the works of Henry Fayol form the early 20th century (Barnett, n.d.) and argues that “A manager plans, organizes, leads, and controls resources to achieive organizational objectives through others” (Lussier, 2009, p. 12). This paper discusses the main features of the four functions (planning, organizing, leading and controlling) in the framework of a real-world example – an ice-cream franchise business.
The Four Functions Approach in Practice
Although the exact content, responsibilities, etc. vary from one organizational to the other, the basic four-function categorization is shared to some extent among all managers. In a small business such as an ice-cream franchise, the manager is often also the owner, and is responsible for many other non-managerial tasks, including working as a clerk. Nevertheless, it is imperative to carry on the managerial functions. Referring to the four categories, the next four sections illustrate the typical assignments of such a manager.
The essence of planning is the ability to define future operations (for different time horizons) in terms of direction, resource allocation and handling external challenges. In addition, well-designed plans that include measurable goals and objectives facilitate the process of controlling (see also section 2.4 below). Planning can be formal or informal; the latter is not written down and focuses on short-term events, often within immediate proximity, (Daft, 2008).
In a small business, where usually the manager directly plans all the aspects of the business, planning activities vary among various issues and time frames. Unlike executives in large companies, who are concerned with long-term strategic planning, planning activities in a small ice-cream business entail mostly short-term plans such as optimal use of labor and capital, guidelines for inventory and cash management, and so on. Goals and objectives (e.g. sales volumes and financial performance) are set for shorter periods. In addition, planning may vary according to the position of the business or a product along their life cycle; different focuses and planning methods are needed for new vs. existing businesses, as well as when new products are introduced.
After organizational goals are set, the manager’s focus shifts to navigate the organization so that those goals will be properly met. Defining this functions as “the process of delegating and coordinating tasks and resources to achieve objectives,” (2009, p. 166) Lussier names four types of resources to be allocated by managers: human, physical, financial and information. All work processes should be arranged and structured according to the use and availability of these resources.
The manager will organize work by deriving specific instructions from the principles, which were defined in the plans. For example, if plans determine that three workers are needed at all time during high season, the manager will prepare schedules for shifts and make sure that all shifts are manned. Similarly, short-term plans and instructions for all the aspect of the business are included in this step.
Working with people poses a unique challenge for managers. As a leader, the manager is required to consider the needs, wants, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions of the workforce, and to behave in a manner that drives people to put their efforts in the best possible manner. Motivating employees is a key skill, which calls for research, training and continuous improvement.
Most of the workforce of a small ice-cream business is composed of low-skilled employees, whose career prospects and compensation are rather limited. Their motivators can be linked to the sense of enjoyment at work and personality needs such as the need to feel liked by the organization and important for it (Daft, 2008). Failure to build healthy relationship with the workforce may significantly reduce organizational performance, especially in a service business such as ice-cream shops.
Finally, controlling is the process of inclining performance with standards (Barnett, n.d.). As mentioned earlier, when plans include goals and objectives, they can and should serve as a benchmark for managers’ control. In addition, the results of the controlling function can also serve as a source of reference for future planning.
The ice-cream business’s manager should first set the objectives and the methods, which the controlling process aims to serve. Then, performance standards such as income, customers’ satisfaction and product quality will be monitored with the applicable means. Finally, the manager should draw conclusions and correct work according to the results, which may indicate the manager’s own performance as well and suggest improvements to the performance of the other three functions.
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Barnett, T. (n.d.). Management Functions. Retrieved September 3, 2009 from <http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Log-Mar/Management-Functions.html>
Daft, R. L. (2008). New era of management (2nd ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson Higher Education. Retrieved October 3, 2009 from <http://books.google.com/books?id=RhwMpK19nj0C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false>
Lussier, R. N. (2009). Management fundamentals: Concepts, applications, skill development (4th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western. Retrieved October 3, 2009 from <http://books.google.com/books?id=F1c3wHNDF-wC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false>