What Is Management? Part 1


You can’t go to most social functions thesedays without being asked, “What do you do for a living?”"I’m a manager,” might be your usual response, but what does that really mean?A working definition of management can be “working with and through people to accomplish the objectives of both the organization and its members.” Your view of what the objectives of your job are and the best way to accomplish them affects every detail of your day-to-day work. If your approach is wrong, or you aren’t clear aboutyour objectives, thenyou could inadvertently destroy employee morale, increase turnover and forget about being profitable. So it can be useful to ask yourself,”What is management, anyway?”Try writing a job description for yourself. In the meantime, read on for some ideas about what it means to be a manager.

Management’s beginnings

Not surprisingly, the concept of management, like the concept of exercise, has evolved to reflect advances in technology and scientific knowledge;changes in society; and cultural shifts in how people view work and the individual’s relationship to the work environment. Prior to the industrial revolution, mostbusinesses had little need for managers. With the advent of the assembly line and automation,division of labor and allocation of resources became necessary. The business world needed managers to decide how tasks should be accomplished and which tasks should be a priority. This need was especially important with the large economic expansion in the late 19th century, whenthe U.S. became a mecca for immigrant labor.

The first theorists about the role of management, the “classical” theorists, looked to science and engineering to discover “the right way” to do things. They conducted motion and efficiency studies to try to quantify standards for efficiency and productivity, but they did not hold the initiative of workers in high esteem. The underlying philosophy of many of these early “management scientists” was that without close supervision and detailed instructions, workers would simply slack off(at worst) or mess up (at best). The worker was viewed as another cog in the big wheel, and most workers didn’t have any idea where the big wheel was going. As a result, many of them felt fractionalized and segmented. (In retrospect, this theory seems an inevitable product of its time, when most workers were hired for their brawn, not their brains.) This philosophy’s greatest deficiencywas probably that it wasunthinkable that workers, those most directly involved with production, could contribute ideas on how to do things better.

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