Gaps in Management: Traditional Functions vs. Actual Behavior

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  • 0:00 The Manager and the…
  • 1:02 The Reality of the…
  • 3:45 Roles of Management
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nick Chandler
This lesson explains the gap that appears between traditional functions of management (planning, organizing, leading, and controlling) and the actual behavior of managers.

The Manager and the Four Functions

What is a manager? If you were to picture the ideal manager, then what would he or she be like? Would they be a meticulous planner, giving plenty of thought to the short and long term? Would they be so organized in their own work that they also manage everyone else's work? Or, perhaps, a role model that everyone in a department follows?

We often see a manager as someone who's in charge of a business, department or something similar. However, a manager might best be identified by the tasks he or she performs. The four functions of managers mentioned earlier are often referred to as the principles of management. In other words, they are the basic ways in which a manager is supposed to manage. Henri Fayol (1841-1925) was a French management theorist who created this framework of four functions:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Leading
  4. Controlling

And so people call it the POLC framework.

The Reality of the Four Functions

If a manager is managing then that means, in theory, they're performing all four functions. However, some managers may not be performing all the functions. Imagine a customer hasn't received their paycheck in their bank account. They go to the bank manager who checks the account, finds the missing amount, and transfers it to the customer's account. These tasks aren't managing, but are certainly part of the job. On the other hand, some managers may only perform one or two of the functions. A quality control manager is constantly checking and controlling but may not have a staff to lead or have no need for planning.

Look at it this way: if a manager is someone who directs and is in charge, a consultant to a business could be seen as a manager, since they're offering advice on the company's direction. Or look at it this way: a consultant is employed to analyze the company and develop a 5-year plan. That means they're planning and offering ideas on controlling.

Some recent trends in management and companies and organizations have further increased the gap between the theory of what a manager is and the reality. Here are a few examples.

First is the responsibility of leading. Research has found that leading may not come from the manager. A person can be a role model for others to follow just because they're an expert or respected by colleagues. If people want to follow and copy a colleague, then they're leading whether they intended to lead or not.

Organizing is another example. There has been a trend for some time for employees to be empowered. This means that the manager passes the responsibility for decisions to the employee. Often this means that the employee organizes their own work and manages themselves. In some cases, companies and organizations have gone one step further and have decided that employees can completely manage themselves. One extreme example was when British Telecom completely got rid of its middle management and let staff manage themselves. The employees were put in groups to manage each other. These groups were called autonomous work groups. In these groups, the employees take on not only organizing, but also controlling and some planning too.

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