Management Essay

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Management    is  the   process   that   organizations use to reach  their  goals utilizing people and other resources. Organizations  and the environments that they are located in are changing quickly and significantly. Traditional hierarchical command and structured organizations  are proving too slow and costly for the 21st century. Rather than working with a boss and  subordinates,  an increasingly typical situation is one  driven  by teamwork  that  integrates  different types of know-how  to foster creative solutions. Information  technology  is offering new and richer ways for people to collaborate, even when they are located in different parts of the world. Networking is increasingly  an  important factor.  On  one  level organizations  are  partnering  with  other  organizations  to  combine  their  expertise  and  strengths  to take advantage of opportunities otherwise  unavailable to them—for  example through  joint ventures. On another  level individuals are increasingly creating and joining networks in their companies, professions, and very large global ones.

The Evolution Of Management Thought

The roots of management  are in ancient military organizations. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (4th century b.c.e.)  is an example that  discusses many strategic, structural,   and  interpersonal  management   issues. Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776) had the insight  that  having each  person  perform  a narrow task well might result in greater agility and quality in production.  This notion is called job specialization or the division of labor.

In the early 20th century, Frederick W. Taylor put forth  an  approach   called  “scientific  management.” This involved doing time-and-motion studies and otherwise collecting data to try to determine  the best ways to do each task and movement that constituted a job. Henri Fayol, a French mining executive, in his book General and Industrial Management (1916), developed a functional taxonomy of management comprised  of  organizing,  command,   coordination, and control. Max Weber, a German academic, in The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (1922), distinguished traditional nepotistic family-run businesses from  ones  with  more  fairness  and  objectivity in hiring,  promoting,  and  decision  making.  He called such “rational” organizations  “bureaucracies,” emphasizing that they ran on the basis of set rules and policies rather than the whims and power of individuals. Chester Barnard’s The Functions of the Executive (1938) viewed organizations  as cooperative systems, which need  to obtain  the  voluntary  cooperation  of their members.

In  the  mid-20th   century,  Herbert   Simon  suggested that managers do not search indefinitely for the best alternative  but rather  often decide upon a decision  choice  that  will work, although  not  necessarily  optimally.  He  called  this  “satisficing.”  In the 1960s organizations were viewed as systems analogous to biological organisms. Under “systems theory,” organizations  first took in inputs,  such as financial  material   and   human   resources,   which went  through  a transformation process,  involving technologies   and  managerial  actions,  within  the organization; next they sent out outputs,  including goods and services.

In  the  1980s and  1990s, “quality management,” sometimes called “Japanese management,” became a leading approach. Key features included the continuous improvement of products  and services, of the level of customer satisfaction with them, and Just-in Time (JIT) inventory, where the company purchases of materials  would be limited  to those  needed  for the particular day or week. In the 21st century, managing for sustainability,  or “green management,” is increasing  its influence as companies  grapple with the ethical and legal need to make their operations and products  support,  rather  than hurt, our natural environment.

Culture, Environments, And Ethics

Just as different nationalities have cultures, so do organizations. The internal environment of an organization includes a corporate  culture that is comprised of the key values, beliefs, understandings, and norms generally  shared  by members  of the  organization. The fundamental  values that characterize  an organization’s culture are communicated through  symbols, stories, slogans, and ceremonies.

Contemporary business is often conducted by multinational  companies  (MNCs) operating  around  the world. More and more markets are becoming worldwide  ones,  and  organizations  must  recruit  people who are adept at intercultural relations and communications. One important trend has been outsourcing of jobs from high-wage countries to low-cost ones.

The publicity of a series of large corporate scandals involving Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, Tyco, poison-painted Chinese  toys, and  Bernard  Madoff provided an impetus for higher expectations of managers. The Sarbanes-Oxley law reflects this trend.  A key way companies  can be ethical is through  devising strategies whereby they help to alleviate poverty, improve health, or introduce  environmental sustainability through  business activities that are profitable. So rather  than rue the need to spend money on the research  and development  of environmentally  helpful and conscientious  parts of a product  or service, a company  might relish the prospect  of aligning with the  requirements of society before  they  are legally mandated so that if that does occur, they will be in the best competitive position.

Functions

The management  process is comprised  of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling  activities. Planning involves setting goals and objectives and determining what actions should be taken to move toward accomplishing  them.  Organizing  is the  process  of assigning tasks, allocating resources, and coordinating the people and groups of the organization  in the implementation of plans. Leading is the  process  of encouraging  others  to commit  themselves  to working well and supporting  goals. Controlling is the process of evaluating actual work performance  against planned  results  and  directing  any adjustments  that might be needed to improve performance.

One of the important choices in decision making is whether  a decision is best made by a manager or a larger group. Group  decision making must occur with a sensitivity to avoid the tendency toward groupthink,  or premature agreement  on a decision. Some companies institute a devil’s advocate position to ensure that the potential  downsides of proposals are accurately  considered.  Problem  solving can be improved  through  such creativity-stimulating procedures  as brainstorming, where  initially all ideas that  come  to  mind  are put  on  the  table  and  then evaluated.  Increasingly,  teams  are  highly  diverse and global. Also, working over the internet in virtual teams is an important trend.

Beyond tactical or short-term plans, organizations develop long-term strategies. Sometimes these are premised  on competitive  advantages exceeding those  of competitors for providing  superior  value. Sometimes  firms  articulate  the  fundamental   purposes of their  organization  in mission  statements. The strategic management process involves environmental analysis of demographic and cultural aspects of societies  in  which  the  organizations  exist,  the technological  product  and  processes  available, the force of the economy, and legal and political forces (both local and international).  When developing strategy, an organization must also analyze its internal capabilities, including  its operations,  logistical activities, marketing and sales, service procurement, technology development,  human  resource  management,  firm  infrastructure,  and  resource  management.  Often  firms focus on their  core competence associated  with things they do best. Generic  strategies for obtaining  competitive  advantage  include striving to be the lowest-cost producer  of a product or provider of a service and making their product or service different in ways valued by customers. Firms must monitor  and evaluate how their strategies are implemented and attempt to adjust them in line with the implications of such information.

Organizational Structure

Organizational structure refers to how the people, departments, technologies,  and locations  of a company are connected.  Different ways of structuring an organization  are appropriate  for different situations. When units or people are interdependent and require each other to complete their work well, an integrated structure  that  fosters interaction,  coordination,  and cooperation might be appropriate. Organizations that have a formal structure  are often specified by organizational  charts  showing how people and units are connected  with each other  as far as who reports  to whom and who has authority over whom.

The current  tendency  is to move away from hierarchical multilevel organizations  and rather institute flatter ones where employees are empowered and enabled by technology to make decisions themselves rather  than  seeking  the  approval  of higher-ups  as much. Traditional organizations were centralized, where top management  had to approve most things. Contemporary organizations are more typically decentralized. Some organizations are organized around certain products  or services; others are organized around categories of customers; and yet others have geographic  structures.  Organizations  in which people have two bosses are called matrix structures. For example, a person  might  report  to a functional department head (e.g., finance) and also to the head of a project they are in, such as the solar energy project.

Managing In A Networked World

Information  systems were initially used for data storage. The ability to provide numerical summaries  and calculations involving data was called “data processing.”  As computer   technology  developed,  management information transcending mere data agglomeration  was provided by these technologies. Initially a company’s information  was centralized in one large computer,  access to which was through  specialized programmers. Then  the  microcomputer revolution of the 1980s fostered the dispersion of the collection and analysis of information  and companies  to many small computers in departments, offices, and even on individual desks. This fragmentation was reversed to an amazing extent in the 1990s and early 21st century by the  development  of organizational  networks  (or intranets)  and the internet  and World Wide Web.

At the onset of the second decade of the 21st century, more sophisticated collaborative social and professional networking technologies are changing many managerial functions. For example, LinkedIn.com is a worldwide social and professional network with more than 30 million members. LinkedIn allows a manager in, for example, the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey to find experts in new media in places such as Finland  or  India  to  collaborate  on  fulfilling needs, perhaps developing Web-based training.

An incipient trend that may develop into an important venue for conducting business is the use of three-dimensional augmented virtual interfaces, such as virtual worlds. For example, the Second Life virtual world provides people in business with a virtual representation of themselves (called an “avatar”) that can attend meetings and share and discuss documents and PowerPoint  presentations, while making  nonverbal gestures  and expressions. So a publisher  in London might have a meeting in Second Life with production people in Mumbai, editors in San Francisco, and marketing people in Pretoria without the time delay, cost, neglect of their jobs, and exhaustion of contemporary travel. Certainly the benefits for global sustainability of such a structure  are stark.

Bibliography:   

  1. Charles Wankel,  , Alleviating Poverty Through Business Strategy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008);
  2. Charles Wankel,  ,  21st  Century  Management   (Sage, 2008);
  3. Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., Educating Managers Through Real World  Projects (Information Age Publishing,  2005);
  4. Charles Wankel  and  James A. F. Stoner, eds., Innovative Approaches to Global Sustainability (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

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