Management and Managers
Management and Managers
Management is an important part of an organization. In fact the discipline of management is developed over a period of time to its present level. On the other hand managers of tomorrow are developed from the young, educated people who are knowledge workers of today. Both the management and the managers are vital component of the organization for its smooth functioning.
Present day society has become a ‘knowledge society’, a ‘society of organizations’, and a ‘networked society’. Today, the major social tasks are being performed in and through structured organizations, large and small, of all kinds and sizes. And every organization is entrusted to ‘managers’ who practice the ‘management’.
History of management
The word ‘management’ was first popularized by Frederick Winslow Taylor to describe what he had formerly (and more accurately) called ‘work study’ or ‘task study’ which is today being called ‘industrial engineering’. But when Taylor talked about what is being called today ‘management’ and ‘managers’, he said ‘the owners’ and ‘their representatives’. The roots of the discipline of management go back to more than 200 years. But management as a function, management as a distinct work, management as a discipline and area of study, all are the products of the twentieth century. And most people became aware of management only in 1950s.
Some recent studies on management give the impression that the management is an invention of late 1940s. True, before this period interest in and study of management was confined to small groups. The popular interest in management as a discipline and a field of study is fairly recent. But management, both as a practice and as a field of study, has a respectable history, in many different countries, going back almost two centuries.
When the early economists, from Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) to Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), did their work, management did not exist. To them, the economy was impersonal and governed by objective economic forces. A modern spokesman for the classical tradition, Kenneth Boulding (1910 – 1993) phrased it that ‘economics deals with the behaviour of commodities, rather than with the behaviour of persons’. Or, as with Marx, impersonal laws of history were seen to dominate. Humanity can only adapt. It can, at best, optimize what the economy makes possible. At worst, it impedes the forces of the economy and wastes resources. The last of the great English classical economists, Alfred Marshall (1842 – 1924), did add management to the factors of production, land, labour, and capital. But this was a half-hearted concern. Management was still not a central factor.
However, from the beginning there was a different approach which put the manager into the centre of the economy and which stressed the managerial task of making resources productive. The French economist J. B. Say (1767 – 1832) was an early follower of Adam Smith. But in his works, the pivot is not the factors of production, but it is the entrepreneur (a word Say coined) who directs resources from less productive into more productive investments and who thereby creates wealth. Say was followed by the ‘utopian socialists’ of the French tradition, notably Francois Fourier (1772 – 1837) and that eccentric genius the Comte de Saint- Simon (1760 – 1825). At that time there were no large organizations and no managers, but both Fourier and Saint-Simon anticipated developments and ‘discovered’ management before it actually came into being. Saint-Simon, in particular, saw the emergence of organization. And he saw the task of making resources productive and of building social structures. He saw managerial tasks.
It is for their stress on management as a separate and distinct force, and one that can act independently of the factors of production as well as the laws of history, that Marx vehemently denounced the French. But it is the French, and above all Saint-Simon, who, in effect, laid down the basic approaches and the basic concepts on which every socialist economy has actually been designed.
In America, too, management was early seen as central. Alexander Hamilton (1757 – 1804), in his famous ‘Report on Manufactures’, started out with Adam Smith and then gave emphasis to the constructive, purposeful, and systematic role of management. He saw in management, rather than in economic forces, the engine of economic and social development and in organization which is the carrier of economic advance. Following him, Henry Clay (1777 – 1852), with his famous “American system,” produced what might be called the first blueprint for systematic economic development.
A little later, an industrialist in Scotland, Robert Owen (1771 – 1858), actually became the first manager. In the 1820s, he first tackled the problems of productivity and motivation, or the relationship of worker to work or worker to organization and of worker to management which are to this day key demands in management. With Owen, the manager emerges as a real person. But it was a long time before Owen had successors.
The rise of large scale organization occurred simultaneously (around 1870) in two places. In North America the transcontinental railroad emerged as a managerial problem. In Europe, the ‘universal bank’ with entrepreneurial in aim, national in scope, and with multiple headquarters, made obsolescent traditional structures and concepts and required management.
One response was given by Henry Towne (1844 – 1924) in the United States, especially in his paper ‘The Engineer as Economist’. Towne outlined what might be called the first program for management. He raised basic issues which are (i) effectiveness as against efficiency, (ii) organization of the work as against the organization of workers, and (iii) value set in the market place and by the customer as against technical accomplishment. With Towne begins the systematic concern with the relationship between the tasks of management and the work of management.
At roughly the same time, in Germany, Georg Siemens (1839 – 1901), in building the Deutsche Bank into the leading financial institution of Europe, first designed an effective top management, first thought through the top management tasks, and first tackled the basic issues of communications and information in the large organization.
In Japan, Eiichi Shibusawa (1840 – 1931) in the 1870s and 1880s first raised fundamental issues regarding the relationship between business organization and national purpose, and between business needs and individual ethics. He tackled management education systematically. Shibusawa first envisioned the professional manager. Japan’s rise to economic leadership in this century is largely founded on Shibusawa’s thought and work.
A few decades later, in the years before and after the turn of the twentieth century, all the major approaches to modern management were shaped. Again the developments occurred independently in many countries.
In the 1880s, Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915), a self-taught American engineer, began the study of work. It is fashionable today to look down on Taylor for his outdated psychology, but Taylor was the first person in history who did not take work for granted, but looked at it and studied it. His approach to work is still the basic foundation. And, although Taylor in his approach to the worker was clearly a man of the nineteenth century, he started out with social rather than engineering or profit objectives. What led Taylor to his work and provided his motivation throughout was, first, the desire to free the worker from the burden of heavy work, destructive of body and soul. And then it was the hope to make it possible to give the labourers a decent livelihood through increasing the productivity of work.
Around the same time in France, Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925) first thought through organization structure and developed the first rational approach to the organization of enterprise known as the functional principle. In Germany, Walter Rathenau (1867 – 1922), whose early training had been in a large company, asked, ‘what is the place of the large enterprise in a modern society and in a modern nation, what impact it does have on both, and what are its fundamental contributions and its fundamental responsibilities’.
Most of the present issues concerning the social responsibilities of organization were first raised and thought through by Rathenau in the early years of twentieth century. Also in Germany, at the same time, the new discipline of ‘Betriebswissenschaft’ (literally, the science of enterprise) was developed by Eugen Schmalenbach (1873 – 1955). The management sciences such as managerial accounting, operational research, decision theory, and so on developed since then. These are developed largely as the extensions of the ‘Betriebswissenschaft’ in those early years of twentieth century. In America, German-born Hugo Muensterberg (1863 – 1916) first tried to apply the social and behavioural sciences, and especially psychology, to modern organization and management.
First management boom
Around 1920s, there came what might be called as the first management boom. It was sparked primarily by two of the most highly respected statesmen of the period, the American Herbert Hoover (1874 – 1964) and the Czech Thomas G. Masaryk (1850 – 1937). Hoover, a Quaker engineer, had vaulted to worldwide prominence by applying principles of management to the first massive foreign-aid operation in history. He planned the feeding of hundreds of thousands of starving people first in his Belgian relief operation, and then in the relief operations in Central and Eastern Europe. But it was Masaryk who conceived the idea that management would be able to restore the economies of Europe after their destruction by war, an idea which then found its realization 25 years later in the ‘Marshall Plan’ in late 1940s. These two men founded the international management movement and tried to mobilize management as a major social force. But the in between period was not congenial to such an idea.
It was a period of stagnation, a period in which the highest goal that any national government or any economy, except that of the United States, could conceive was a return to what had been. It rapidly became a world in which mounting political, social, and economic tensions paralyzed will as well as vision.
Work during the periods of 192os and 1930s
The first management boom fizzled out. Its high hopes were replaced by frustration. Yet behind the apparent stagnation, work went on. It was in those years that the foundations for the sweeping management boom of the post 1940s period were put in place.
In the early 1920s, Pierre S. du Pont (1870 – 1954) at the Du Pont Company, followed by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. (1875 – 1966) at General Motors, first developed the organization principle for the new ‘big business’ which was the principle of decentralization. Du Pont and, even more, Sloan also first developed systematic approaches to business objectives, to business strategy, and to strategic planning. Also, in the United States, Sears, Roebuck and Company, led first by Julius Rosenwald (1862 – 1932) and then by Robert E. Wood (1879 – 1969), built the first business to be based on the marketing approach. In Europe shortly thereafter, the architects of the Dutch-English merger that resulted in the Unilever companies designed what may well be to this day the most advanced structure for the multinational corporation and also came to grips with the problem of multinational business planning and multinational marketing.
The discipline of management was also further developed. In the United States there were the successors to Taylor, the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (1868 – 1924, 1878 – 1972) and Henry L. Gantt (1861 – 1919). In Great Britain, Ian Hamilton (1853 – 1947), realized the need to balance formal structure with policies which give ‘soul’ to an organization. Two Americans, Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933) and Chester Barnard (1886 -1961), first studied the process of decision making in organizations, the relationships between formal and informal organizations, and the role and function of the executive. Cyril Burt (1883 – 1972) in England and the Australian Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949), working at Harvard, developed the disciplines of, respectively, industrial psychology and human relations and applied each to organization and management. Management as a discipline also began to be taught during this period.
Urwick (1891 – 1983) started management consulting, that is, consulting no longer confined to technical problems but dealing with fundamental management concerns, such as business policy and management organization. Urwick also classified and codified the work on the structure of management and on the function of the executive that had been done until that time
Management and managers defined
Management and managers are the specific need of all organizations, from the smallest to the largest. They are the specific parts in the organizational structure. They together make the organization work. None of today’s organization can function without managers. And managers do their own job. They do not do it by delegation from the ‘owner’. The need for management does not arise just because the job has become too big for any one person to do alone. Managing an organization is inherently different from managing one’s own property or from running a consulting practice.
Of course, many a large and complex organizations of today have started from a one-man show. But beyond the first steps, growth soon entails more than a change in size. At some point (and long before the organization becomes even ‘fair-sized’), size turns into complexity. At this point ‘owners’ no longer run ‘their own’ organizations’ even if they are the sole proprietors. They are then in-charge of the organization, and if they do not rapidly become managers, they soon cease to be ‘owners’, be replaced, or the organization go under and disappear. At this point, the organization requires for its survival different structure, different principles, different behaviour, and different work. It requires managers and management.
Legally, management of the organization is still seen as a delegation of ownership. But the doctrine that already determines practice, even though it is still only evolving in law, is that ‘management precedes and even outranks ownership’. The owner has to subordinate himself to the organization’s need for management and managers. There are, of course, many owners who successfully combine both roles, that of owner-investor and that of top management. But if the organization does not have the management it needs, ownership itself is worthless. And in organizations which are big or which play such a crucial role as to make their survival and performance matters of national concern, public pressure or governmental action soon take control away from the owner who stands in the way of management. There are several examples for this around the world.
The change from an organization, which the ‘owner-entrepreneur’ can run with ‘helpers’, to an organization, which requires management, is a sweeping change. It requires the application of basic concepts, basic principles, and individual vision to the organization. Management becomes necessary when an organization reaches a certain size and complexity. But management, while it replaces the structure of the owner-entrepreneur, is not its successor. It is, rather, its replacement.
An organization needs management when it grows in size. It has a large number of emploees, usually more than 300. More important, perhaps, is the increase in complexity. When a variety of tasks all have to be performed in cooperation, synchronization, and communication, the organization needs managers and management. One example is that of a small research laboratory in which 25 to 30 scientists from a number of disciplines work together which can be taken. Without management, things go out of control. Plans fail to turn into action. Or worse, different parts of the plans get going at different speeds, different times, and with different objectives and goals. The favour of the ‘boss’ becomes more important than performance. At this point the product may be excellent, the people able and dedicated. The boss may be, and often is, a person of great ability and personal power. But the research laboratory begins to flounder, stagnate, and soon go downhill unless it shifts to the managers and management structure.
The word ‘management’ is centuries old. Its application to the governing body of an organization is not so old. ‘Management’ denotes both a function and the people who discharge it. It denotes a social position and authority, but also a discipline. All organizations have in common the management function, the management task, and the management work. All organizations need management. And in all of them, management is the effective, the active part. Without management, there is only a mob rather than an organization. The organization is itself a part of the society and exists only to contribute a needed result to society, the economy, and the individual. Parts, however, are never defined by what they do, let alone by how they do it. They are defined by their contribution. And it is management which enables the organization to contribute.
Management is tasks. Management is a discipline. But management is also people. Every achievement of management is the achievement of a manager. Every failure is a failure of a manager. People manage rather than ‘forces’ or ‘facts’. The vision, dedication, and integrity of managers determine whether there is management or mismanagement in the organization.
Most people when asked what they mean by manager’ reply, ‘a boss’. But when the sign over a room in a bank reads ‘Manager’, then everyone knows that this means that the occupant of the room is not the boss, but a hired hand with a minimum of authority and a salary just above that of other employees working in the bank.
Early in the history of management a manager was defined as someone who is ‘responsible for the work of other people’. This definition distinguished the manager’s function from that of the owner. It made clear that managing was a specific kind of work which could be analyzed, studied, and improved systematically. The definition focused on the essentially new, large, and permanent organization emerging to perform the economic tasks of society.
Yet, the definition is not at all satisfactory. In fact, it never was. From the beginning, there were people in the organization, often in responsible positions, who were clearly management and yet did not ‘manage’, that is, were not responsible for the work of other people. The finance general manager of an organization, the person responsible for the supply and use of funds in the organization, may have subordinates and in that sense be a manager in terms of the traditional definition. But clearly, the finance general manager alone does most of the financial job, consisting of working with the underwriters of the organization, dealing with the financial community, and so on. The finance general manager is an ‘individual contributor’ rather than a manager. But finance general managers are executives in that they contribute directly to the results of the organization and they are members of top management.
Also, the definition focuses on the tools for a task rather than on the task itself. The executive in charge of market research in the organization may have a large number of subordinates and is thus a manager in the traditional sense. But it really makes no difference to his function and contribution whether there is a large staff, a small staff, or no staff at all. The same contribution, in terms of market research and market analysis, can well be made by an executive to whom no one reports. In fact, the market researcher may even make a greater contribution when not forced to spend a great deal of time with subordinates and on their work. He may thus make market research more effective in the organization, better understood by management, and more firmly built into the organization’s basic marketing decisions.
The most rapidly growing group in the present day organizations is composed of those people who are management in the sense of being responsible for contribution to and results of the organization but who are not responsible for the work of other people. They are individual professional contributors of all kinds who work by themselves (may be with an assistant and a secretary) and yet have an impact on the organization’s wealth-producing capacity, the direction of its business, and its performance. They are executives, because they bear executive responsibility, yet they are not responsible for the work of other people.
These kinds of people are not to be found only in technical research work, though it was here that they first emerged as a distinct group. The senior scientist in a laboratory has major responsibility and makes major decisions, many of them irreversible in their impact. But so does the person who works out and thinks through the organizational structure and designs managerial jobs. Here also belongs the senior costing manager who determines the definition and allocation of costs. By defining the measurements for management, he, in effect, largely decides whether a certain product is to be kept or to be discontinued. Other people in this same category are the persons responsible for the development and maintenance of quality standards for the organizational products, the person working on the distribution system through which the organizational products are being sent to the market, and the ‘public relations officer’, who may be responsible for the basic promotion policy of the organization, its advertising message, the media it uses, and the measurements of advertising effectiveness.
The traditional definition of management is responsible for the fact that the individual professional contributor presents a problem within the structure and a problem to himself. His title, pay, function, and career opportunities are confused, ambiguous, and a cause of dissatisfaction and friction. Yet the number of these career professionals is increasing fast.
New definition of manager
The first attempt for the new definition of the manager was made in the early 1950s. It merely supplemented the old definition of the manager by recognizing the ‘individual professional contributor’ and calling for ‘parallel paths of opportunity’ for both. This made it possible to pay properly for advanced ‘professional’ work rather than have higher pay dependent on promotion into a position of responsibility for the work of others. However, this formula has not fully solved the problem. The organizations which have adopted it report that individual professional contributors are only slightly less dissatisfied than they were before. They remain convinced that true opportunities for advancement still exist primarily within the administrative structure, and that one has to become a ‘boss’ to move up.
Above all, the separation of the managerial world into two groups serves to emphasize the inferiority of those who do their own work as compared with those responsible for the work of others. The emphasis is still on ‘power and authority’ rather than on ‘responsibility and contribution’. Any analysis which does not start out from the traditional definition but instead looks at the work itself comes to the conclusion that the traditional definition of a manager as ‘one responsible for the work of others’ emphasizes a secondary, rather than a primary, characteristic.
It can be seen that the work of a manager can be divided into planning, organizing, integrating, measuring, and developing people. Career professionals and knowledge workers also have to plan, to organize, and to measure results against objectives and expectations. What they do and how they do it has a considerable impact on how people develop, especially if they also act as coaches to others in the organization. Career professionals also have to integrate their work with the work of other people in the organization. Above all, if they are to have results, they have to integrate horizontally, that is, with people in other areas and functions who have to put their work to use.
The traditional definition of the manager focuses on integrating vertically, that is, on integrating the work of subordinates. But even for managers who have subordinates, horizontal relationships with people over whom they have no supervisory authority are usually at least as important in the work and are usually more important in terms of decision and information. The marketing manager is to work closely with the production planning people, quality control personnel, operation personnel, and costing people, and they, in turn, have to work closely with the marketing manager. Most of the day-to-day decisions these people have to make are decisions which affect their ‘peers’ rather than their subordinates. Integrating, in other words, is important since people work in organizations and with other people rather than because they have subordinates.
The essence of the job of the first-line supervisor in the plant or in the office is indeed the management of people. But then, the first line supervisor is only marginally a ‘manager’ which is the reason why first line supervision presents so many ‘problems’. First-line supervisors, who are either in the plant or in the office, are not normally expected to plan and to organize, or to take much responsibility for their contribution and results. Hence they are not managers. They are expected to deliver according to objectives set for them by others. In the typical mass-production plant, this is what the supervisor possibly can or should do.
Hence, it seems appropriate to stress that the first criterion in identifying those people within the organization who have management responsibility is not command over people. It is responsibility for contribution. Function rather than power has to be the distinctive criterion and the organizing principle. But in what way these people are to be identified.
Many organizations have experimented with new definitions or have tried to give old terms a new meaning. Perhaps the best thing is not to coin a new term but to follow popular usage which speaks of the ‘management group’, all of whom have executive responsibility for contribution. Within the management group there are people whose function includes the traditional managerial function, responsibility for the work of others. There are also others who do not carry this responsibility within their specific assignment. And there is a third group, somewhat vague and in between. This group has people whose job is that of a team leader or task-force captain, or people who combine the function of adviser to top management with supervisory and administrative responsibilities over a staff in a given area. Managers move into situations where they are not superiors, and career professionals sometimes serve as task-force leaders.
This is not a neat, let alone a perfect, solution. In every organization there are people who are true specialists and who, though they are anything but ‘rank and file’ workers, do not see themselves as part of management either. Their loyalty is to their technical or professional skill, rather than to their organization. The psychologist within a human resources department prefers to be thought of as a professional rather than as an executive of this or that organization. Nevertheless, this definition enables people to call ‘manager’ all those people who perform management tasks, whether or not they have power over others.
The job of managers
Most managers spend most of their time on things which are not ‘managing’. A marketing manager makes a statistical analysis or handles an important customer. An operation manager designs a new plant layout or tests new materials. A chairman of an organization works through the details of a bank loan or negotiates a big contract or spends hours presiding at a dinner in honour of some visiting longtime-service employee. All these pertain to a particular function. All are necessary and have to be done well. But they are apart from the work that is common to all managers, whatever their function or activity, ranks, or position.
Systematic analysis of ‘scientific management’ can be applied to the job of a manager. The work which a person does because he is a manager can be isolated. The work can be divided into its constituent operations. And everyone can improve his performance as a manager by improving performance of these activities.
There are five basic elements in the work of the manager (Fig 1). Together they result in the integration of resources into a viable, growing organism.
- The first basic element is that a manager sets objectives. He determines what the objectives are to be. He determines what the goals in each area of objective are to be. He decides what has to be done to reach these objectives. He makes the objectives effective by communicating them to the people whose performance is needed to attain them.
- The second basic element is that a manager organizes. He analyses the activities, decisions, and relations needed. He classifies the work. He divides it into manageable activities and further divides the activities into manageable jobs. He groups these units and jobs into an organization structure. He selects people for the management of these units and for the jobs to be done.
- The third basic element is that a manager motivates and communicates. He makes a team out of the people who are responsible for various jobs. He does that in his own relations to the people with whom he works. He does it through his ‘people decisions’ on pay, placement, and promotion. And he does it through constant communication, to and from his subordinates, and to and from his superior, and to and from his colleagues. This is the manager’s integrating function.
- The fourth basic element in the work of the manager is measurement. The manager establishes targets and yardsticks. These few factors are as important to the performance of the organization and of every person in it. He sees to it that each person has measurements available which are focused on the performance of the whole organization and that, at the same time, focus on the work of the individual. The manager analyzes, appraises, and interprets performance. As in all other areas of this work, he communicates the meaning of the measurements and their findings to subordinates, superiors, and colleagues.
- The fifth element in the work of a manager is that a manager develops people, including himself. This task, which in this age of knowledge, takes on even greater importance.
Fig 1 Basic elements in the work of a manager
Every one of these categories can be divided further into subcategories. Moreover, every category requires different qualities and qualifications. Setting objectives, for example, is a problem of achieving balances. These balances are (i) a balance between organization results and realization of the principles one believes in, (ii) a balance between the immediate needs of the organization and those of the future, and (iii) a balance between desirable ends and available means.
Setting objectives clearly needs analytical and creating ability. Organizing, too, needs analytical ability. For it demands the most economical use of scarce resources. But it deals with human beings and, hence, stands under the principle of justice and requires integrity. Both analytical ability and integrity are similarly required for the development of people, but there is also a need for human perception and insight. The skill needed for motivation and communication is primarily social. Instead of analysis, integration and creation are needed. Justice dominates as the principle and economy is secondary. Also integrity is of much greater importance than analytical ability.
Measuring requires, first and foremost, analytical ability. But it also demands that measurement be used to make self-control possible, rather than misused to control people from the outside and above, that is, to dominate them. It is the common violation of this principle that largely explains why measurement is the weakest area in the work of the managers today. As an example, measurements are sometimes used as a weapon of an internal secret police who supplies audits and critical appraisals of a manager’s performance to the boss without even sending a copy to the appraised manager. As long as measurements are misused as a tool of control, measuring remains the weakest link in the manager’s performance.
Setting objectives, organizing, motivating and communicating, measuring, and developing people are formal, classifying categories. Only a manager’s experience can bring them to life and make them concrete and meaningful. But because they are formal, they apply to every manager and to everything he does as a manager. Hence, they can be used by all managers to appraise their own skill and performance and to work systematically on improving themselves and their performance. Being able to set objectives does not make a manager. But without the ability to set objectives, a person cannot be an adequate manager. A manager becomes a better manager by improving skill and performance in all categories of the work.
The manager works with a specific resource which is ‘people’. And the human being is a unique resource, requiring particular qualities in whoever attempts to work with it. Working with the human being always means development of the people. The direction, which this development decides whether the human being, both as a person and as a resource, becomes more productive or cease, ultimately, to be productive at all. This applies, as cannot be emphasized too strongly, not alone to the person who is being managed but also to the manager. Whether he develops subordinates in the right direction, helps them to grow and become bigger and richer persons, directly determines whether he develops, grows or withers, becomes richer or becomes impoverished, improves or deteriorates.
A person can learn certain skills in managing people, for example, the skill to lead a conference or to conduct an interview. A person can set down practices which aid development, in the structure of the relationship between manager and subordinate, in a promotion system, in the rewards and incentives of an organization. But when all is said and done, developing people still requires a basic quality in the manager which cannot be created by supplying skills or by emphasizing the importance of the task. It requires integrity of character.
There is tremendous stress these days on liking people, helping people, getting along with people, as qualifications for a manager. These alone are never enough. But in every successful organization there are bosses who do not like people, who do not help them, and who do not get along with them. Cold, unpleasant, demanding, they often teach and develop more people than anyone else. They command more respect than the most likable person ever can. They demand exacting workmanship of themselves and other people. They set high standards and expect that they are lived up to. They consider only what is right and never who is right. And though often themselves persons of brilliance, they never rate intellectual brilliance above integrity in others. The manager, who lacks these qualities of character, no matter how likable, helpful, or amiable, no matter, even, how competent or brilliant, is a threat who is unfit to be a manager.
The work of a manager can be analyzed systematically. What he has to be able to do can be learned. But there is one qualification which the manager cannot obtain but must bring to the task. It is not genius, but it is character.
Management is a practice and not a science
The performance and the survival of the organization depend on the performance of its management. The individual employee has a direct stake in the performance of managers and management. The effectiveness and performance of the employees, their satisfaction, their achievement, and their growth as human beings largely depend on the employing organization. And a good many of these employees themselves become managers, so their own capacity to perform and to achieve depends on their knowledge of management and on their skill as practitioners of management. In view of this, it is comforting to be able to speak of management as a ‘science’. But, in fact, it can be said that it only do harm by believing that management can ever fully be a science.
To be sure, the work of the manager can be systematically analyzed and classified. There are, in other words, distinct professional features and a scientific aspect to management. Management is not just a matter of experience, instinct, or natural ability. Its elements and requirements can be analyzed, organized systematically, and learned by anyone with normal intelligence. There is proposition that the days of the ‘intuitive’ manager are numbered. The assumption today is that managers can improve their performance in all areas of management and at all levels of management (from the trainee position to the level of the chairman of a large organization) through the systematic study of principles, the acquisition of organized knowledge, and the continuing analysis of performance in all areas of work. Nothing can contribute so much to skill, to effectiveness, and to performance as a manager. And underlying this theme is the conviction that the impact of the manager on modern society and its citizens is as great as to require of the manager the self-discipline and the high service standards of the true professional.
And yet, the ultimate test of management is performance. Achievement rather than knowledge remains, of necessity, both aim and proof. Management is a practice rather than a science or a profession, though containing elements of both. Only damage to society and the economy can result from the attempt to ‘professionalize’ management by limiting access to management to people with a special academic degree. The end is the replacement of managers by bureaucrats and the stifling of innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
Anyhow, people still know far too little to put management into the restriction of a ‘science’ or to make the practice of management into a qualified professional monopoly. In fact, the study of management is no older than management itself. But people do know a good deal the areas of ignorance and searching exceeds the areas in which people have truly firm, truly tested knowledge, and the ‘right answer’. People know, first, a good many things that, however reasonable they may seem, do not work in the practice of management. People further know that management is not confined to one country or to one culture. Indeed, over a century ago, management as a practice and management as a discipline were tackled by people of many nations. The management function, the work of management, its tasks and its dimensions, are universal and do not vary from country to country. But the way the work is done is strongly influenced by national behaviours, national traditions, national history, and sometimes determined by them, as in such important areas as the relationship between government and the organizations, the dos and don’ts in managing people, or the structure of top management.
Management is a social function, embedded both in a tradition of values, customs, and beliefs, and in governmental and political systems. Management is, and is to be, culture-conditioned. In turn, management and managers shape culture and society. Thus, although management is an organized body of knowledge and, as such, applicable everywhere, it is also culture. It is not ‘value-free’ science.
Above all people know that managers practice management. They do not practice economics. They do not practice quantification. They do not practice behavioural science. These are tools for managers to practice management. Thus, there are specific managerial skills which pertain to management, rather than to any other discipline. One of these is communication within organizations. Another is the making of decisions under conditions of uncertainty. And there is also a specific entrepreneurial skill such as strategic planning.
As a specific discipline, management has its own basic problems, its own specific approaches, and its own distinct concerns. A manager who understands the discipline of management is still an effective manager with no more than minimum competence in managerial skills and tools. A person, who knows only the skills and techniques without understanding the fundamentals of management, is not a manager but merely a technician.
Management is a practice rather than a science. In this, it is comparable to medicine, law, and engineering. It is not knowledge but performance. Furthermore, it is not the application of common sense, or leadership, let alone financial manipulation. Its practice is based both on knowledge and on responsibility.
In short, the twentieth century our society became a society of organizations. Organizations depend on managers, are built by managers, directed and held together by managers, and made to perform by managers. Once an organization grows beyond a very small size, it needs managers who practice professional management. This means management grounded in a discipline and informed by the objective needs of the organization and of its people, rather than management based on ownership or on political appointment. Every organization needs people managers who do the specific work of management such as planning, organizing, integrating, measuring, and developing people. It needs managers who take responsibility for contribution. Responsibility for contribution, rather than rank or title or command over people, defines the manager. And integrity rather than genius is the manager’s basic requirement.