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How has management theory advanced over the past hundred years

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 2786 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Are the structures and ideas of management theorists of the past still analogous to the work done by modern managers of today? Management theorists of the past have labeled three clear categories to help define the job description of a manager. These are management functions, roles and skills, which were identified as being highly influential to the success of the manager, defined as “someone whose primary responsibility is to carry out the management process.” This essay looks at the work of three management theorists, Henri Fayol, Robert Katz and Henry Mintzberg and how their work compares to today’s modern day managers.

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Henri Fayol, a French industrialist, believed that management could be taught and was therefore always looking on improving the quality of management. In 1916 he wrote the book “administration industrielle et générale” which presented his views on the proper management of organisations and the people within them. This is known as administrative management, which is “a style of management that focuses on managing the total organisation.” Fayol believed that there were five management functions in which a manager must employ on his business to achieve success. These five functions were planning, organising, commanding, co-ordination and controlling. This is the functional view of management as it is on a day-to-day level. It describes the functions that a manager must carry out on a daily basis, which Fayol realised when working as a successful managing director of a mining company. He saw there was a need for managers to be trained due to the increasing complexity and growth of organisations over the world. The Planning function looks at the manager’s ability to look ahead, taking into account the operating environment, forecasting what is possible and provide direction for the firms employee’s. Secondly the organising function is a key management function that is defined as “the process of assigning tasks, allocating resources and arranging activities to implement plans.” Managers have to group and deploy resources, either human resources such as employees or equipment resources such as machines, in the best possible way to achieve the goals of the organisation. Thirdly Fayol identified was for a manager to command, which is to “lead, select and evaluate to get the best work towards the plan.” Managers are required to do these tasks as it helps them to achieve the task that they had planned. The fourth function Henri Fayol identified was coordination, which is to fit diverse efforts together and ensure information is shared and problems are solved. Finally, Fayol identified the fifth aspect of management functions as controlling, which is “the process of measuring performance and taking action to ensure desired results.” The manager has to ensure that the functions of planning, leading and organising take place in such a way hat they are controlled through timely, accurate and valid feedback based on a transparent measurement strategy. Fayol’s management functions are focused on the key relationships between a businesses personnel and its management.

Harvard Scholar Robert Katz classified three essential skills for managers of a firm, technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. Technical skills “is the ability to use a special proficiency or expertise in you work,” for example skills learnt through a formal education such as University or TAFE and then further development through on the job training. These skills are very important in low-level management where the manager is still hands on in the business. Human Skills “is the ability to work well in cooperation with other people,” this is highly important at all levels of management as it shows a spirit of trust, enthusiasm and involvement in interpersonal relationships. An important concept of human skills is emotional intelligence, which is “the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively” which Katz identified as influential to a firms success due to the high interpersonal nature of business. Finally, there are Conceptual skills, which is ” the ability to think analytically and solve complex problems.” Katz identified this skill as part of the three essential skills of managers as all good managers have the ability to view situations broadly and to solve problems to the benefit of everyone else. Managers with conceptual skills have the ability to break down problems into smaller parts, which is important for top level managers but is relatively unimportant for low lever managers. Katz’s three essential skills of management are a requirement for business that want to be success in modern day society.

Management theorist Henry Mintzberg in his book “the nature of managerial work” (Mintzberg, H 1973, The nature of management, New York) written in 1973 offers an observation of corporate chief executives. He says “there was no break in the pace of activity during office hours. The mail… telephone calls… and meetings… accounted for almost every minute from the moment these executives entered their offices in the morning until they departed in the evenings” (Mintzberg, H 1973, The nature of management, New York). In todays modern era of technology this would add email to the list of preoccupations a manager deals with on a daily basis. Mintzberg had realised the importance of how a manager uses his controlling powers and he recognised three important managerial roles in which a manager must successfully perform in order for the manager to be able to run the business at its most efficient level. The three roles in which Mintzberg recognized were interpersonal, informational and decisional roles which can be further split into ten more specific roles. Interpersonal roles are how a manager interacts with other people, both within the business like employees and external to the firm like customers. Interpersonal roles for managers can be further separated into whether the manager is a figurehead, leader or liason in the firm. Informational roles are ‘how a manager exchanges and processes information’ which the managers role is then to either monitor, disseminator and spokesperson for the firm. Finally, decisional roles which is ‘how a manager uses information in decision making’ and the managers role is then to be an entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator or negotiator depending on the scenarios at hand for the manager. The roles of management are all interconnected and all managers must be prepared to perform the in order to see the best from their business.

These management theorists however wrote their management functions, roles and skills in the 20th century, so are they still relevant in our 21st century business environment? An internal endeavor made by Google, the worlds largest search engine, looked at what the eight most important traits for a manager to have to be successful. The use of the article ‘8 traits of stellar managers, defined by googlers,” written by Judith Aquino helps to link the management theories of Henri Fayol, Robert Katz and Henry Mintzberg to modern day managers of the 21st century. The article, written on the 15 of March 2011, brings a modern day link to the management theorist’s of the 20th century.

The importance of managers having technical skills in the workplace is seen by its inclusion in the 8 traits of stellar management. It is important for manager’s to have these skills as they then have the ability to understand the different challenges and help their employees solve the problems that they are facing. This important trait for managers is linked to Robert Katz’s management skills. Katz believed that one of his three essential skills for managers were that they had technical skills. This is seen as an important trait for managers of the 21st century as employees want to be managed by someone who knows what they are doing and is able to give them advice on how to solve the various problems that they are likely to face in the day to day life of the business. With the survey showing that Katz’s technical skills are still an important trait which is admired in the business workplace makes me wonder whether the three management theorist’s, Robert Katz, Henri Fayol and Henry Mintzberg’s work is still relevant in a 21st century business context.

Former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch said “good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it in competition.” Google employees have recognised the importance of the business and its manager having a clearly outlined vision and a strategy for the employees. The manager is required to lead the employees by keeping all staff involved and working towards the teams common goals and business vision. When looking at the management theorists of the 20th century we can see that they all have their opinions on a businesses vision and strategy. Henry Mintzberg’s leadership principle is related to the ways in which the firm looks to achieve its vision. Without a manager who is willing to lead his employees they will lack direction in their work, increasing the chance of mistakes being made by misled employees or the firm moving away from its corporate vision. Henri Fayol’s planning function is also related more to the firms business strategy than the vision as it looks at how the business will enter its business strategy into the business environment to help reach its vision. These two theories are still relevant in today’s business environment as shown by their relevance to a manager’s ability to have a clear vision and strategy.

Career development is an important aspect of a managers roles when running the business as employees want to feel like their efforts are being noticed and that their hard work is furthering their careers. “A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.” Managers should make it known to their employees that they are a valued member of the business and that the work the employees do for the firm will pay of with promotions and pay rises in the future. Helping employees is linked to the management theories of Mintzberg and Fayol as it is both a role and a function that the manager must undertake in order to successfully manager their employees.

The fifth most important trait recognised by Google employees was the ability for their manager’s tot be good communicators and willing to listen to ideas from all employees. It is important for manager’s to listen to others as well as sharing their opinion as then the opinions and concerns of your employees are heard and can be looked at more closely by the manager. Henri Fayol’s commanding function shows the importance of being a good communicator and listener for managers as the function requires them to lead, select and evaluate the workers to get the best out of them. This function recognises the importance of employee’s ideas in the success of the business and the manager therefore needs to evaluate proposed ideas to get the best from the team. American businessman Lee Iacocca said on communication “you can have brilliant ideas, but if you cant get them across, your ideas wont get you anywhere” (Croce and Lyon 2004, p.69). Henry Mintzberg’s interpersonal roles are the manager’s responsibility when dealing with employees and their ideas. Robert Katz provides two management skills on the communication with employees and their ideas. Google recognising the importance of communication in the organisation as one of the three essential skills a manager must have to be successful shows Katz’s theory of interpersonal skills. Katz also provides a more precise skill in which managers should have, this being communication skills, defined as “the ability both to convey idea’s and information to others effectively and to be receptive to ideas and information from others.” This skill that Katz states as being important to managerial success is what Google employees hold in high regard from their manager’s as shown by its inclusion in the 8 traits of a stellar manager.

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Henry Mintzberg’s informational roles, which is the processing of information, is recognised in Google’s survey where they admire managers who are productive and results orientated. Mintzberg’s informational role accepts the need for managers to focus on helping the team achieve its goals by prioritizing work and removing obstacles. Robert Katz’s decision-making skills, defined as “the ability to recognise and define problems and opportunities correctly then to select an appropriate course of action to solve problems and capatilise on opportunities,” shows that his theory looks at how the business can be more productive and achieve their results through eliminating any problems and taking advantage of any opportunities the firm may encounter.

Employee’s feeling that they belong as an important part of the business success is one of the key tasks a manager must undertake when running the firm. Ensuring that new employees feel welcome and get to know your employees. Robert Katz’s interpersonal skills are linked to this trait recognised by Google employees as it involves the relationships between employee’s and managers, both working and outside of work relationships, to make the employee feel a part of the team. Henri Fayol’s Controlling function is also interrelated with taking interest in your team members success and well-being as managers need to make sure everything happens according to plan, with corrective action in place. Fayol however has a more minor point in the controlling function, which is feedback, and this shows the employees that their input is important and taken into consideration when they offer ideas to the managers of the firm.

At number two, Google employees decided that a managers ability to empower your employees and to not micromanage was a trait that they respected in their managers. Giving employees the space to tackle problems on their own but still be there for advice is something that employee’s admired as it provides them with a feeling of responsibility and importance in the firm. Katz’s time management skills is important when not micro-managing as the ability for the manager to delegate work to his staff and then empower them to complete these on their own. Mintzberg’s decisional role is also important for managers as it involves how they allocate their resources (employees) to job certain jobs that are required. Finally Fayol’s Organising function is important as the manager is required to provide and mobalise resources, which can be human resources such as employees, to implement the plan.

The most important trait in ‘stellar managers’ defined by a survey done by Google says that being a good coach is what they admire most in a manager. A manager who can provide specific feedback through regular one-on-one meetings with employees, as well as offering solutions that are tailored to each employee’s strengths. John Wooden said, “make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.” Relationships are the best way for employees to feel as though they are on an equal level to manager, which is therefore why Henry Mintzberg’s interpersonal roles theory is highly important to becoming a successful manager. Robert Katz’s interpersonal skills are also applicable to being a good coach, as they are required to communicate with, understand and motivate both individuals and groups. These two management theories along with communication skills are the most influential management theories in being a good coach to their employees.

The work of management theorists of the past is still admired and applicable to modern managers in the 21st century. Google’s survey shows a list of the most important traits seen in a manager in the 21st century, and I have shown that there are many links that can be drawn between the work of management theorists Robert Katz, Henry Mintzberg and Henri Fayol and modern day managers of the 21st century.


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