Management Functions

Managers use conceptual, human, and technical skills to perform the four management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling in all organizations—large and small, manufacturing and service, profit and nonprofit, traditional and Internet-based. But not all managers’ jobs are the same. Managers  are responsible for different departments, work at different levels in the hierarchy, and meet different requirements for achieving high performance.

Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Wheeler is a first-line  manager in his first management job at Del Monte Foods, where he is involved directly in promoting products, approving packaging sleeves, and organizing sampling events.12 Kevin Kurtz is a middle manager at Lucasfilm,  where he works with employees to develop marketing campaigns for some of the entertainment company’s hottest films.13 Domenic Antonellis is CEO of the New England Confectionary Co. (Necco), the company that makes those tiny pastel candy hearts stamped with phrases such as “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me.”14 All three are managers and must contribute to planning, organizing, leading, and controlling their organizations— but in different amounts and ways.

During turbulent times, managers really have to stay on their toes and use all their skills and competencies to benefit the organization and its stakeholders—employees, customers, investors, the community,  and so forth. In recent years, numerous, highly publicized ex- amples showed us what happens when managers fail to effectively and ethically apply their skills to meet the demands of an uncertain, rapidly changing world. Companies  such as Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom were flying high in the 1990s but came crashing down under the weight of financial scandals. Others,  such as Rubbermaid, Kmart, and Xerox, are strug- gling because of years of management missteps.

Although corporate greed and deceit grab the headlines, many more companies fal- ter or fail less spectacularly.  Managers  fail to listen to customers, misinterpret  signals from the marketplace, or can’t build a cohesive team and execute a strategic plan. Over the past several years numerous  CEOs, including Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard, Michael Eisner at Disney, and David Pottruck at Charles Schwab Corp., have been ousted because of their failure to implement their strategic plans and improve business results.

Examination of struggling  organizations  and executives offers a glimpse into the mis- takes that managers often make in a turbulent environment.15 Perhaps the biggest blunder is managers’ failure to comprehend and adapt to the rapid pace of change in the world around them. For example,  even though Xerox’s PARC research center practically  invented  the personal computer, top managers resisted getting into the computer  business until it was too late to even get in the game, much  less have a chance at winning. A related problem stems from top managers who create a climate  of fear in the organization  so people are afraid to tell the truth. Thus, bad news gets hidden, and important  signals from the marketplace are missed.

Other critical management missteps include  poor communication skills and failure to listen; treating people only as instruments to be used; suppressing dissenting  view- points; and being unable to build a management team characterized by mutual trust and respect.16 The financial  scandals of the early twenty-first century, from Enron to mutual- fund mismanagement, clearly show what can happen, for instance, when top managers pay more attention to money and Wall Street than they do to their employees and customers.

As another example, consider what happened at The New York Times when it became publicly known that Jayson Blair, a rising young reporter, had fabricated and plagiarized many of his stories. Only then did top executives acknowledge the pervasive unhappiness that existed in the newsroom. Executive editor Howell Raines, who had created an envi- ronment that favored certain editors and reporters while others were afraid to offer dis- senting viewpoints or tell their managers the truth, resigned under pressure following the scandal. The Times still is struggling to regain its footing and reclaim its honorable image.

Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.

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