The Four Functions of Management Defined

Whether you’re a new manager, entrepreneur or tenured director, being knowledgeable of the four functions of management can help you drive operational success.

What is Management?

Management involves coordinating and overseeing the work activities of others so that their activities are completed effectively and efficiently.

According to Dr. Scott Benjamin, Florida Tech Associate Professor, “A manager’s job isn’t to work. It’s to plan, execute, monitor and then control. A very successful manager has planned out policies so efficiently that the employees know exactly what to do and when to do it without manager supervision.”

What Are the Four Functions of Management?

The four functions of management include planning, organizing, leading and controlling.

1.     Planning

The first function of management, planning, involves the organizational goals, establishing a strategy to achieve them, and developing a plan for the necessary work activities. The purposes of planning include:

  • Provide direction
  • Reduce uncertainty
  • Minimize waste and redundancy
  • Establish the goals and standards used in controlling

The organization develops plans to achieve its goals, which are typically strategic or financial. Plans should be specific yet flexible due to complex and changing work environments. Different types of plans serve different purposes:

  • Strategic vs. operational
    • Strategic plans apply to the entire organization
    • Operations plans work for one functional area
  • Short-term vs. long-term
    • Short-term plans are for one year or less
    • Long-term plans are three years or longer
  • Specific vs. directional
    • Specific plans are clear and don’t leave space for interpretation
    • Directional plans are flexible and have general guidelines
  • Single-use vs. standing
    • Single-use plans are designed to use one time to meet a unique situation
    • Standing plans are ongoing and provide guidance for activities performed repeatedly

Managers can use one of two approaches to planning. The first is a traditional top-down approach, where plans are determined by the top management and flow down into other organizational levels. The second is an alternative approach, which may involve other levels of the organization to develop the plans.

According to Dr. Benjamin, “Planning is the most fundamental of all the functions of management. All other functions stem from planning. Without it, organizations flounder.”

2.     Organizing

In the second function, organizing, managers must identify the necessary activities to achieve the plan determined in the previous function. Then, managers arrange the resources of the organization to perform the activities defined.

Elements of Organizational Design

All of these factors can vary depending on organizational structure, organizational culture and other factors. That is why it is important to understand the concepts to apply them correctly.

3.     Leading

The managerial function of leadership includes several areas for the successful performance of the manager’s job, including motivation, conflict resolution and communication. Managers should motivate subordinates, work with group conflicts, influence the employees’ work, use the proper communication channels, and deal with the employees’ behaviors.

To be an effective leader, the manager needs to be able to guide employees by communicating effectively. Organizational communication allows the manager to control the employees’ behavior, motivate employees, and provide emotional expression and information. Dr. Lisa Steelman, Associate Professor at Florida Tech, says, “Communication is one of the most critical leadership skills, yet one of the most poorly developed.”

In addition to communication, knowing how to manage the individual behavior and different personalities of the employees is a critical part of leadership. Dr. Marshall Jones, Director of Online Programs at Florida Tech, says that leaders should practice active listening:

“The most important thing is to have that rapport, take time to actively listen and engage so that you get to know the folks that you’re working with. It saves a lot of problems and helps that leader-member relationship quite a bit.”

Finally, being considered a leader is important in motivating your employees to achieve organizational goals. As Dr. Jones puts it, “The simplest operationalization [of leadership] is genuine influence with others. Rank does not matter. What matters most is that a person invests in, and cares about, the people he or she works with, all while being genuine and true to themselves.”

4.     Controlling

Managers must control work performance in the organization. To do so, they follow a control process using several tools to monitor, compare and correct the organization’s and employees’ performance. Control is important because it:

  • Determines whether or not goals have been met
  • Provides information and feedback that allows managers to empower their employees
  • Helps protect an organization and its assets

The control process involves three steps:

  • Measuring: involves how to judge the actual performance.
  • Comparing: covers the variation between the actual performance and the standards established in their planning function. Some deviation is acceptable.
  • Taking action: happens if the deviation is more than what is acceptable. The corrective actions can be immediate or basic. It may be necessary to modify the standards.

It is important to remember that there are some issues that arise when managers perform the control process.

For example, evaluation is an essential part of employee performance, but many people are not a fan of performance reviews. It is up to the manager to decide how to achieve personnel measurement in the most effective way.

Putting it All Together

The four functions of management, when applied effectively, provide managers the ability to translate an organization’s resources into organizational performance.

Four Functions of Management

The Four Functions of Management is just one critical management topic explored in Florida Tech’s Master of Business Administration online program. To learn more about this program, click here.

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