The Sociological Perspective


For many, the word management creates an image of a certain group of individuals in an organization. From this point of view, there are two kinds of organization members: managers and everybody else. The sociological perspective, thus, defines management as the group of organization members that occupies the social position responsible for making sure that an organization achieves its mission (its “reason for being”). As you might expect, these people are called managers. The second group of organization members – “everybody else” – consists of workers, employees, laborers, troops, support staff, and technical analysts – nonmanagers. An organizational chart, such as that shown in Figure 1, is a schematic drawing of the positions within an organization. It can be used to distinguish among these social positions. Notice that, in Figure 1, the management group spans several different levels and units (departments, sections, and divisions) in the organizational hierarchy (that is, its managerial levels of authority and responsibility).

Other factors also distinguish managers from nonmanagers. Managers generally control more power, influence, rewards, status, and responsibility than do nonmanagers. The two groups also have different organizational roles to fill. Managers are often hired, fired, promoted and demoted according to whether their organization achieves its objectives: sells enough airline tickets, earns enough profits, serves enough hamburgers, and so on. Managers’ primary responsibilities are to design, to pursue, and to achieve organizational objectives by working with and through the nonmanagers. Nonmanagers are usually hired to perform specific technical tasks, such as operating machinery, maintaining clerical records, flipping hamburgers, teaching courses, or performing surgery. Their rewards usually are closely tied to how well they apply their technical skills.


The Process Perspective

One of the oldest and most widely adopted definitions of management is the “art of getting things done through people”. Mary Parker Follett, a pioneer in the study of management, described it as an activity concerned with the orchestration of people, work, and systems in the pursuit of organizational goals. The way in which managers accomplish this is the basis for the process perspective. Here the process perspective is adopted to examine the roles, activities, and processes that managers engage in as they plan, organize, direct, and control their organization.

Managing an organization from the process perspective is like conducting a symphony orchestra. An orchestra’s overall organizational goal is to play each piece of music flawlessly. The conductor is the orchestra’s manager, coaxing the best performance possible from symphony members and coordinating all of the various sections. The conductor’s management role is very different from the technical role of individual flutists, clarinetists, violinists, and other musicians. Without the musicians, there would be no orchestra, but without the conductor, the musicians could not coordinate their playing into a harmonious performance. It is the role of every manager to orchestrate organizational effectiveness through the management process.

In 1916, French industrialist Henri Fayol described a “functional approach to management” and suggested that all managers perform similar activities. Whether they are top-level or low-level managers, whether their organization is as small as a hair stylist’s shop or as large as the U.S. government, whether they manage a manufacturing organization or health care institution, whether they are in accounting or marketing, all managers must execute a universal set of management processes. Fayol’s universal set of management functions included planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.

After Fayol, several theorists, such as Chester Barnard, Ralph C. Davis, and Lyndall Urwick, revised the idea of universal management functions (see Table 1.). The result is a useful process definition that is popular today. It modifies Fayol’s categories into four universal management functions: planning, organizing (which includes Fayol’s coordinating activities), directing (which includes Fayol’s commanding activities), and controlling.

The planning function involves establishing organizational goals and defining the methods by which they are to be attained. The organizing function involves designing, structuring, and coordinating the components of an organization to meet organizational goals. The directing function involves managing interpersonal activities, leading and motivating employees so that they will effectively and efficiently accomplish the tasks necessary to realize organizational goals. The controlling function involves monitoring both the behavior of organization members and the effectiveness of the organization itself, determining whether plans are achieving organizational goals, and taking corrective actions as needed.

Managers use all four functions when applying an organization’s resources to achieve its goals.



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