What Exactly Do Managers Do?

There may be many among you who are not discharging a managerial role. There may be yet others who may be holding a managerial-like post but may not be schooled in the science and art of management. This piece is addressed to such people to satisfy their curiosity and need.

To be sure, managers have always been around, right from the time pyramids needed to be built to any other such activity taken on by our forefathers. What hasn’t been around is the science or discipline called management. Management is but just over a hundred years old. Yet, it has made large strides and we are now clearer on what it is that managers ought to do in their day-to-day jobs. Let us take a look.

Peter Drucker, the father of management, detailed 5 essential functions of a manager in his 1954 book The Practice of Management, as they go about making people under them productive:

1.    Set objectives and establish the goals that employees need to reach.

2.    Organize tasks, coordinate his/her allocation, and arrange the right roles for the right people.

3.    Motivate and communicate to transform staffers into cooperative teams and convey information continually throughout the organization.

4.    Establish targets and yardsticks to measure results and assess outcomes to ensure the firm is moving in the right direction.

5.    Develop people through finding, training, and nurturing employees, a firm’s primary resource.

Since then there have been dozens of thinkers and hundreds of books that have tried to outline the roles and responsibilities of managers. The consensus now is that their functions can be seen as falling under these four heads:

  • Planning: This involves delineating how to achieve a particular goal. For example, if the organization’s goal is to improve company sales, the manager needs to zero in on the necessary steps. They could include increasing advertising, inventory, and sales staff. These steps are then elaborated into a plan. Once the plan is in place, the manager can use it to accomplish the goal by following the next tasks.
  • Organizing: Once the plan has been drawn up, a manager needs to organize the team and materials necessary as per the plan. Two important components of this are the assigning of work and the granting of authority to the right people. The manager may need to beef up his staffing by recruiting, selecting, training, and developing employees. In a large organization, the human resources department helps the manager to accomplish this goal.
  • Leading: Once the work is underway, the manager must also give direction to the team assembled through his leadership skills. Leading involves motivating, communicating, guiding, and encouraging. It requires the manager to coach and assist the employees and solve the problems that spring up along the way.
  • Controlling: The manager is not done yet. He needs to continuously check results against goals and take any necessary corrective actions to ensure his plans remain on track.

All managers at all levels of every organization perform these functions, but the amount of time a manager spends on each one depends on both the level of management at which he is operating (that is, front-line, middle-level, or senior-level) and the specific organization for which he is working. The senior-level managers are more involved with planning and the first-level managers are more involved with controlling functions.

To this can be added a few more functions that are necessary to achieve the set goals, which are ancillary to the above four main functions: (1) Team Development: He has to make the team a cohesive unit whose performance is synergistic. (2) Communicating: Without clear and precise communication nothing gets accomplished. The team needs to have the right information at the right time. (3) Performance Management: This includes clarifying and setting expectations, along with supporting the employees at every step, and finally reviewing their performance.

D. Samarender Reddy

Holds degrees in Medicine (MBBS) and Economics (MA, The Johns Hopkins University). Certified programmer. An avid reader. Worked in various capacities as a medical writer, copywriter, copyeditor, software programmer, newspaper columnist, and content writer.

Leave a Reply