The Functions of Management

Whenever people, resources or events are brought together for a common goal, management plays an important role. However, within the arena of management there are four separate functions – planning, organizing, leading and controlling – that must each be incorporated if a goal is to be reached both effectively and efficiently. Whether deciding on an advertising campaign for a new product, implementing a new corporate strategy or simply holding a company picnic, people, individually or as a team, must correctly balance these four management functions to successfully accomplish the desired mission.

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Before one can use the four management functions, an understanding of what they are must first be achieved. Below is a look at each of these functions and how they relate to management. The first of these functions, planning, can be described as “specifying the goals to be achieved and deciding in advance the appropriate actions needed to achieve those goals” (Bateman & Snell, 2004, p. 16). This can include developing action plans for the future or determining what objectives a company wants to accomplish during any given year, month or day.

Planning is an important step, as it sets the stage for action and any future major achievements. “Planning is concerned with the future impact of today’s decisions. Without adequate planning, no strategy, idea or innovation can long succeed ” (Higgins, 1994, p. 226). The next management function, organizing, is where all of the necessary resources – people, money, information or equipment – are gathered and used together to complete the mission. It is the managers who determine how best to arrange and orchestrate all resources identified in the planning stage to ensure a smooth and predictable outcome.

The third function, leading, is the process of “stimulating people to be high performers” (Bateman & Snell, 2004, p. 17). Basically, managers must be able to motivate their employees and draw out their best potential. From the low-level supervisor to the top-level CEO, managers need to inspire their people through attitude, action and guidance. “Today’s managers are discovering they cannot command an employee’s best work; they can, however, create an environment that encourages employees to want to do their best work” (Nelson, 2005).

The final management function, controlling, makes sure that goals are met and ensures current procedures enable this outcome. In other words, controlling “is monitoring and adjusting resources and processes to achieve goals and objectives in a highly effective and efficient fashion” (McNamara, 1999). Things often do not work out as they are thought up and the controlling aspect of management gives companies the ability to see if their plans actually allow for mission accomplishment. In other words, it monitors progress and implements any necessary changes.

In action, these four management functions will vary with each organization. Some may rely heavily on planning, others on organizing. Whatever the job, task or problem, though, each function needs to have a role. In Public Affairs, for instance, planning, organizing, leading and controlling all have their place. Because the office is the spokesperson for the military base, it regularly deals with media, the public and community leaders. Knowing what to say, who to say it to and how to say it is an important part of its daily activities. For this reason, planning is essential to the office.

If an incident occurs on the base, such as a plane crash, arrest or a fire, the office sits down and devises a list of possible questions that will be asked by the media. It then generates possible answers to these questions and formulates a plan to schedule a time and place to hold a press conference. Items such as media credentialing, escorting and coordination with other agencies are included in this plan. The organization function also develops at this stage. Once a plan of action is drawn up, the Public Affairs Officer then begins to gather all the resources needed to accomplish the mission.

This includes setting up a room to hold the press conference in, obtaining the equipment to set up in the room and making media badges to hand out to members of the press. It is at this stage that the PAO will also delegate tasks to the staff members, ensuring each person’s strength are used to the benefit of the mission. This leads right into the third management function, leading. By giving each staff member a job and the autonomy to complete it, the staff is inspired to put forth its best effort to achieve both the team’s and organization’s goal.

The PAO, meanwhile, is behind the scenes giving direction where needed and help where required. After the event, which in this case is a press conference, is completed, the office sits down once again and completes an after-action session. Here, it looks at the plan devised, the actions taken and whether or not the ultimate goal was achieved. It the goal was achieved, then the plan is simply tweaked and fine-tuned. If the goal was not, however, then the plan is revised and updated.

In this manner, the Public Affairs Office demonstrates management balance through the incorporation of the four management functions. If one of these functions were to go unused or unchecked, then goals the organization sets out to attain will be harder to reach. Without proper planning, there is no course of action laid out; without solid organization, the tools necessary will be lacking; without balanced leading, the staff is neither motivated nor dedicated to the task; and without effective controlling, mistakes will go unchecked and goals unattained.