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The Four Roles of Management


The manager is the dynamic, life-giving element in every business. Without his leadership the “resources of production” remain resources and never become production. In a competitive economy, above all, the quality and performance of the managers determine the success of a business, indeed they determine its survival (Drucker, 1986, p. 3).

The preceding quotation identifies and characterizes my philosophy of managers and management. What follows is my explanation and rationale of the key elements contained within this quote as they apply to the four functions of management.

Key Elements for Consideration

Planning – Onus on Management

Planning is an integral part of management today. Whether it is long term or short term, the planning function gives corporate direction, reduces the impact of change, minimizes waste and redundancy, and sets the standards used in controlling (Robbins, Coulter and Stuart-Kotze, 2003).

The primary role of management is to integrate the various tangible and intangible components of an enterprise. This strategy applies equally well for both “profit” and “not for profit ventures.” Management is the enabler of the tangible and the intangible, in essence the “life giver” to the organization.

However, this act of enabling must first be rooted in a corporate vision. Warren Bennis describes it this way, “The first basic ingredient of leadership is a guiding vision. The leader has a clear idea of what he wants to do – professionally and personally – and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures. Unless you know where you’re going, and why, you cannot possibly get there” (1989, p. 41).

The nature and purpose of planning is essential to corporate sustainability. The planning process should determine the direction and objectives of a company. A successful company will use various plans in order to achieve management effectiveness and efficiency. Plans come in various shapes and sizes. These plans and planning processes have different features and benefits. They may be strategic or tactical in nature. They can be functional or operational, long term or short term. Some plans are termed standing plans and offer the convenience of repeated use without substantial modification.

Planning reduces uncertainty by forcing managers to look ahead, anticipate change, consider the impact of change, and develop appropriate responses (Robbins et al., 2003). Planning provides clarity of purpose. Management holds the compass and must navigate the perceived and real perils of the business environment. Planning is the chart upon which all corporate navigation is based.

Organizing – The Process

The management function includes the process of determining what tasks are to be done, who is to do them, how the tasks are to be grouped, who reports to whom, and where decisions are to be made (Robbins et al., 2003).

Organization is essential to business performance. It is vitally important to organize what Drucker (1986) describes as the “resources of production.” Every enterprise must have order. A growing enterprise must decide on the adoption of an organizational design. Management must determine and adopt the most effective model for the enterprise. Fitting the organization to the task is essential. Management has the option of adopting either a mechanistic or an organic approach to organizational design.

Leading – People: The Resources of Production

Managers must understand the principles of human relations and organizational behaviour. Management is charged with the responsibility of leading and empowering the work force to achieve the vision and objectives of the enterprise. Managers must competently motivate and direct the careers of the workforce. People are the human capital of any organization. These resources must be utilized efficiently and effectively.

I believe that business success is contingent on “people success.” However, the onus is on management to maintain high levels of competence.  Management must be well versed in handling the day-to-day and long term needs of the enterprise. Managers must constantly assess their strengths and weakness. In our competitive business world, managers must be multitalented and continually striving to ensure both business and personal success. Life long learning must be the credo of any successful organization.

The ability to manage the people side of business is critical to the success of any change process. I believe leaders seize the opportunity to apply sound motivational theory.

Frederick Hertzberg, a motivational/content theorist, developed the hypothesis that the job environment will have a motivational affect on employees (cited in Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn, 2000). Effective leaders must find ways to positively influence, persuade and empower their staff.

Hertzberg found that factors involved in producing job satisfaction (and motivation) are separate and distinct from the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction. He determined that employers are better served concentrating on issues such as: recognition, achievement, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth (cited in Schermerhorn et al.).

Leaders must implement training initiatives that strategically address all of the above-mentioned issues. I believe that Hertzberg’s findings produce significant evidence that training positively affects employee performance. From experience, I can report that motivation levels increase with appropriate training stimulus.

Controlling – A Key to Success

Managers are charged with the responsibility of taking measurements within the enterprise. These measurements can include the following: profitability ratios, ROI’s, share prices, ROE’s, leverage ratios and activity ratios. These measurements are essential to monitoring the company’s progress toward its goals.

On the human side of the enterprise, managers are responsible for deployment of individual and team performance reviews. Management must develop and measure the people component of the organization. Management must always ask, “Are the employees reaching their potential, are they learning?” The true measurement of corporate success starts with employees achieving their individual goals and objectives.

Branham (2001) recommends using a performance measurement cycle in monitoring the efforts of employees (see Appendix A). Branham suggests measuring what counts and then rewarding the behaviour (2001). The measurement cycle proposed by Branham is important in ensuring that employee activities are providing the desired outcomes. This process is a fundamental premise in the controlling function of management.

Synthesis and Conclusion

The art of management is knowing where you genuinely can add value to the organization. I believe as managers, we must focus on the “resources of production,” – the people.  Equipped with a corporate vision, mission and objectives, it is our responsibility to ensure that the workplace is empowered and directed to accomplish the objectives of the organization.

As effective managers, we must apply the four functions of management within our companies. Drucker tells us that “efficiency is doing the thing right, but effectiveness is doing the right thing” (cited in DePree, 1989, p. 19). The management process must always focus on doing the right thing.

Our ability to manage the financial and human resources will determine the sustainability and future success of our enterprises. The question we must ask ourselves – do we possess the courage and are we up for the challenge?


Bennis, W. (1989). On becoming a leader. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Branham, L. F.  (2001). Keeping the people who keep you in business: 24 ways to hang on to your most valuable talent. New York: AMACOM (American Management Association).

DePree, M. (1989). Leadership is an art. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

Drucker, P. F.  (1986). The practice of management. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Goetsch, D.L. & Davis, S.B. (2003). Quality management: Introduction to total quality management for production, processing, and services (4th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Robbins, S.P., Coulter, M., & Stuart-Kotze, R. (2003). Management (Canadian 7th ed.). Toronto, ON: Prentice Hall

Schermerhorn, J.R., Jr., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2000). Organizational behavior. New York, NY: Wiley.

Appendix A

Performance measurement cycle:

  • What counts gets measured
  • What gets measured gets done
  • What gets done gets rewarded
  • What gets rewarded, counts

Source: Keeping the People Who Keep you in Business 
by Leigh Branham

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Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
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