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Management: What is it?

Typically, when one starts the study of a new course, the first question is: "What exactly are we about to study?" Often, the answer is something absolutely new to the student. What is Physics? What is Calculus? Contemporary Russian Literature? In the case of "What is Management?Ē the answer is really much less obscure or exotic.

 Essentially, we all know what "management" is. Essentially, we all practice management every day. We "manage" when we get up in the morning, listen to the weather forecast and the traffic report on the radio, and then make decisions about how to get to work. We "manage" when we discuss possible vacation options with family or friends, decide on a destination, determine what to pack, make reservations at some distant locale, take the preferred mode of transport, and then discuss how much fun we had (or didn't have) while looking at snapshots once we're back home.

 So, if we already "manage", why bother taking a course in Management? The answer lies, of course, in the fact that we can all learn to manage better and that there are numerous conceptual framework - theories - that can give structure to our ways of thinking about our managerial processes.

...the attainment of organizational goals in an effective and efficient manner through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling...

As is the case for the beginning of most courses, we'll begin with a definition. Our definition of management is: the attainment of organizational goals in an effective and efficient manner through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Later, we'll return to each of these concepts -- planning, organizing, leading, and controlling -- and deal with each in greater detail.

 When we go to work in the morning, depending on the radio reports on weather and traffic, we "plan" what the best approach to the commute should be. Depending on our plan, we then "organize" our resources (Do we need money for the bus or are we taking the car? Will we require an umbrella?). At the end of the day, when we evaluate whether not our planning and organizing worked (that is, were we both effective and efficient?), we are, in essence, "controlling".

 To many readers, the words "effective and efficient" may seem redundant. However, the use of "effective and efficient" is not unnecessary repetition. Both terms play important and separate roles in the determination of what managers do. Perhaps the most simple, yet useful, distinction is that of Peter Drucker.

EFFICIENCY: Doing things right

EFFECTIVENESS: Doing the right things

EFFICIENCY implies using the firm's resources wisely and in a cost-effective way: Doing things right. EFFECTIVENESS, on the other hand, means making the right decisions and successfully implementing them: Doing the right things.

 From a systems perspective, management involves taking numerous inputs, processing them in some way, and then producing desired outputs. Firms take in a myriad of human, financial, information, material, and technological resources which are processed in a manner that allows the firm to produce its desired outputs. To achieve that end, managers select certain goals and objectives and determine how to attain these goals. This is the planning process. In order to achieve the firm's objectives, managers must devise a production process that causes the inputs to come together in a meaningful way. Employees must be assigned responsibility for task accomplishment. This is the process of organizing. Leading is the process of ensuring that employees are motivated to achieve the firm's goals. Finally, managers monitor the firmís activities and take corrective action if the outputs and activities deviate from what was decided on in the planning stage.



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