Among the various approaches to the study of management, the process approach has gained wider acceptance. It is because this approach lays emphasis on what a manager does. A manager no matter his level in the organization performs several functions. There is no consensus among the management thinkers on the classification of management functions. The number of functions as well as the terminology used to describe them is not alike. Henry Fayol identifies five functions, viz., planning, organizing, commanding, co-coordinating and controlling. Newman and Summer recognize only four functions, namely – planning, organizing, staffing, and directing. Koontz and O’Donnel classify the functions into planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. For the purpose of our study, we shall confine the discussion to the following five functions of management – planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.
Planning in simple is looking ahead. It is preparing for the future. It involves outlining a future course of action. Planning makes the things to happen. Therefore, it is needless to say that in the absence of planning, things are left to chance. Planning is unique in that it precedes all the other managerial functions. It involves deciding the objectives and formulating the policies and procedures to achieve them. Effective planning provides answers to questions like – what to do? How to do? Who is to do? and when to do?
Planning is a function performed by managers at all levels. Though every manager plans, the plans developed by different managers may vary in respect of scope and importance. For example, plans made by top managers have a wider scope with a focus on the organization as a whole and normally cover a longer period. On the other hand, plans developed by middle and lower level managers relate to the divisions or departments and usually cover a short period. Systematic planning helps in facing the uncertainties of future with less embarrassment. It helps in making things happen in the expected way.
Organizations achieve objectives by using physical and human resources. When people work in groups, everyone in the group should know what he/she is expected to achieve and with what resources. In other words, organizing involves establishing authority – responsibility relationships among people working in groups and creating a structural framework. Thus, the manager’s task in organizing aims at creating a structure that facilitates the achievement of goals. Organizing therefore involves:
- determination of activities required to achieve goals;
- grouping of these activities into departments;
- assignment of such groups of activities to a manager;
- delegation of authority to carry them out; and
- provision for coordination horizontally and vertically in the organization.
The managerial function of organizing involves designing the structure and establishing functional and operational relationships. The resulting structure varies with the task. A large organization with huge market needs a different structure compared to a small organization. Similarly, structure of an organization operating in a stable environment may be different from the one operating in a dynamic environment.
Organising process results in the creation of a structure with various positions. Staffing involves manning the various positions of the organisation. It includes manpower planning, recruitment and selection of the right people, training and developing them, deciding financial compensation, appraising their performance periodically. There is a debate whether staffing function is to be performed by all managers in the organisation or handled by human resources department alone. However, some processes of staffing are performed by personnel department only. For example recruitment and selection, training, fixation of salary, etc. Performance appraisal, on the other hand, may be done by all managers.
Once plans are made and the organisation is created, the focus shifts to the achievement of objectives. This function is called by various names: directing, leading, motivating, actuating and so on. It basically involves directing or leading the activities of the people. The manager directs the activities of his subordinates by explaining what they have to do and by helping them perform it to the best of their ability. In leading the people, the manager performs the following three distinct tasks:
- Communication : the process of information flow from one person to another and across the organization;
- Leadership : the process by which a manager guides and Influences the work of his subordinates; and
- Motivation : the act of stimulating the people so that they give their best to the organisation.
Leading is a function predominantly interpersonal in nature. In the organizational context many problems arise because of the failure of managers to understand the people, their aspirations, attitudes, and behaviour as individuals and in groups. If the manager fails in leading the people towards better performance, any amount of planning and organizing, however effective they are, may not help the organisation.
Planning and controlling – the two functions are closely interrelated in that while plans specify the objectives to be achieved, control as a managerial function facilitates to know whether the actual performance is in conformity with the planned one. So that, in the event of deviations, appropriate corrective measures could be taken. In the absence of adequate control mechanism, unexpected changes in the environment may push the organisation off the track. Thus, controlling implies measuring and correcting the activities to ensure that events conform to plans. That is why planning and controlling are often described as the ‘Siamese’ twins of management. It involves four main elements:
- Establishing standards of performance;
- Measuring the actual performance and comparing it against the standard performance;
- Detecting deviations, if any, in order to make corrections before it is too late; and
- Taking appropriate corrective measures.