What Do Managers Do? Critically Discuss the Following Statement: “the Work and Skills of Managers Are the Same Irrespective of Their Position Within the Organisation.”

The study of management has explored fields far beyond the conceivable realms; however one facet of management has been forever present in the minds of academics and industry workers. The ever examined topic of skills and work among managers in all levels of an organisation has been discussed and researched for decades. Various schools of thought exist within this topic and this paper will look to explore in detail the breadth of such thoughts. Ultimately, managers must posses a range of skills and perform a wide variety of tasks to achieve organisational goals.

Academics such as Katz [1], Mintzberg [4,11], Fayol [10] and Paolio [5] have all explored this field and their findings will be discussed in detail throughout the essay. Although evidence exists to support the hypothesis that managers must posses both a range of diverse skills and work related activities that are determined by their level within the organisation; there is also contrasting research that concludes that some of the skills and activities performed by managers will be similar irrespective of their position within the organisation.

The skills of managers have long been examined and over time numerous academics have proposed that different skills sets will aid in the achievement of organisational objectives [1,2,3]. There is no doubt that skills are fundamental in the effort to obtain organisational goals but the question remains, how do skills relate to managers in different levels of the organisation? Robert L. Katz, a management expert in the mid 1950’s proposed a theory based upon a set of three skill classes which were deemed vital to managers across the traditional three tier hierarchy of management [1].

Katz developed the theory of technical skills, interpersonal/human skills and conceptual skills. Technical skill “involves specialised knowledge, analytical ability within that speciality and facility in the use of the tools and techniques of the specific discipline” (Katz, 1955). Human or interpersonal skills are described as “the executive’s ability to work effectively as a group member and to build cooperative effort within the team he leads” (Katz, 1955). Finally, conceptual skills are identifying “how the various functions of the organisation depend on one and other, and how changes in any one part affect all the others” (Katz, 1955).

Katz also identified that the skill groups differ in their level of significance depending upon the manager’s position within the organisation. Katz believed that lower level managers should posses all three skills with an emphasis on technical skills with less focus upon human and conceptual skills. Similarly, Katz believed that middle level managers should posses an equal amount of all three skill groups, with senior level managers having to posses significant levels of conceptual skills as their roles require them to view the organisation as a whole with less focus on technical skills [1].

In late 1974, Katz published a retrospective commentary in which he stated that his initial report, which placed a clear line between the levels of management and their respective skills were somewhat “simplistic and naive” (Katz, 1974). Katz’s retrospective commentary supports the hypothesis that although skills may vary, all levels of management must have technical, human and conceptual skills if they are to be successful [1]. Following Katz’s report, Dr.

Farhad Analoui produced an experiment into managerial skills focusing upon the conceptual skills from Katz’s initial report which included looking into the importance of self-management and the subsequent skills which stemmed from the “development of one’s own ability as well as the ability to make decisions and solve problems creatively” (Labbaf, Analoui and Cusworth, 1996). Analoui, by further developing his theory of conceptual skills and the importance of self-management and self-development [6], introduced a school of thought which since has become very popular and heavily used in obtaining organisational objectives [8,9].

The research carried out by Analoui, Cusworth and Labbaf [7] looked at skills and the importance placed on them by each level of management. The results of their investigation showed that the value placed on the skill, ‘analysis of the organisation’ in which top level managers ranked it the second most important skill required while middle and lower level management placed it as twelfth and eleventh place respectively [7].

However, other skills that were identified like; creating organisational climate, were ranked first for senior managers, third for middle managers and first for lower level management. Although the first skill’s results support Katz’s 1955 report, the second a many other noted skills do not fall into this category and support the 1996 report by Labbaf, Analoui and Cusworth which echoed Katz’s retrospective commentary. This demonstrates that skills thought by Katz in 1955 to relate to conceptual skills and therefore only top level management ere contradicted by the results of the 1996 experiment. Essentially, although Katz’s initial report [1] states that management requires different skills for different levels within the organisation, reports preceding the 1955 Katz report, including Katz’s retrospective commentary pointed to the fact that managers must posses skills which relate to their position within the organisation but must also posses skills which apply to all fields and levels of the organisation.

The work of managers, like skills, are heavily studied and with people like French industrialist Henri Fayol (1949 [10]) and Mintzberg (1973 [4,11]) there has been no shortage of theories which continue to be developed and adapted to the modern school of management. Fayol, in his 1949 report “General and Industrial Management,” introduced ‘Fayol’s management functions,’ which have since been both described as “Folklore” (Mintzberg, 1973/1980; 1975/1989 [11]) and “the most useful way of conceptualising the manager’s job” (Carroll and Gillen, 1987, [14]).

Fayol pioneered what today is taught world wide as the management functions, primarily; planning, organising, leading and controlling. Fayol also acknowledged ‘commanding’ as a function but has since descended as one of the primary functions of modern management practices. Fayol describes planning as the initiative in developing the plan of action that managers carry out in order to achieve organisational objectives [10]. Another function of management recognised by Fayol was that of organising. Organising is described as bringing “everything useful to its functioning: raw materials, tools, capital, personnel” (Fayol, 1949).

Fayol, as part of his organising function, introduced the three r’s; right people with the right skills in the right job. This has since become a fundamental theory for human resource management and has been adopted by major firms and government organisations [12]. Commanding as identified by Fayol [10], now referred to as ‘leading’ in modern management practice is defined as gaining the maximum performance from “all employees, while the art of command rests on certain personal qualities” (Lamond, 1998,[13]).

The final function still currently used in the modern management era is control. Control, when first identified by Fayol (1949) was described as “verifying whether everything occurs in conformity with the plan adopted, the instructions issued and principles established” (Fayol, 1949). Fayol, in his report in 1947 can be seen to make assumptions that although these management functions represent all levels of management, they essentially apply to top level managers.

This is evident as the functions directly relate to conceptual skills which are identified by Katz [1] as primarily a skill desired by senior managers. Fayol has had both his critics and advocates. One of his biggest critics was Mintzberg [4,11] who dismissed Fayol’s managerial functions as “folklore” (Mintzberg, 1973/1980) and claimed that it was in fact what managers did that was important [4, 11]. Mintzberg’s central argument was founded by his belief that managerial functions could not be directly linked to specific activities [13,11,4].

He also believed that there was no direct link between both the activities of the manager through Fayol’s theory. He also believed that there was no relationship between the management functions which in turn would not allow the activities of managers to effectively communicate and therefore not effectively or efficiently achieve the organisational objectives [13,11,4]. Mintzberg, in opposition to Fayol’s research produced a set of 10 job roles with the roles split into two categories; external and internal roles.

Mintzberg hypothesised that lower level management should focus on the internal roles while senior management would focus upon the external [4]. Therefore, Mintzberg roles theory which displays roles on a conceptuRic MaydomPage 315/09/2008al (external) level which supports Katz’s claims that conceptual skills, that is, those relating to viewing the company on a macro level relate to top level managers [1,4,11]. Paolillo further developed Mintzberg’s theory of 10 job roles when he classified these roles into three management levels [5].

Paolillo’s three tier roles theory sits parallel with Katz’s skills sets because the roles that were assigned to top level managers require conceptual skills with lower level management roles requiring more technical based skills [1,5]. Like skills, the work and activities that managers perform can relate to the levels of the organisation, displayed through Mintzberg and Paolillo and on one level as Fayol’s theory demonstrates. It is however, a combination of the appropriate roles for the required goal which will determine whether an organisational goal is achieved.

The current state of management requires managers to be diverse in both their skills and roles within the organisation. Management scholars and researchers throughout the past century have probed the field of skills and roles in management and have identified a range of skills, techniques and roles that have been deemed necessary in a manager’s role irrespective of their position. Ultimately, managers at any level of the organisation must posses a number of skills that allow them to perform their roles with the greatest amount of effectiveness and efficiency.

Similarly, the roles of managers will differ in the hierarchy of the organisation, although similarities will still exist within their roles as managers must deal with people, operations and organisational activities. MGF-1010 Ric Maydom

References:

  • Katz, R. L. , “Skills of an effective administrator”, Harvard Business Review, January-February, 1955. (Retrospective Commentary, Harvard Business Review, September-October 1974).
  • Kakabadse, A. , Ludlow, R and Vinnicombe, S. , “Working in Organizations”, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1987.
  • Analoui, F. “An Investigation into Management training Development Needs of Senior Officials in Zimbabwe” , DPPC, Research Monograph No. 2, University of Bradford, Bradford 1990.
  • Mintzberg, H. , A Comprehensive Description of Managerial Work: The Nature of Managerial Work, Harper & Row, New York, 1980 5. Paolillo, J. G. P. , “Managers Self Assessments of Managerial Roles: The Influence of Hierarchical Level”, Journal of Management 7, 1981.
  • Analoui, F. , “Skills of Management”, including Cusworth, J. W and Franks, T. F. (Eds), Managing Projects in Developing Countries, Longman, 1993. . Labbaf, H. , Analoui, F. , Cusworth, J. W. , Senior Managers’ Effectiveness: The case of the Steel Industry in Iran, Journal of Management, MCB University Press, 1996.
  •  Margerison, C. J. , “Chief Executives’ Perception of Managerial Success Factors”, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 3 No. 4, 1984.
  •  Stewart, R. , The Reality of Management, Heinemann, London, 1963.
  • Fayol, H. , “General and Industrial Management” (tans. C Storrs), London: Pitman, 1949
  • Mintzberg, H. , “The Managers Job: Folklore & Fact. ” Harvard Business Review, July-August 1975; reprinted n Mintzberg, H. , “Mintzberg on Management: Inside our strange world of organizations. ” New York: The Free Press, 1975
  • Jablonski, D. A. , “AF (Air Force) Unveils Force Development Plan”. Washington: Air Force Print News, 2003
  • Lamond, D. , “Back to the future : lessons from the past for a new management era”, In: Griffin, G. (ed) Management theory and practice : moving to a new era, MacMillan, Melbourne, 1998 14. Carroll, S. , Gillen, D. , “Are the classical management functions useful in describing managerial work? ”, Academy of management review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1987

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