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The Manager's Basic Responsibility
It has been said that the manager's most basic responsibility is to focus people toward performance of work activities to achieve desired outcomes. Is this a true statement? Certainly, it describes part of the manager's role and that part of the manager's role is a significant one. However, focusing people towards the performance of work activities is only part of the manager's role and may not be the most crucial part. A manager might have other responsibilities that are more basic and more essential to their role. At the same time, this description of the manager's role may actually undermine the manager's ability to perform their job effectively. These issues will now be considered further.
Management is defined as "the attainment of organisational goals in an effective and efficient manner through planning, organising, leading, and controlling organisational resources" (Daft 1997, p. 8). This definition includes four functions of management. One of these functions is leadership, which is defined as "the use of influence to motivate employees to achieve organisational goals" (Daft 1997, p. 10). If it is recalled that the manager's most basic responsibility has been described as being "to focus people toward performance of work activities to achieve desired outcome," it can be seen that this description of the manager's responsibility describes the function of leadership. This illustrates that the basic responsibility described is really only focusing on one aspect of the manager's job. While Mintzberg (1975) refutes the four functions of management, he did make a similar conclusion about the manager's job. Mintzberg (1975) studied five CEOs and described what managers do based on three observed roles. These included the interpersonal roles of figurehead, leader, and liaison; the informational roles of monitor, disseminator, and spokesperson; and the decision-making roles of entrepreneur, resource allocator, disturbance handler, and negotiator. While the roles described are different than in the management functions approach, a major similarity exists in that the manager's role is recognised as involving a diverse range of duties. Like in the management functions approach, there are some roles that relates to focusing people toward work activities. However, there are also other functions that are just as crucial to the role. Another study of 44 managers at all levels of organisations provides additional information on what managers do. Luthans (1988) observed 44 managers and described four general activities that managers were engaged in. These were communication, traditional management, human resource management, and networking. In this study, it is the human resource management activities that refer to focusing people toward the performance of work activities. Like in the previous examples, the main point is that this is not the only task that managers have. Therefore, it is not fair to say that the manager's most basic responsibility is to focus people toward performance of work activities to achieve desired outcomes. Instead, it is only fair to say that this is part of the manager's role.
The next issue that needs to be considered relates to what other tasks managers have. Returning to the definition of management as achieving goals through the use of organisational resources, it must be noted that human resources are not the only kind of resource. A manager also has to utilise financial resources, knowledge resources, technology resources, and physical resources. In many cases, it might be the effective use of these resources that are more important. Consider the manager's need to manage financial resources. In doing this, it must be recognised that an organisation exists for the purpose of making profits and that financial resources are often the resource that is the most scarce. This places an extra need on managers to make the best use of financial resources. To illustrate the important of controlling financial resources vs. controlling human resources, consider the case where a CEO of an organisation makes significant management errors. In the first case, a CEO fails to manage people effectively. The likely result of this is that people either work less efficiently or choose to leave the organisation. In either scenario, the organisation can employ another person to complete the necessary tasks. Now consider the case where the CEO fails to manage the finances effectively. This results in the loss of money and the organisation loses its profitability and cash flow. In this case, the organisation may not be able to find a new source of finance like they can find a new source of employees. This illustrates that human resources are not necessarily the most…[continue]
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