What Is Management?
Describing management is no simple task, and most of the times you’ll find statements like:
“Management is what managers do”
While that’s true, it doesn’t tell us much unfortunately. So in order to understand the concept of management, you have to understand what managers do.
There are three specific categorization schemes to explain what managers do, result of many years of research and study:
- Functions (Henry Fayol)
- Roles (Henry Mintzberg)
- Skills (Robert L. Katz)
On this article I’m going to focus on the second one, management roles.
Mintzberg Management Roles
Henry Mintzberg is a well know researcher, and the results of his studies about the work of managers were published in The Nature of Managerial Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1973). The term management roles refers to specific categories of managerial behaviour, and Mintzberg concluded that what managers do, can be described by studying ten different and interrelated roles, grouped around interpersonal relationships, transfer of information, and last, but not least, decision making. For a more in depth description you should probably check Mintzberg’s work, but I’ll try to provide a general outline of his conclusions.
The ones that, like the name suggests, involve people and other ceremonial duties.
- Leader – Responsible for staffing, training, and associated duties.
- Figurehead – The symbolic head of the organization.
- Liaison – Maintains the communication between all contacts and informers that compose the organizational network.
Related to collecting, receiving, and disseminating information.
- Monitor – Personally seek and receive information, to be able to understand the organization.
- Disseminator – Transmits all import information received from outsiders to the members of the organization.
- Spokesperson – On the contrary to the above role, here the manager transmits the organization’s plans, policies and actions to outsiders.
Roles that revolve around making choices.
- Entrepreneur – Seeks opportunities. Basically they search for change, respond to it, and exploit it.
- Negotiator – Represents the organization at major negotiations.
- Resource Allocator – Makes or approves all significant decisions related to the allocation of resources.
- Disturbance Handler – Responsible for corrective action when the organization faces disturbances.
It’s worth to mention that Mintzberg also considered that as managers perform the roles described above, their activities include reflection and action. Reflection (also called thoughtful thinking) because managers think, ponder and contemplate about their decisions. Action (or practical doing) because every time they act, they are doing something, they are applying their decisions.
Mintzberg’s approach is debatable, but several studies that tested the Management Roles categories in different types of organizations support the idea that managers do perform similar roles. What does change, is the emphasis given to each role, that may vary depending on the organizational level.
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