Four Functions of Management

Four Functions of Management
Management: Theory, Practice and Application
August 13, 2005

Managers tend to one of two basic problem-solving styles: systematic or intuitive. Systematic thinkers are logical and rational. They prefer narrow and focused problems, step by step processes, rules to be followed, and computer programs that grind to a recommendation. Intuitive thinkers are more comfortable with solutions that just “came to” them. Compared with systematic thinkers, for the intuitive thinker, data are less important, complexity is less bothersome, changing external and internal environments are expected rather than assumed away, and being more or less right is more important than being precisely wrong. (Erven, n.d.)

Four Functions of Management
Rohan Wickremasinghe, a management consultant, defines management as an evolution brought about over many years with different contributions to define management. Rohan thought that the process of Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling were the most modern and simplest of definitions of management for organizational members and organizational resources to achieve a predetermined goal. He goes on to define the common practice of management in terms of the four words: Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling, which are referred to as the four functions of management. Rohan states, “to achieve our objectives the four functions of management: Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling have to be carried out on an ongoing systematic way for some period of time depending on the type of objective”. (Wickremasighe, n.d.)
Planning – Planning implies that we must think through our goals and actions in advance and decide, What to do? and How to do? Planning is based on a logical or systematic way rather than hunch. Planning should produce a picture of our desirable future. We may have long term plans or what we desire to be in another five to ten years in future time. To achieve long term plans we must develop medium term plans for two to three years of duration. Still to achieve medium term plans we must prepare short term operational plans deciding what we should do on a day to day basis, to achieve our medium term plan and finally thereby achieve our long term plans.

Organizing – Mere planning will not help us achieve our objectives unless we organize things by allocating work to be done and resources among various people in a proper way so as achieving of our plans are made easy.

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Leading – In management we deal mostly with humans than machines. Therefore to achieve our objectives we have to motivate and lead people who are relevant to achievement of our objectives. When we lead people, motivate them and constantly communicate with them, they will be interested in carrying out what had been allocated to them. Unless people are properly led they will not do the intended task. People need to be constantly motivated and directed to perform the intended task we expect out of them. Then achievement of our objective will be certain.

Controlling – Controlling, is that we must ensure that all our planning, organizing and leading in fact move us towards the established objectives. This is, while planning, organizing and leading are carried out as a process, it must be ensured that we measure the ongoing performance of the task and compare such current performance with the established objectives, to see whether we are heading towards the right directions.

Rohan believes that objectives may not be achieved and recommends corrective actions to ensure that the right direction is being followed to achieve the predetermined objectives.
An important contributor to Rohan’s writing is the theory of the human relations approach which was said to have come about as a result of a famous series of studies conducted at the Western Electric Company, referred to as the Hawthorne studies and also known as the Hawthorne Effect.
The Hawthorne Studies began as an attempt to investigate the relationship between the level of lighting in the workplace and workers productivity. Western Electric researchers divided the employees into two groups; one test group, who were subjected to deliberate changes in lighting, and another control group, whose lighting remained constant throughout the experiment. Interesting enough, the lighting had little effect on productivity and both groups provided increases in productivity with little regard for the amount of lighting administered. Finally, the researchers found that because the workers were gathered for a special evaluation, both groups developed a “sense of pride” which motivated their performance. (Mayo, n.d.)
So, in the evolution of management as defined by Rohan and the Hawthorne Effect, management has been led to the Human Relations approach to management and is labeled as a method for motivating and directing people, and helping to complete their social needs, but will in fact always be consistent with the four functions of management: Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling.

Erven, B.L. (n.d.) The Five Functions of Management. (August 13, 2005)
Wickremasinghe, R. (May 03, 2001)
News-3-2003/Feature.htm (August 13, 2005)
Mayo, E. (n.d.) Taken from Employee Motivation, Motivation in the Workplace, (August 13, 2005)