What is Management?

What is Management
Defining management is never an easy thing to do. The main reason for this is because it is not an exact science. Probably about as close as we can get is that management is 'achieving results through other people'.

At this point it is worth mentioning that actual job titles are not necessarily the crucial matter. You may indeed be called manager, but from supervisor, to team leader, to charge hand, to foreman, and so on, the minute you are responsible for the work of others in addition to your own, you are in management.
To begin with, the definition above is relatively simple and that should be a blessing in what can easily become a complex matter.

Similarly, it does encompass the two fundamental dimensions of what makes up management: The operational/functional aspect of the job (Results), and the people-managing element.

Effective management is about getting the balance right between task and people.

Taking each of these in turn, let us look at what each entails in the broadest of senses. Greater detail with regard to the various dimensions and aspects of the role are dealt with elsewhere on the Help with Management website.

Managing the task

Managing the task aspect is all about getting the job done. It is about achieving the required outputs to deliver the products and/or services that are the reason for the organisation's existence. It is worth remembering at this point that some departments within an organisation may be providing outputs for internal consumption. For example, the Facilities department will, amongst other things, be responsible for providing the furniture and equipment required by the various other sections within the company or concern.

In order for managers to deliver these outputs they will have to understand the processes involved, have technical knowledge within that field of operation, and deliver what is required in the most cost effective and/or profit-making manner required. To do this managers have to set standards of performance, provide realistic objectives for their staff and further set additional targets.

Standards never vary. Objectives need to be reasonable and can differ from one member of staff to another, according to, for example, experience. Targets are above and beyond this and are there to stretch staff.

The standards and objectives are how managers effectively measure performance or success (individually and collectively). Targets are there to motivate and challenge and to give staff and teams something to strive for.

Within this task element other factors that form part of the manager's role are things like problem solving and decision-making. Despite any individual's best efforts, things go wrong, and it is the manager's responsibility to put things right. Even when things do go to plan, the same sort of skills should be harnessed to seek further improvement in performance. Standing still is not an option.

Managing people

The second dimension, that of people management, is even more complicated. One of the reasons for this is that this aspect cannot really be quantified. With the task element we can say that six customer files should be dealt with per hour. In this instance, we cannot say we will do half an hour's motivation every day.

Despite the less concrete nature of the people side of management, it is vital that managers get this right. If you do not carry your staff with you then all will be lost.

Clearly, there are many things to be considered here. Detailed articles elsewhere within this site will cover these in depth, but for now we need to recognise the key components.


Communication is central to all of the areas where the engagement of people is concerned. It is vital that managers use a variety of means of communication relevant to each situation and circumstance. Sometimes a phone call can be more effective than an email, for example. Similarly, different approaches may be needed for different people. Being a one trick pony is a recipe for disaster.


Motivation too is a key element. A lack of motivation will have a knock-on effect on productivity, and therefore the achievement of the task outputs will not be met.

Other items to throw in the mix include delegation, something which most people do not find comes naturally to them; team working, as the job is not just about managing a collection of individuals; appraisal, the monitoring and managing of performance; and of course, dealing with under-performance.

Whilst these, and others, can be identified individually, they are, in fact all intertwined. Motivation cannot exist without communication, and so forth.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge that faces managers. Most people become managers, at least in part, as a result of their technical ability, those quantifiable aspects. The people dimension is the hardest element. Whereas you can say, 'I prepared three batches of soup this morning', you cannot say, 'I prepared five bits of management this afternoon'.

In Summary

Management is relentless. It is about constantly striving to achieve the balance between 'task' and 'people'. An imbalance in favour of the former will alienate the staff. The reverse means that results do not get fulfilled. Remember the original definition: 'Achieving results through other people'.

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