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Effective managers create opportunities for workers and teams to perform well and feel good about it at the same time. To be able to do this, the manager must be good at the basic aspects of management which include planning, organizing, leading and controlling the use of company’s resources. Here follows first a short description of these four aspects of management.
Planning is the process of setting performance objectives and identifying the actions needed to accomplish them.
Organizing is the process of dividing up the work to be done and coordinate the results to achieve objectives.
Leading involves directing and coordinating the efforts of the workers to help them accomplish their tasks.
Controlling is monitoring performance, comparing results to the objectives set earlier and taking corrective action, if so required.
The management process and these four functions defined above can apply in all work settings and offer a useful framework for managers. It helps the manager in finding out what the main responsibilities are in carrying out his or her job: being the manager.
Let us now see what many managers go through during a typical working day, maybe also here in Ethiopia. In his book “The Nature of Managerial Work”, Henry Mintzberg observes the following:
“There was no break in the pace of activity during office hours. The mail, telephone calls and meetings accounted for almost every minute from the moment these executives entered their offices in the morning until they departed in the evenings. A true break seldom occurred. Coffee was taken during meetings and lunchtime was almost always devoted to formal or informal meetings. When free time appeared, ever present subordinates quickly usurped it.” Mintzberg continues: “Why do managers adopt this pace and workload? One major reason is the inherent open-ended nature of the job. The manager is responsible for the success of the organization. There are really no tangible mileposts where one can stop and say: ‘Now my job is finished.’ Where the task of the worker is completed every now and then, the manager must always keep going, never sure when he or she has succeeded, never sure whether the whole organization may come down because of some miscalculation. As a result, the manager is a person with a perpetual preoccupation. The manager can never be free to forget the job, and never has the pleasure of knowing, even temporarily, that there is nothing else to do.”
What Mintzberg describes points out quite clearly that a manager’s job in any organization is busy and demanding. In summary:
Managers work long hours, 50 to 90 hours per week, sometimes 7 days a week.
Managers are very busy people. Their work is intense and involves doing many different things in one day.
Managers are often interrupted as they work. Their work is fragmented and variable. Interruptions are frequent and many tasks must be completed quickly.
Managers do their work mostly with other people. They spend little time working alone. They work with bosses, colleagues, workers, customers, suppliers and so on.
Managers get their work done through communication, most of it face-to-face verbal communication that takes place during formal and informal meetings. Higher level managers spend more time in scheduled meetings than do lower level managers. In general, managers spend a lot of time getting, giving and processing information.
From his work, Mintzberg identified three major categories of activities or roles that managers must be prepared to perform on a daily basis, which are:
Interpersonal roles – working directly with other people.
Informational roles – exchanging information with other people.
Decisional roles – making decisions that affect other people.
During the next couple of weeks, we will explore the responsibilities and roles of managers a bit deeper and we will try to see how these apply in the context of managing a company or organization in Ethiopia. While a number of issues mentioned above are easily recognised here as well, there are other cultural factors in Ethiopia which influence the way managers go about their job and their responsibilities. I have noticed for instance that Ethiopian managers take more time relating to other people, even outside the direct context of their work, as relationships are considered to be very important in this society. In the context of the Ethiopian culture, we will then try to apply the framework described above, and see how it can help a manager in carrying out his or her job effectively.