Functions of Management


First of all I would like to apologize for not posting more in the last few months and explain why.  My last few months have been spent in Alaska supporting projects on the North Slope.  Needless to say, I will have several articles driven by my fabulous experience up there and I look forward to your comments on them.  I thank all of you for your support while I was out of pocket on the Arctic Circle and I am here to tell you that I am back and you can expect to hear more from me in the future.  Also, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter so that you can have all the additional free content and stay up to date with the latest in project management and business tactics.  Now, on to the article.

In traveling the world meeting people in other corporations and seeing how they are organized, it is interesting how the titles in management are used and how positions are sometimes combined and morphed.  However, the basic functions of any management position never really change.  As such, I wanted to discuss the functions of management a bit more here at Project Victories.  At Hewlett Packard, the specific form of management that I engaged in was Program Management or Project Management.  In fact my whole department was setup that way.  The organization became flatter every day and the job of my immediate supervisor was to manage the department's portfolio of projects in the very same way that the individual project managers managed their projects.  However, with all forms of management there exist some basic functions that can be witnessed on any given day.  These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.

Planning is a critical area in management and in my experiences most managers don't spend enough time planning.  Specifically, in project management, it is not unimaginable to spend as much as fifty percent of the total project time in the planning phase.  What do we need to do?  Why do we need to do it?  When do we need to be done?  Who is going to pay for the work?  The list goes on and on.  If there is a failure to plan properly, then you can bet that there will be an unsatisfied customer at the end of the project.  If a project has been planned properly then the project team will have a solid Project Plan to operate from.  Part of that plan will require another function of management known as organizing.

Organizing is the part of the project where we begin to take all the information from the planning activities and assimilate it.  Who is going to do what task?  Do we have these capabilities in-house or do we need to hire others?  How will the work breakdown structure be organized (i.e. by department or by sub-assembly)?  It is not enough just to have the information that is the result of the planning stage.  In order for success to be achieved there must be someone responsible for each and every task and that person or department must know clearly what is expected and when it is expected.  Furthermore, they must be committed to delivering on their requirements.  One of the key jobs of a project manager is getting this buy-in and commitment.  This can only be accomplished through leadership.

Leadership is a slippery slope in the world of project management.  While a project manager may be responsible for delivering a project, he or she might not be directly responsible for the people on the project.  This means that the project manager is accountable even if he lacks authority for the personnel.  In a situation like this, only true leaders will survive.  A project manager must know how to influence and lead people and without direct authority a project manager must find other means to encourage cooperation.  Purse string authority, charismatic leadership, technical authority, or some other means must be used to ensure that each and every group represented on the project keeps their commitments.

The last of the four functions of management is controlling.  In project management it is no different.  The best project managers put proper controls in place so that they know what is happening with their project before major problems occur.  Controls can be just about anything.  What is the acceptable level of quality in parts per million for a supplier?  If using Statistical Process Control (SPC), what are the upper and lower control limits for a given piece of equipment on the manufacturing floor?  Of course, there must be a system of control and a set of metrics to monitor schedule and costs on any given project also.  One widely accepted method is Earned Value Management (EVM).  EVM allows a project manager to track both cost performance and schedule performance (CPI & SPI).  Another method for monitoring project performance that often goes hand-in-hand with EVM is a method known as Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).  While EVM and PERT are robust and mathematical, the typical red light/green light graphs are still used.

While my area of expertise is project management and business analysis, the functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are used at all levels of the corporation.  In addition, while these functions are the basic building blocks of management, far too often the management mistakes that I witness can be attributed to failing to manage one of these basic areas.  Whether you are a project manager on the North Slope of Alaska, a Director at Hewlett Packard, or the CEO of your own company you must maintain a clear vision of how you are using the functions of management.

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Categories : Business Skills


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