Home Business News What Does It Mean “To Manage”?…Part 1 By Frank Ofili

What Does It Mean “To Manage”?…Part 1 By Frank Ofili


Recently I had an issue with my PC, and invited one of our IT officers to sort it out. After he was done, he informed me that the monitor would need replacement and that it would take a couple of days, to which I responded that “I just have to manage it for a while”. The guy left. Ten minutes later he was back, standing before me with a half smile.

“Excuse me sir, what does it mean to manage”? He asked. I was taken aback. I thought this was a joke but he persisted. “I have always heard the word Manage but what does it really mean? I like to know sir. I have just exchanged pleasantries with a friend and when I enquired about his family he simply responded “we dey manage”. A few minutes ago you yourself used the same word. What does it really mean”? I asked him to check any English dictionary; to which he responded that he already did but was not satisfied with the explanation given. “Then google it” I advised. “That is even worse. Between Leadership and Management I do not know which is which”, he declared. (More on this later).

I had no choice than to offer the guy a seat. Until this encounter with Segun I had thought that the question of Management was answered in undergraduate school, and if not, any search engine, (e.g. google), would settle the matter forever. Segun, a graduate of Computer Engineering, who has 24 hours access to world-wide web, should have known that. What was the real reason for this ominous question?

Anyway, Segun’s question presented an interesting proposition to me and I thought I should explore it. Over the next couple of days I am going to attempt to answer Segun’s question so that others who might be in his shoes would benefit from it.

Simply defined, to manage is to organize and coordinate the activities of any endeavour in order to achieve an objective. “Manage” extends to Management which has wider ramification in terms of scope. Management itself is the act of getting resources together in order to accomplish a desired goal. What are these “resources”? They are men (his energy), money, materials and time. At whatever level, every single activity we undertake at any point in time center around these four resources.

In all business or organizational activities, Management is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.  Viewed from this perspective, Management becomes a social process involving responsibility for economical and effective planning and regulation of operation of an enterprise in the fulfillment of given purposes. It is a dynamic process consisting of various elements and activities. From this explanation, Management can be conceptualized in at least three perspectives viz (a) as an activity (b) as a process, and (c) as the person or body of persons responsible for taking decisions in an organization. Its characteristics can be highlighted as:

It is goal-Oriented: Management is a purposeful activity. The success of any management activity is assessed by its achievement of the predetermined goals or objective. It is a tool which helps use of human and physical resources to fulfill the pre-determined goals. For example, the goal of an enterprise is maximum consumer satisfaction by producing quality goods and at reasonable prices. This can be achieved by employing efficient persons and making better use of scarce resources.

It integrates human, physical and financial resources: In an organization, human beings work with non-human resources like machines, materials, money, buildings etc. Management integrates human efforts to those resources. It brings harmony among the human, physical and financial resources.

It is a continuum: Management is an ongoing process. It involves continuous handling of problems and issues. It is concerned with identifying the problem and taking appropriate steps to solve it. For example, the target of a company is maximum production. For achieving this target various policies have to be formulated but this is not the end. Marketing and Advertising is also to be done. For this policies again have to be formulated. Hence this is an ongoing process.

It is pervasive: Management is required in any type of organization – whether political, social, cultural or business – because it helps to direct and mobilize efforts towards a definite goal. Whenever more than one person is engaged in working for a common goal, management is necessary. Whether it is a small business firm or a large one management is required everywhere irrespective of size or type of activity.

It is a group activity: Management is very much less concerned with individual effort. It is more concerned with groups. It involves the use of group effort to achieve predetermined goals.


Early literature on Management identified five broad functions of Management to include Planning, Organising, Co-ordinating, Directing and Controlling. Later day writers added Staffing    (perhaps to highlight the critical nature of the staffing function), thus bringing the functions to six. I shall attempt to explain each of these functions one after the other.

1. Planning

It is the basic function of management. It deals with chalking out a future course of action & deciding in advance the most appropriate course of actions for achievement of pre-determined goals. According to Koontz, “Planning is deciding in advance – what to do, when to do & how to do. It bridges the gap from where we are & where we want to be”. A plan is a future course of actions. It is an exercise in problem solving & decision making. Planning is determination of courses of action to achieve desired goals. Thus, planning is a systematic thinking about ways & means for accomplishment of pre-determined goals. Planning is necessary to ensure proper utilization of human & non-human resources. It is all pervasive, it is an intellectual activity and it also helps in avoiding confusion, uncertainties, risks, wastages etc.

2. Organising

It is the process of bringing together physical, financial and human resources and developing productive relationship amongst them for achievement of organizational goals. According to Henry Fayol, “To organize a business is to provide it with everything useful or its functioning i.e. raw material, tools, capital and personnel’s”. To organize a business involves determining & providing human and non-human resources to the organizational structure. Organizing as a process involves:

·         Identification of activities.

·         Classification of grouping of activities.

·         Assignment of duties.

·         Delegation of authority and creation of responsibility.

·         Coordinating authority and responsibility relationships. 

3. Co-ordinating

This is the process of harmonizing and marrying the activities of the various units or departments in an organization so as to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and specialization. The essence of co-ordination is to create clear cut relationships among positions and ensure mutual co- operation among individuals.

4. Directing

Directing is that part of managerial function which actuates the organizational methods to work efficiently for achievement of organizational purposes. It is considered the spark of the enterprise which sets in motion the action of people because other functions are mere preparations for doing the work. Direction is that inert-personnel aspect of management which deals directly with influencing, guiding, supervising, motivating sub-ordinate for the achievement of organizational goals. Direction has the following characteristics: Supervision, Motivation, Leadersh ip, and Communication.

Supervision- implies overseeing the work of subordinates by their superiors. It is the act of watching and directing work and workers.

Motivation- means inspiring, stimulating or encouraging the sub-ordinates to work with enthusiasm. Positive, negative, monetary, non-monetary motivation may be used for this purpose. Motivation comes in two forms – in the form of incentive or in the form of reward. Incentives are those benefits which are offered to spur an employee to strive for better job performance. Rewards on the other hand are those benefits offered on account of satisfactory or outstanding job performance.

Leadership- may be defined as a process by which manager guides and influences the work of subordinates in desired direction.

Communications- is the process of passing information, experience, opinion etc from one person to another. It is a bridge of understanding.

5. Controlling

Controlling implies setting standards and measuring accomplishment, activities or conducts against the standards, and correcting deviations, if any, so as to ensure achievement of organizational goals. The purpose of controlling is to ensure that everything occurs in conformity with the standards or rules set. An efficient system of control helps to predict deviations before they actually occur. According to Theo Haimann, “Controlling is the process of checking whether or not proper progress is being made towards the objectives and goals and acting if necessary, to correct any deviation”. According to Koontz and O’Donell, “Controlling is the measurement and correction of performance activities of subordinates in order to make sure that the enterprise objectives and plans desired to obtain them are being accomplished”. Controlling has four vital elements – establishment of standard performance;  measurement of actual performance; comparison of actual performance with the standards and finding out deviation if any; and corrective action.

6. Staffing

Staffing is the process of actually assigning roles, responsibilities and postions to individuals in the organization. It is the function of manning the organization structure and keeping it manned. Staffing has assumed greater importance in the recent years due to advancement in technology, increase in size of business, complexity of human behavior, work place diversity etc. The main purpose of staffing is to put the right man on the right job i.e. square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. According to Kootz and O’Donell, “Managerial function of staffing involves manning the organization structure through proper and effective selection; appraisal and development of personnel to fill the roles designed in the structure”. Staffing involves manpower planning (estimating the nature, structure and calibre of man power requirements); recruitment, selection and placement; training (structured learning experience for purposes of developing employees abilities, knowledge and experience in specific skills); development (putting an employee through a learning process that will enable him become more efficient, effective, advanced, multi-skilled, learn new ways of doing things, and generally put him in a position that will enable him realize his full potential. Remuneration, performance appraisal, promotion and transfer are also other elements of staffing.

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