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What is the difference between administration, management and supervision?

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Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The differences between administration, management, and supervision can best be explained in terms of organizational hierarchy, often depending upon the size of the organization or business. Administration refers to the top or higher-level personnel within an organization who establish policies intended to guide the organization’s direction. Administrators determine overall objectives and issue parameters, such as budgetary restraints, within which the rest of the organization must function. Management and supervision tend to be merged in practice in smaller organizations. In larger businesses or other types of organizations, however, management and supervision represent two different levels within the institutional hierarchy. Management usually oversees the functioning of various departments within the broader organization and is responsible for ensuring that each department or sector is moving in the proper direction towards achieving the goals set forth by administrative officers.

Supervision can be viewed as a subset of management in that supervisors are generally part of an organization’s management structure. Whereas managers oversee broader ranges of activity within the organization, however, supervisors operate lower to the ground, just above the employees physically performing the labor or other tasks required to accomplish departmental objectives.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is typically said that administration, management, and supervision are different in that they represent three parts of a hierarchy.  The administration sets policy, management gives the orders to implement the policies, and supervision ensures that the policies are carried out effectively.  This is generally true, though the functions do not have to all be held by different people.  There will be jobs that require a person to carry out more than one of these roles.

Administrators are typically those who decide the direction of an organization.  They decide what the goals of the organization will be.  These are the policy-makers who are at the top of the organization.

The administration typically does not dictate the details of how these goals will be achieved.  Instead, the administration delegates that to the management.  Management is an executive function in that it dictates who policy goals are to be achieved.  Therefore, management consists of setting out detailed plans for how to accomplish what administration has ordered.

Supervision is the most detail-oriented and the least policy-oriented of these three functions.  Supervisors do not set policy.  They simply take the orders given by management and ensure that the workers are carrying them out.  They are the people who oversee the day-to-day operations to make sure that the workers are doing what the management wants them to do.

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