Management covers a very wide range of activities designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization. To understand the full rage of management actions develop knowledge and skill to perform these management activities well, we can classify the complete range of management activities in different ways. One such ways of classifying management activities is based on the dimensions of totality of the organizational performance focused on. To manage an organizational well, managers need to focus on the whole organization as a single unit. At the same time they also need to pay individual attention to each small activity performed by many smaller units within the organization.
Classifying of management as per totality of the organizational performance, we can define a continuum of management levels ranging from strategic management on one end to operational management at the other. Strategic management concentrates on the performance of the complete organization. The focus here is to determine the most appropriate objectives that the organization should pursue given its internal strengths and weaknesses as well as the external opportunities and threats faced by it.
Strategic management involves achieving balance between requirements of different functions and units of the organizations. It also involves balancing risks in short and long term. Based on these considerations strategic management determines long term objectives to be pursued by the organization and identifies the ways and means of achieving these objectives. One unique characteristic of strategic management is the absence of any higher level plans or objectives to guide strategic management action.
Operational management lies at the other end of the continuum of management levels. It is concerned ensuring that the day to day operations of the organization are carried out effectively and efficiently. For example, operational management will concentrate on ensuring that workmen on the shop floor are instructed correctly on the jobs to be performed by them at any particular time and that they are provided with required material, tools and other facilities to get on with the work.
The level between the strategic and operational management is the middle management level. Some authors also call it tactical management. This level of management is concerned with planning and control for individual organizational functions such as marketing, production, and HRD, or sub function within them, for improving performance in short or medium term.