How would you compare the relative importance of each function of each level of the management pyramid?
The question is to compare the importance of the function(s) performed by each level of management, using the concept of a pyramid to describe the hierarchy of management in a typical organization. By definition, each level is “important” to the extent it is deemed necessary by the organization; i.e. these are all jobs which “must” be done to operate the organization, otherwise they would be eliminated. Therefore, the concept of importance is really more one of what the key functions of each level are.
Most people tend to think of management hierarchies in terms of organizational charts with various job titles arranged in reporting relationships. The permutations of this approach are legion, but they can be simply distilled into three basic levels, namely “front-line,” middle, and executive.
Front-line managers are primarily responsible for coordinating the daily productive activities of the organization’s non-managerial personnel, issuing tasks, monitoring output, and training such personnel as needed. A front-line manager may have one or more supervisors assisting in their daily managerial responsibilities. The decision to organize this way will typically be driven by span of control issues (i.e. the manager has too many operational personnel to effectively task and monitor, so supervisors are necessary). Nonetheless, the core function at this level is direct management of production (the term being used broadly here to mean making or doing whatever is necessary to fulfill the organization’s purpose).
Middle managers are fundamentally information processors. They aggregate reports of results from the operational units into information useful to executive level staff, e.g. production results (upward information flow). They also take high-level directives, goals, policies and so forth from executive managers and implement them across the units for which they are responsible (downward information flow). By virtue of their access to the operational units, they may be asked to advise executive managers in policy development, but they do not have the authority to finalize such policy. Note that, because their role is one of information processing, the number of such managers necessary has decreased dramatically in the last several decades with the expansion of computing power and applications (“flattening” the organizational pyramid).
Finally, executive managers have the primary responsibility for determining the broad direction and policies which will drive the success of the overall organization. They report directly to the “owners” of the organization (e.g. shareholders, or with charities, the trusts or boards of directors). In US law, some of these executives may be personally legally liable for the actions of the organization/corporation.