Observe the application of the four management functions in organization. Explain how those functions are conducted and discuss the strength and weaknesses of those functions. How would you make...

Observe the application of the four management functions in organization. Explain how those functions are conducted and discuss the strength and weaknesses of those functions. How would you make recommendations for improvement?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The four primary functions of management are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.  In applying these to a particular situation or case study, there are bound to be strengths and weaknesses for each. I hope a few good examples will help you.

Planning is central to the management of any organization, since an organization without plans stumbles from one crisis to the next and is reactive, rather than proactive. This is as true of the organization that has been in existence for a hundred years as it is for an organization that you are just starting.  Who, what, where, when, why, and how are a good starting place for plans. What is your mission?  What good or service are you going to provide?  Where will you provide it? When will you create it? How will you create it? Who are going to be the people who help you accomplish your mission?  If your organization already exists, you must make plans to provide for changes and in response to problems that have arisen.  No organization can do well without planning.

Strengths and weaknesses in planning are often a reflection of the quality and quantity of information the manager gathers or fails to gather in the planning process.  Is the information on competition comprehensive?  Has research been done on the market being aimed at?  Has anyone investigated the location a production facility will be located in?  Is there transportation available to move the goods?  Is there a good pool of qualified employees?  Gathering this sort of information is a strength in planning, and a failure to gather it is a serious weakness.

The organization function of management necessitates organizing one's resources, human, material, informational, and capital.  This includes everything from people's work schedules to the layout of a factory floor.  How will the flow of information be organized, horizontally and vertically?  The organization of purchasing materials to allow for smooth cash flow is important in the management of an organization, as is the way that the delegation of authority is set up, or the structure of the organization itself, by function, by product, or geographically, for example. 

Strengths in organization can be seen in the efficient and effective use of the managed resources, for instance, the use of just in time production when inventory is costly to keep or maintaining a lean workforce with a strong list of extras in a market that fluctuates seasonally.  Weaknesses emerge when inventory piles up or when too many employees are not fully engaged and productive all the time.  Other kinds of organizational weaknesses emerge when communication is not effective or when cash flow is uneven. Another example of poor organization occurs when departments do not consult with one another on a regular basis, so that, for instance, inventory piles up and the marketing department is completely unaware of this.  Much can go wrong when organization is not a manager's strong suit.

Leading in management is to a large degree a matter of motivating others to contribute to the organization's mission.  People have different management styles, some operating on the premise that one must provide external rewards to motivate people, while others operate on the premise that people's motivations are largely internal.  An additional function of leadership is acting as a representative of an organization in the community.  How the leader presents him or herself is the organization in the eyes of the public.

Leadership strengths include tailoring one's leadership style to the circumstances and culture at hand and acting as a role model within the organization. A very creative mission is likely to be best led with a more laid back kind of leader, while a highly structured and rote operation is likely to be best led with a more formal kind of leader. An additional leadership strength is the ability to delegate.  A good leader is going to choose good people to delegate responsibilities to and then let them do their jobs.  To motivate those below, a good leader will be on time every day, work hard, and act like a member of the team. Servant leadership, which is about doing everything possible to help one's employees thrive, is one example of good leadership.  Weaknesses abound in this area of management, with micromanagement, which is essentially a failure to delegate, with poor role modeling, which is a powerful demotivator as well as causing harm to an organization's image in the eyes of the public, or with an inflexibility that prevents the leader from tailoring his or her leadership style to the circumstances.

Control is about following one's plans, keeping a careful eye on the management of one's resources, and responding when needed to problems.  It is simply not enough to implement plans and hope for the best.  Costs of materials might be rising. Control necessitates looking for another supplier.  The employee turnover rate might be high.  Good control means keeping an eye on this, so that one can address the problem. Control can easily send the manager back to the planning process, to tweak the plans for a better result.

Good control requires careful attention to all facets of the organization, not micro-management, but frequent information-gathering at the very least, and the ability to spot trends before they become problems, ideally. Weakness in this area is a form of negligence, denial, or foolish optimism, a failure to gather information, a belief that bad numbers are an anomaly, or that a problem will somehow magically work itself out. The good manager will know what is going on in the organization and respond accordingly.

Management is a complex task, even broken down into its four facets, and we are surrounded with examples of its weaknesses and strengths.  It is the extraordinary manager who succeeds all the time in all areas of management.