Management is creative problem solving. This creative problem solving is accomplished through four functions of management: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. The intended result is the use of an organization's resources in a way that accomplishes its mission and objectives.
In Management Excel, this standard definition is modified to align more closely with our teaching objectives and to communicate more clearly the content of the organizing function. Organizing is divided into organizing and staffing so that the importance of staffing in small businesses receives emphasis along side organizing. In the management literature, directing and leading are used interchangeably.
1. Planning is the ongoing process of developing the business' mission and objectives and determining how they will be accomplished. Planning includes both the broadest view of the organization, e.g., its mission, and the narrowest, e.g., a tactic for accomplishing a specific goal.
2. Organizing is establishing the internal organizational structure of the organization. The focus is on division, coordination, and control of tasks and the flow of information within the organization. It is in this function that managers distribute authority to job holders.
3. Staffing is filling and keeping filled with qualified people all positions in the business. Recruiting, hiring, training, evaluating and compensating are the specific activities included in the function. In the family business, staffing includes all paid and unpaid positions held by family members including the owner/operators.
4. Directing is influencing people's behavior through motivation, communication, group dynamics, leadership and discipline. The purpose of directing is to channel the behavior of all personnel to accomplish the organization's mission and objectives while simultaneously helping them accomplish their own career objectives.
5. Controlling is a four-step process of establishing performance standards based on the firm's objectives, measuring and reporting actual performance, comparing the two, and taking corrective or preventive action as necessary.
Management Excel concentrates on building management skills. There are three basic management skills: technical, human and conceptual. A technical skill is the ability to use tools, techniques, and specialized knowledge to carry out a method, process, or procedure. Much of the technology that farmers know and can use so well comes under this management skill. Human skills are used to build positive interpersonal relationships, solve human relations problems, build acceptance of one's co-workers, and relate to them in a way that their behavior is consistent with the needs of the organization. Conceptual skills involve the ability to see the organization as a whole and to solve problems in a way that benefits the entire organization. Analytical, creative and intuitive talents make up the manager's conceptual skills.
Introductory Management Excel programs pay little attention to technical skills. Most managers in attendance have developed these skills far beyond their human and conceptual skills. In some advanced Management Excel programs, e.g., animal nutrition and financial management, the emphasis is on integration of technical, human and conceptual skills rather than on a more traditional technical approach.
The relative importance of conceptual, human and technical skills changes as a person progresses from lower, to middle, to top management. (Figure 1.4, Higgins, page 20) Although all three management skills are important at all three levels of management, conceptual skills become relatively more important at the top level of management. The consistently high level of importance of human skills helps us understand why people problems are so often cited as a core cause of business failure.
A professional association of practicing managers, the American Management Association, has identified important skills for managers that encompass conceptual, communication, effectiveness, and interpersonal aspects. These are briefly described below:
Conceptual Skills: Ability to use information to solve business problems, identification of opportunities for innovation, recognizing problem areas and implementing solutions, selecting critical information from masses of data, understanding the business uses of technology, understanding the organization's business model.
Communication Skills: Ability to transform ideas into words and actions, credibility among colleagues, peers, and subordinates, listening and asking questions, presentation skills and spoken format, presentation skills; written and graphic formats
Effectiveness Skills: Contributing to corporate mission/departmental objectives, customer focus, multitasking; working at multiple tasks at parallel, negotiating skills, project management, reviewing operations and implementing improvements, setting and maintaining performance standards internally and externally, setting priorities for attention and activity, time management.
Interpersonal Skills: Coaching and mentoring skills, diversity skills; working with diverse people and culture, networking within the organization, networking outside the organization, working in teams; cooperation and commitment.