Introduction to Management 101   no comments

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I have been reading David Boddy’s ‘Management an introduction’ (4th edition). It’s a useful introduction to the different ways in which management has emerged as a social science, including the main theoretical perspectives on management.
Interestingly, the first case study is Ryanair and how its managers were quick to spot the potential of the Web by opening as a booking site in 2000. Within a year it was selling 75% of seats online, and now sells almost all seats this way.

In considering what ‘management’ is, an important component is innovation. Computers and network (the new agents of communication) has propelled management into the new economy through innovation. To give one simple example from Boddy, the use of emails has sped up communication enabling managers to strengthen their interpersonal roles.

Thus, it seems to me that technology (including the Web) is both an external and internal force upon management: it facilitates innovation to beat the external competition; while also providing an opportunity for corporate entities to streamline themselves internally via more efficient working practices. In the nature of a double-edged sword, however, it may also be the undoing of those businesses that do not use them efficiently.

As Boddy points out, everywhere the Web is enabling great changes in how people organise economic activity, equivalent to the Industrial Revolution in the 19/20th century. This includes the challenges of coping with the transition to a world in which ever more business is done on a global scale. Those managing a globally competitive business requires flexibility, quality and low-cost production. Thus managers want production processes that help them to organise as efficiently as possible from a technical perspective.

In terms of different models of management, at a basic level we can think of management as the way in which enterprises add value to inputs. Building on this, several perspectives can be taken with no single model offering a complete solution. Models reflect their context in terms of the most pressing issues facing managers at the time. To give one example, sometimes manufacturing efficiency is necessary but not sufficient. Drucker (1954) observed that customers do not buy products, but the satisfaction of needs: what they value may be different from what producers think they are selling. Managers, Drucker argued, should develop a marketing mindset, focused on what customers want, and how much they will pay. As a consequence of business becoming more global (again partly as a consequence of the Web) managers need to react quickly to international trends of changing customer needs and how to scale up to take advantage of global opportunities.

Boddy also discusses the concept of the corporate organization from a management perspective. Just as the Web is compared to the neural functions of brains, organisms, culture, machine, so is a business.

I was also struck by the interdependent links drawn between management and technology (as mentioned above) as compared with our discussions with Cathy in relation to science and technology. For example, operational research teams set up to pool the expertise of scientific disciplines are now used to help run complex civil organisations.

But, like with the Web, technology is only part of the solution. A key plank of management is human relations. Management solutions lie in reconciling technology and social needs (i.e. appreciating that work systems are socio-technical in nature). So whereas I had previously been concentrating on the Web in its influence on external business strategies, this can only be appreciated by considering how it has also revolutionized internal operations, in addition to the links between the two and the outside world which provides inputs (what Boddy calls the ‘open models’ system conception of an organisation).

In a nutshell, I have learnt that management is about relationships between subsystems and whole systems. To what extent, I wonder, is the Web breaking down the boundaries between these and blurring the conceptualization of an internal world / external world hard-line divide in business (i.e. now that consumers can become producers of certain products/services and more flexible and freelance working practices are becoming the norm)?

Written by amk1g10 on October 30th, 2011

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