Archive for November 18th, 2012

Management 101 – concepts and definitons   no comments

Posted at 9:03 pm in Uncategorized

This week I have begun looking at the discipline of management by reading David Boddy’s Management: An Introduction. This book is recommended as a sound introduction to the discipline by many universities, including Southampton and the LSE. In it Boddy (p. 3) outlines the existence of ‘management’ as both a general human activity and as a ‘specialist occupation’. Our focus is on the specialist occupation, which aims to ‘create wealth by adding value to resources, which managers to by influencing others’ (p. 3). Management occurs in organisations, which are defined as ‘social arrangement[s] for achieving controlled performance towards goals to create value’, recognising that the idea of adding value is both subjective as well as relative (pp. 7-8). With the development of such organisation, in historical as well as social terms, the element of ‘management’ is separated from the ‘work’. That is the moment management emerges as a distinct role (p. 10).

Managers influence others in three main ways:

–          Through the process of management

–          Through the tasks of management

–          Through shaping the context

The process:

There are many different aspects of the management role in an organisation. Mintzberg’s research from 1973 shows ten, Boddy highlights more, broadly classified in three categories: informational, interpersonal and decisional, as described in more detail in figure 1. These roles operate simultaneously and are more or less important depending on the level of management and the type of organisation (pp. 15-19).

Fig. 1: Management roles

The tasks:

Figure 2 below is a representation that summarises the four main management tasks of: (pp. 19-22)

–          Planning – setting out the overall direction of the work

–          Organising – actions the plans by allocating time and resources

–          Leading – generate effort and commitment

–          Controlling – monitoring progress and reactive accordingly

Fig. 2: Management tasks

The context:

Managers can also influence their contexts (internal and external) to achieve their objectives. Figure 3 provides a good illustration.

Fig. 3: Management – internal and external contexts

Here we come to a bit of an epistemological discussion within the discipline of management because there are broadly speaking three schools of thought regarding the relationship between context and actions:

–          Determinism – performance depends on external context

–          Choice – people are able to influence even shape their context

–          Interaction – people are influenced by and in turn influence their context

Boddy concludes this introductory chapter by emphasising the importance of ‘critical thinking’ as a basic skill for managers. He defines as a way of thinking which ‘identifies the assumptions behind ideas, relates them to their context, imagines alternatives and recognises limitations’ (p. 26).

So the discipline is concerned with a specific type of human activity, management. But not the universal activity of managing one’s life, family, etc. but rather a specific role within a specific kind of socio-economic arrangement: the organisation. This has strong implication for the management epistemology and ontology, which I will explore further next week after presenting a number of theoretical models of management.


Boddy D. (2010) Management: An Introduction, 5th edition, Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall

Written by Jennifer Welch on November 18th, 2012

Limits of Computation   no comments

Posted at 12:14 am in Uncategorized

In the second post it was stated that theory of computer science draws great attention to the boundaries of algorithms, to the problems than can or cannot be solved with computational methods. This led me to search for an introductory book on the limits of computation, finding Computation and its Limits by Paul Coockshott (2010).
The book provides a clear explanation of what computation is in its second chapter, along with a succinct historical overview of computational machines (more developed in the third chapter). In this definition, the author raises the question of what is evolutionary and what is cultural when carrying out computing operations. It also illustrates with practical examples how, as humans, we are equipped with physical and mental features to perform certain tasks such as counting, adding, or creating aides for calculation. These two first chapters highlight the importance of mathematics as an underlying element of all sciences, therefore including social sciences, although not explicitly. And this is the core conception that can be extracted from this book in order to find out the epistemological processes of computer science: Complex systems can be broken down into simpler ones, and ultimately understood thanks to the simplicity of maths.
The fourth chapter introduces propositional logic, set theory, and predicate logic. Being familiar to their core concepts may be helpful to social scientists who intend maintain a fluid communication with computer scientists, as logic and set theory seems to be the foundations on which computer science is built.
Although the book is somewhat introductory, some solid background in maths and computer science is required in order to understand what is meant with the limits of computation. However, the reading was not in vain, as it made me come to the realisation that perhaps exploring the boundaries of computation for creating an ‘uncrackable’ voting scheme may be an exclusive task for computer scientists, and perhaps interdisciplinary discussions should take place from different starting points.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on November 18th, 2012