Principles of Management
Prof. Eser U. Belding
December 18, 1996
I believe that the Principles of Management course provided me with invaluable information which will help in furthering both my professional as well as personal life. I believe that learning is a process by which an individual undergoes certain changes. Also, during the learning process, many of the beliefs which a person holds are challenged. I underwent various changes during this course. This paper will explain those changes. Furthermore, I will detail the concepts, ideas and situations which had the greatest impact on me.
Before taking this course, my definition of the concept of management would have been strictly based on power relationships within an organization, how to use power to achieve your goals and how to manipulate people. Although this definition might seem totalitarian, my background in Political Science supported my initial misconceptions of management. I am a political science major and the questions most often asked in political science courses deal with power within a structure and how this power is used, abused and expressed by those in control. Therefore, I came into the Principles of Management course with the notion that I was going to be learning about power. This notion was challenged as I learned that there are three different perspectives that are used to analyze an organization.
There are three different perspectives used to view organizational behavior and processes: Strategic-Design, Political and Cultural. Initially, I was looking at the organization and the process of management from the political perspective. This perspective deals with the use of power and influence throughout the organization. However, I also had to learn about the strategic-design perspective, which dealt with the differentiation, efficiency, strategy, coordination and integration of various tasks within the organization. I also had to learn about the cultural perspective which focused on the way in which people assigned meanings to their respective work experiences. I was beginning to understand that management and the organization are not just an arena for power relations. Instead, a variety of factors compose management. Management deals with the tasks, structure, culture and decision-making processes within an organization. In order to be an effective manager one has to study and analyze the organization using all the perspectives.
This was the first phase of my learning: I was beginning to understand that the perspective from which I had been viewing the organization was insufficient because I was missing other important aspects of the organization. Therefore, I needed to use a multi-perspective lens to analyze the organization.
I also learned about the roles that are present within an organization. These roles are: director, producer, facilitator, mentor, coordinator, innovator and broker. Each of these roles has a distinct function within the context of the organization. These roles can complement and supplement each other.
After doing the in-class exercise, I discovered that I fell in Quinnís Rational Goal quadrant and was oriented towards director and producer roles. A director is expected to clarify expectations through processes, such as planning and goal setting. Directorís define roles and tasks, generate rules and policies and give instructions. After studying many of my everyday activities, I noticed that I was inclined to give orders and that I was highly competitive and goal oriented. I was also oriented towards the producer role. A producer is supposed to accept responsibly, complete assignments and maintain high personal productivity.
By identifying the roles towards which I was inclined, it made it easier to track and remedy my negative tendencies. For instance, the my most negative tendency emanating from the director/producer role is that fact that I can be insensitive to an individualsí needs in the face of accomplishing my goals. After a process of self-examination I identified my problems and negative tendencies. At times, I possess an almost fanatical desire to achieve my goals. This fanatical desire is so strong that it can override friendships, destroy relationships and alienate people. I also began to notice that I had the tendency to act quite insensitive, inconsiderate and not be approachable. Once I had identified this problem, I realized that I needed to diversify myself by adding elements from the other roles, such as mentor and facilitator. I believed that if I complemented my director/producer roles with elements from the mentor or facilitator roles, then this would enable me to foster a collective effort, be sensitive towards the needs of individuals and still be able to achieve my goals.
This was the second phase of my learning: I had identified a personal deficiency and needed to work towards complementing my director/producer roles with roles from the Human Relations quadrant.
One of the key concepts of management and the key themes of the course was teamwork. We were organized into teams and the team was the unit by which the Professor measured our performance. By working in a team-environment, I was able to learn the value of multiple perspectives and the need to use different roles depending on the situation. In analyzing Synergy, Inc., I learned that we had fused the three perspectives to create a unique identity and structure. For instance, in the strategic design perspective, tasks were organized around a need-basis and assignments were shared. Politically, we had no formal authority or decision making body. Instead, all the members of Synergy, Inc. were carefully listened to and their opinions evaluated and discussed. Culturally, Synergy, Inc. formulated its own distinct culture, which consisted of certain rituals and routines before team meetings.
When problems began to occur and breakdown the team process, it was necessary to study the different perspectives in order to determine the origin and possible solution to the problem. In solving team problems, we needed to identify the symptoms and treat the causes of these symptoms (not the symptoms themselves). Also, the problems which arose forced us to evaluate our present processes and attempt to create new processes. We had to learn to adapt to the new environment.
One problem which occurred and caused us to ìre-inventî ourselves was the absenteeism of team member Raquel. Due to various health reasons, Raquel was unable to attend team meetings. We had just lost a valuable team member, whom we were counting on for essential work on performance evaluations such as the book report, interactive cases and the news report. What did we do to prevent the loss of one team member from destroying our entire team process? We re-assigned tasks and began to coordinate other ways of finishing the assignments. For instance, team members Will and Jeb were assigned Raquelís interactive cases and team member Josh was assigned Raquelís presentation for the news report. By creatively manipulating the Strategic Design perspective, we were able to resolve a potential problem.
Another important aspect of the team was that each person had different roles. For instance, I believe that Will was the team director and facilitator. Generally, Jeb and Elizabeth and myself participated in the role of producer. Furthermore, I attempted to take on a facilitator role in order to improve my Human Relations quadrant skills. I attempted to accomplish this by building team cohesion and morale, also by trying to obtain input from all participants in team meetings. I found myself uttering the phrases, ìWhat do you think about that . .î and ìWhat are you opinions concerning the subject . . .î more than I had ever before. I also attempted to diffuse potentially volatile situations by using humor and other pressure-relieving tactics to show that all issues have a lighter side.
Perhaps the class activity which I found most rewarding were the interactive cases. These cases dealt with everyday issues which confront managers and challenge you to use all of your skills and experiences in bringing about a successful resolution to the situation. The cases provided me with an opportunity to put to practice many of the concepts which I had learned in class. I found the motivation and ethics cases to be the most interesting. The motivation case was interesting because it proved that everyone is motivated by a different reason. There can be no "textbook" approach on how to motivate people. Instead, a manager has to sit down and communicate with the person and find out what is behind the motivational problem. In this particular case, all of the people that had low sales figures had a unique reason and motive behind their problems. The ethics case was interesting because there was no clear answer on what should be done to remedy the situation. This case was difficult because one had to balance the interests of the company with the ethical issues and consequences. It is very difficult to come to a resolution when the needs of the company conflict with what is ethical.
I believe that the discussion of the future was an integral part of the Principles of Management class. In the beginning we started discussing the past models of organizational structure. We talked about Max Weber's Bureaucratic model. This model was once an efficient and orderly way of structuring the organization since the organization was in a stable environment. However, today it is obsolete. The current and future models will stress flexibility, freedom from rigidity, networkability and flatness. Organizations designed in this manner will be able to exploit the quickly changing environment.
The future environments will be characterized by chaos, complexity and contradiction. Increasingly, managers will have to deal with tumultuous work environments instead of the stable environments of the past. A metaphor used to compare the past management environment and the future business environment is: "The old environment was like sailing. The new environment is like a kayak race." The calm, secure conditions of sailing best reflect the old business and management environments. However, the new environment is best represented by the chaos and instability of a kayak race. "At any time your canoe can capsize and leave you to drown," said CEO Michael Cooper of METCECH Incorporated. This is further emphasized by the increased competition present in the marketplace. The high levels of competition are making it so that only the companies which are most in tune with their customer's needs and are most efficient survive.
In conclusion, after identifying and integrating the first and second phases of learning, I was able to work towards transforming myself. The transformation process does not end when I hand this paper in or with the end of the course. Rather, the transformation process is a constant struggle between myself and what I have learned. If I choose to apply the lessons which I have learned, then I will win that struggle. However, if I ignore the lessons then I lose the struggle.