“Not All Management Work is Rational”
The manager is considered to be one of the most important positions in a company for its plays very important roles. As the term ‘manager’ implies, a manager manages the workplace, the organization and the conditions in the workplace thus managers have the controlling and decision-making power. On the contrary, the managers are held responsible and accountable to the results of any decisions made in the company. Due to the different roles played by managers in the workplace, it can be expected that not all management work performed by a manager can be rational. There are some decisions made in a reactive manner that show positive results but in other cases resulted to problems and conflicts. It is then the objective of this paper to provide evidences showing that not all management work is rational; that managers also do their work in a reactive manner because of some factors that cannot be avoided or inherent in the workplace.
The paper is divided into three sections: the first part of the paper provides an overview of the roles and jobs perform by managers; the second part discusses how managers perform their jobs effectively; and the last section discusses the factors that affect the rationality or irrationality of management works. The discussion of managers’ roles is important for it provides evidences on how complex the management works are while the discussion on how managers perform their jobs determines how come managers can also make non-rational decisions.
The Manager’s Roles
An organization, particularly large companies, has different managerial levels. The highest-level manager is the top manager. It is the strategic level of management where policies and goals of a company are established. Below the high level managers are the tactical levels or the middle managers who are in charge of different divisions of a company. Finally, there is the operational level or the lower level managers who are in charge of departments within a certain division and the day to day activities of the company (Schermerhorn, 2001). A manager’s job can be described by the various roles and functions he performs. Managers from different levels perform different functions but generally, regardless of the managerial level, all managers’ common function is to manage people and interact effectively with them. Basically, they coach employees to help them improve their works; organize job tasks; settle disputes and develop career paths for employees (Fayol on de Bono, 2005). De Bono (2005) added that the basic roles of managers include planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.
Planning involves defining goals, establishing strategy, and developing sub-plans to coordinate activities; organizing is a managerial function that determines what needs to be done, how it will be done, and assigning the right individuals to perform what needs to be done; leading pertains to directing and motivating all parties involved and resolving conflicts; and controlling is the monitoring of activities to ensure that plans are accomplished and goals are achieved by the organization or by a particular organizational unit (de Bono, 2005).
More specifically, Mintzberg (1990) categorized the roles of managers as (1) interpersonal roles; (2) informational roles; and (3) decisional roles. Interpersonal roles generally pertain to how managers interact and communicate with the people or stakeholders in an organization such as his subordinates, colleagues, and the community at large. In performing interpersonal roles, managers act as a figurehead, a leader and a liaison. As a figurehead, a manager represents his group in the organization or in the community the entire organization operates (Mintzberg, 1990). For example, a project manager is the one accountable to the senior management regarding the actions and decisions made by his team. The senior executives on the other hand are the ones who represent the organization as a whole in a business community or in the industry it belongs.
As a leader, the manager is responsible for the acquisition, training and motivation of employees (Mintzberg, 1990). The manager therefore has the power over his subordinates, enabling employees to follow his directions, adhere to the organization’s rules and policy, and be as productive and efficient as possible. The manager influences his employees, leading them towards the direction the organization wants to go by setting examples and at the same time understanding the needs of his employees in order for them to be motivated. For examples, managers must understand the trainings needed by employees for them to acquire needed skills in performing their jobs and at the same time opening opportunities for career advancement.
As a liaison, the manager makes contact with the people outside his chain of commands (Mintzberg, 1990). The production manager for instance interacts and establishes good relationship with suppliers in order for the organization to gain favors (e.g. exclusive partnership or implementation of just-in-time delivery). Project managers also interacts with other project managers in the organization to gain information that will help his own team maintain an effective flow of work (e.g. learn a strategy and implement it on his own project).
Under the informational roles, managers act as the disseminator of information, the monitor, and the nerve center of the organization (Mintzberg, 1990). As a disseminator, the managers provide and pass relevant information to his employees such as the rule and policy of the organization, the tasks to be performed, guidelines and objectives. Relatively, a manager is the nerve center of the organization for he is the primary source of information needed by the organization or team; managers may not know everything but try to be always ‘in the know’ and typically are more knowledgeable than their subordinates (Mintzberg, 1990; Mackenzie, n.d.). The monitoring role of the manager is performed by keeping update on what is going on in the organization and its environment. Through monitoring, the manager collects information vital to the organization. Information may be directly or indirectly relevant to the objectives and proper functioning of the organization but still are important not to be taken for granted. Such information can be gathered through verbal report, unsolicited opinions and feedbacks.
Decisional roles can be considered to be the most important roles played by a manager for it is in the decision-making process where the managers used the information he has and how he will interact and communicate. A manager is responsible for an entire organization or a team thus whatever decisions he made can have significant effect on the other stakeholders of the organization. Mintzberg (1990) added that “the manager plays the major role in the unit’s decision-making system”. Decisional roles challenge the decision-making ability of a manager. Decision-making can be defined as “the process of identifying and choosing alternative courses of action” (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). In making decisions therefore, there are alternative courses of action or various possible solutions available for particular problems or issues. The major decisions that managers make are commonly under the four decisional roles assumne by the manager as decision maker. These roles are as (1) entrepreneur; (2) disturbance handler; (3) resource allocator; and (4) negotiator (Mintzberg, 1990).
As an entrepreneur, the manager decides on the projects that will improve the business of the organization. An example of this is the Chief Information Officer who decides on the strategy that will improve the information system of the a company, or a marketing manager who decides and approve which marketing strategies are capable of providing more profit or increase the company’s market share. As a disturbance handler, on the other hand, describes the manager as the one who take controls and responds to pressure and issues that arise in the workplace such as high turnover rates or problems with a supplier. As a resource allocator, the manager allocates resources properly at the right time and at the right place. Resources include human resources, finance, time, and technology. For instance, the manager decides which employees need onshore training, which employee must be deployed in a particular project or who among the qualified employees must be given promotion. The manager also decides on what technology must be used and needed by the production team and the R&D team, and how much money must be allocated for a particular project. The manager also acts as a negotiator or those that resolve conflicts or grievances in the organization since he is the nerve center of the organization.
All of the above mentioned roles are important to be performed by managers, but on to what extend depends on their individual fields. Managers can be positioned on top management, middle management or supervisory management. Whatever management level he has, he needed all the four dimensions of managerial skills. Managerial skills are conceptual skills, human skills, technical skills and innovational skills (Katz, 1974). Conceptual skills depend on the manager’s ability to thinking abstract technical skill is the ability to use tools, procedures and techniques in some specific specialization. Human skill is the ability to work with, understand and motivate people as individuals or group (Katz, 1974). Conceptual skills are important to all levels of management but more important on top management who think and act as the brain of the organization same as how human skill and technical skill become more important to supervisory management who directly interacts with the employees and who teaches the workers on to do their tasks. Different amount of conceptual, human and technical skills are needed depending on the managerial level of managers. However, innovational skills are required about the same amount cross the levels of management (Schermerhorn, 2001).
Decision-Making Process for Managers
With all the many roles that describe the job of a manager, it is important that the manager has a strong decision-making ability. As already mentioned, the decisional roles of a manager can be considered as the heart of an organization as decisions that are made by the managers are those that are performed and followed by the members of the organization. Even the objectives that direct an organization towards the things it wants to achieve are guided by the decisions made by managers. Decision-making can generally be categorized as rational and non-rational (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). It must be noted that non-rational is different from irrational for irrational often means unreasonable and illogical whereas non-rational generally means non-systematic but not necessarily illogical. In this paper, rational decision-making and its shortcomings are investigated to prove that not all management decisions are rational.
In rational decision-making, also known as the classical model of decision-making, managers are expected to make logical and systematic decisions (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). There are six steps involved in rational decision-making: (1) identify the problem which can be often be done by comparing the actual and desired outcomes; (2) diagnose the problem or determine the nature, causes and effects of the problem; (3) define the alternatives or the potential solutions; (4) examine the consequences or the effects of each alternative identified; (5) make the decision or choose the best alternative that maximizes the goals and objectives of the organization; and (6) implement the decision (Tarter & Hoy, 1998).
Ideally, managerial decisions should always be rational because it is important that decisions maximized the objectives of an organization. Since rational decision-making follow steps to be come up with a decision, it uses a systematic approach to decision-making because the manager has the intent to be rational and have a clear understanding of the problems (Simon, 1976). An example of a situation where managers used a systematic approach to be able to be as rational as possible is in strategic planning wherein various analyses such as the SWOT analysis and the Porter analysis are utilized to come up with the best possible strategies appropriate and aligned with the company’s objectives. This reflects that to be as rational as possible, managers need to gather information that enables them to define the problem and together with the manager’s experience and judgment, alternatives can be identified and formulated out of the information gathered and the best solutions can be selected and decisions as to how to implement them follows (Bazerman, 1994; Brown and Duguid, 2000; Kotter, 1982). Arrow (1974) added that decisions are a function of information received and gathered. Also, rational decision-making is very prescriptive and assumes that information is complete and that decisions are made purely out of logical analysis disregarding the emotional factor that is inherent to the decision-maker.
However, not all information needed is always available and not all information gathered is complete for managers to come up with all the possible alternatives (Tarter & Hoy, 1998). According to Jones et al (2001), information may be incomplete due to uncertainty and risk, ambiguous information, time constraints and information costs. Additionally, with all the various roles perform by the managers, they often experience information overload that they can no longer process all the other information necessary in developing potential alternatives (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). Consequently, when not all possible alternatives are generated, there are also possibilities that the alternative selected is not the best solution that can solve the problem identified.
Another factor that forces managers to move out of rational decision-making is the complexity of the organizational goals (Tarter & Hoy, 1998) and the complexity of problems that need solutions (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). Due to complexity, a systematic approach or the step-by-step process is not always applicable. An example of a complex organizational objective is ‘to provide innovative and technologically advanced products and solutions’. This objective is complex because it will not only require human resources but also physical and technological resources. Such organizational objective also requires task dependency on the different units involved like the production unit, the R&D unit, and the MIS unit. There are also uncertainties associated with this kind of objectives like how innovative and advanced the products that the company can provide compared to that of the competitors. Mintzberg (1983 on Tarter & Hoy, 1998) added that “uncertainties are intrinsic to organizations and dealing with uncertainties is commonly to all organizations”.
Furthermore, managers are humans whose cognitive ability, values, skills, habits, and unconscious reflex have limitations and biases (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). “Cognitive processing is based upon the manager’s own unique perceptions, previous experiences and future expectations that affect how they use information in making decisions” (O’Loughlin & McFadzean, 1999). Because managers’ information processing differs, managers used of available information also varies that although they used systematic approach, the alternatives that managers can formulate are not all the same and their choice of the ‘best’ solution for a particular problem may also not be the same. Decision-makers and individuals in general also have their own traits that determine thinking, feeling and actions. Motive traits guide the behavior of an individual to achieve his goals; ability traits pertain to the capability and skills; temperament skills refer to energetic tendencies; and stylistic traits are the styles of behavior of an individual (O’Loughlin & McFadzean, 1999).
Not all managerial decision can be as systematic as possible and that rational decision-making is not a very realistic way of solving problems, based on the findings above. In summary, the factors that make it easy for managers to decide in a systematic and logical manner are (1) completeness of information; (2) simplicity of organizational objectives and problems; and (3) the ability of a manager to maximize and optimize. There are instances that decisions made by managers are rational like on the schedules and day to day activities, or those decisions which are generally predictable. However, it is more often that management decisions are not approached systematically but more reactively especially when urgent decisions are to be made, unexpected situations occur and in cases where systematic approach can ensure that uncertainty can be addressed.
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