The 4 Basic Functions of Management (And How to Apply Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 15 September 2022

Published 1 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The primary role that management plays in a company is to meet its organisational objectives using the company's resources. Meeting those objectives is a detailed process that is to be done systematically. If you hold a managerial position, it's useful to familiarise yourself with the fundamentals of management. In this article, we explore the four basic functions of management and discuss how to implement them for the success of a company.

Related: How to Be a Good Manager in the Workplace

What are the four basic functions of management?

The four fundamental functions of management that professionals commonly accept are planning, organising, leading and controlling. These functions, created by industrialist Henri Fayol, are interdependent as certain aspects tend to overlap. Therefore, one function may have a significant influence on another. Many managers follow these four functions in the correct sequence.

Managers first design goals with a vision in mind. They then assign responsibilities to their staff members so that they can start working towards the goal. The manager leads the team to carry out tasks in an effective manner. Lastly, they evaluate and control the processes to meet goals. Here's more information about each function:

1. Planning

Planning is the process of determining desired goals and objectives of an organisation. Whilst planning, managers have a certain degree of foresight as the role of planning exists to move the organisation from its current state to its intended state. Therefore, it's useful to analyse and identify what processes may have worked previously and what can be improved moving forward. Planning is advantageous as it provides a sense of direction to the company. When managers clearly identify goals from the onset, their colleagues are more mindful of what they're working towards. Here are some aspects of planning that you may consider:

Goal setting

Managers begin by setting achievable goals for the company. Upon defining the goals, they establish a realistic timeline to meet those targets. They also plot out a general course of action to accomplish those goals. The manager then clearly determines specific tasks that need to be completed to achieve the goals. Each member of the team is to have a thorough understanding of the nature and purpose of the tasks.

Assigning of tasks

The manager delegates different tasks and responsibilities to the staff. It's important to assign the appropriate sets of duties to their colleagues according to their strengths and expertise. This may take careful and detailed planning on the manager's end.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Organising

The role of organising is key when it comes to utilising the company's resources in an organised fashion to carry out the tasks that were determined in the planning stage. Managers structure both human and non-human resources to aid in the execution of these tasks. The function of organising primarily comprises of the following:

Structured utilisation of resources

Before discharging the duties, managers organise staff into teams and departments. A hierarchal structure is present in this setup so that the manager can delegate sufficient authority to the different levels of staff. While delegating responsibilities, managers assign appropriate duties to their colleagues according to their strengths and expertise. This may motivate staff to harness their skills and be successful in their assigned responsibilities. Managers also make non-human resources such as budget, raw materials and relevant tools accessible for the staff to utilise as needed. When managers provide ample resources and do so promptly, the company operates smoothly and productively.

Adaptability

A competent manager practises a certain amount of flexibility when unforeseen challenges arise. They sometimes make major adjustments to address those challenges to avoid any hindrances to the company's development. They may also alter timelines. They can even consider making changes to the internal organisational structure. Managers may reshuffle members in teams or departments and reassign tasks. When managers respond logically, swiftly and in a reasonable manner, it showcases their sensitivity and sensibility in counteracting complex situations.

3. Leading

While the stages of planning and organising are goal-driven, the aspect of leading is more personal. Professionals are the driving force of any company. Therefore, managers make a conscious effort to lead by creating a positive work environment so that the staff can have confidence in their superiors and believe in the company's systems. These are some of the actions that managers take as part of the leading process:

Monitoring

Supervising the performance of assigned tasks is one aspect of leading. Managers can check to see if staff performances are meeting the pre-established standards. They can also see to it that their colleagues adhere to the timeline. They offer constructive feedback where necessary.

Motivating

Managers also lead by inspiring and motivating their colleagues to work with enthusiasm and fervour to accomplish the company's goals. For example, they can offer words of encouragement to a particular colleague or an entire team that may be undergoing a setback. This is one way of showing support and empathy. They can also celebrate a staff member's professional achievements. A manager may offer praise and show appreciation for a job well done. This can greatly help in boosting the professional's morale.

Incentivising

Managers can encourage their staff members by offering them extrinsic rewards such as monetary or non-monetary incentives. This approach has a great influence on the way the staff carry out their responsibilities and the quality of work that they deliver as it would make them feel appreciated. It also helps to promote a sense of commitment in the way staff do their assigned tasks.

Role modelling

Managers can gain the confidence of staff when they lead by example. How superiors handle their tasks is to reflect the work standards that they expect the staff to uphold. Managers are role models from whom their colleagues draw inspiration. Hence, they are to be exemplary in their work ethics and professionalism in striving towards the company's shared vision.

Directing

Managers use this style to lead their colleagues like junior staff who are fairly new to the profession or have a limited skill set. Managers guide them by providing specific instructions on how tasks must be completed. They may also do a follow-up to check if progress has been made.

Coaching

When staff members are fairly capable but lack commitment in conscientiously doing their tasks, managers offer suggestions for improvement. They may provide strategies to motivate them to work more actively on their assigned tasks. Leaders are also more receptive to their feedback when they use this particular leadership style.

Facilitating

The leader plays the role of facilitator in managing team members who are highly proficient in their craft. These individuals do not require explicit instructions. Therefore, managers merely offer feedback to help them achieve excellence.

Delegating

Professionals who have a high skill set and a wealth of experience are self-motivated and produce work of the highest standards. Therefore, managers intervene as little as possible as such staff work independently. Managers can focus more on achieving goals on a broader level instead of giving their attention to processes at a granular level.

Related: Leadership Skills (Definition and Examples)

4. Controlling

The purpose of controlling is to ensure that the processes set in place are going according to plan. It involves evaluating the plan of action and making the necessary modifications to improve performance. Managers can use a performance appraisal to carry out such an evaluation. The process of evaluating can include the following:

Measuring work standards

Managers monitor a colleague's progress towards reaching the goals over a period of time. They measure staff performance against the company's standards. It's important to question if the staff member's quality of work conforms to those standards. When managers identify an individual's performance as being below par, they could offer support in terms of suggestions and guidance to help the staff member improve their performance. However, if the individual consistently does not meet the standards even after being advised, the manager may move on to suspend or terminate the individual.

Taking corrective actions

It's vital to ensure that everyone is working towards the goals that were defined during the planning stage. If managers identify digression from the goal, they can take corrective actions to steer the staff back on to the correct path. Corrective actions include providing more relevant training, reshuffling team members or redesignating tasks.

Taking preemptive measures

Effective managers may anticipate potential problems that could arise at any juncture. It's beneficial to identify those problems and take corrective measures to thwart them. Successful managers take control of such issues to prevent them from escalating further. Doing so saves resources, time and money that could have otherwise been wasted if they had not dealt with the issue earlier.

Related: 15 Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring a Manager

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