WHAT DO MANAGERS DO?
A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE
COLIN P. HALES
Department of Management Studies for Tourism and Hotel Industries, University of Surrey INTRODUCTION
IN this article, I consider the extent to which the question 'What do managers do?' has been satisfactorily answered by published empirical studies of mana- gerial work and behaviour. Two aspects of this enterprise require justification: the pertinence of the question posed and the need for another review of the evidence.
Certainly, the question 'What do managers do?' has an air of naivete, insolence, even redundancy about it. Yet it is a question which Is begged by many management-related issues. Arguments that the quality of manage- ment is decisive in both organizational and national economic performance presuppose that the exclusively 'managerial' contribution to that performance is both tangible and identifiable. Claims for managerial authority invariably rest not upon de facto status and power, but upon an implicit 'job of managing" for which authority is the necessary resource. The vast and growing industry of management education, training and development presumably rests upon a set of ideas about what managers do and, hence, what managers are being educated, trained and developed/or, Finally, nowhere is the question of what managers do more insistently begged than in that substantial portion of the literature on management which is concerned with 'effective' management (or managerial effectiveness). Indeed 'effective management' has ceased to be a purely contingent pairing of adjective and noun and has become a self evident object whose causes and concomitants may be investigated unambiguously. In contrast, I contend that the term 'effective management' is a second-order normative statement which presupposes the existence of relatively reliable answers to flrst-order empirical questions. For me, 'effectiveness' denotes the extent to which what managers actually do matches what they are supposed to do. This is recognized in a number of defmitions of 'managerial effectiveness' offered in the literature, despite their superflcial differerccs.''' A central implication of this, however, is less frequendy recognized: that the extent of this congruence can only be judged once the two sides ofthe 'effectiveness equation' are known Address for reprints: Dr. C. P. Hales, Dcpartmeni of Management Studies for Tourism and Hotel Industries, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH.WHAT DO MANAGERS DO? A CRITICAL REVIEW 89 empirically. It is necessary, therefore, to have reliable evidence on what managers do, in both senses ofthe term 'do'. Some ofthe more celebrated writings on effective management are singularly reticent about specifying vohat effective managers are effective at'^'.
It is also my contention that earlier reviews of published evidence on managerial work have not addressed the issue of what managers do in these terms. Mintzberg's (1973) review ofthe existing evidence which precedes his own celebrated study is now over ten years old and there have been a number of significant and sophisticated studies published since tbat time. Stewart's (1983) more recent review focuses upon an aspect of managerial work - managerial behaviour - of which her own studies have made such a large contribution to our knowledge. I wish to go beyond that focus here principally because one of my central arguments is that 'managerial work' and 'managers' behaviour' are not synonymous, even though many of the published studies imply tbat they are. Consequently, evidence on managers' behaviour provides only a partial answer to the...
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