The Work of Managers in New Organizational Contexts

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The work of managers in new organizational contexts
The Authors
Judith Ann Chapman, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, Australia Abstract
Focuses on the work of managers in new forms of organisations which are flexible, horizontally integrated, and decentralised. Although much has been written about managers, including their roles, functions, and skills, the organisational context is changing, and new perspectives are needed. A process perspective is a way of understanding the work of managers in these contexts. The paper suggests two pivotal management processes, the exercise of judgment and the use of influence, through which managers add value to more general organisational processes. Some directions for research are suggested and a classroom exercise for introducing graduate students to this topic area is outlined. Article Type:

Conceptual Paper
Keyword(s): Management; Process management; Organizations; Influence. Journal: Journal of Management Development
Volume: 20
Number: 1
Year: 2001
pp: 55-68
Copyright ©MCB UP Ltd
ISSN: 0262-1711
Introduction
Managers occupy the middle ground in organisations. At one and the same time they create and maintain a superstructure while shaping the behaviour of others within and around it. By actively and purposively linking these different levels in the system, managers progress the action and play their part in the unfolding history of the organisation. “What do managers really do?” is a question that echoes through the management literature. This paper is another, hopefully welcome, attempt to address it. Certainly, much has already been written during the past century about the functions, roles, skills and competencies of managers, including Fayol’s original book of 1916 and the major contributions of Mintzberg, Stewart, Kotter and others. However, reviews of the field have revealed a lack of conceptual clarity and many inconsistencies among the various formulations (Wren, 1994; Carroll and Gillen, 1987; Hales, 1986; Mintzberg, 1973). We might also question the relevance of some of this work in the face of the continuing evolution of organisational forms. Organisations have changed, but in terms of the work that managers do, does it make a substantial difference? The central argument of this paper is that the focus of managerial work is changing, and that new perspectives are needed as a result. First, the roles that managers play and the expectations that others have of them are evolving to reflect new forms of organisation. These forms are characterised by more flexible and fluid arrangements of people and other resources than is the case for traditional structures. Positions and responsibilities are less static and more open-ended, and the familiar boundaries distinguishing upper, middle and lower level managers are being redrawn. When managerial work has been described in the past the emphasis has usually been on how managers oversee the work of people within fixed units. This is too narrow because managers in new forms of organisation do much more than this. They are also active as the architects of organisational arrangements linking people, opportunities and resources. These are processes of organisation building, not simply maintenance and control. Secondly, in new forms of organisation customers and markets have an immediate impact on the work of managers. The success and survival of the organisation depends on how well managers can identify or create market opportunities and then provide goods and services which satisfy in areas of quality, variety, availability and price. Goods and services are the outputs of transformation processes in organisations. Most of these processes are enacted in a lateral sweep involving a variety of people, units, and places. They are essentially the sequences of tasks and activities which are either at the core of production or support it administratively. In new forms of organisation, processes are central to our...
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