Are the Classical Management Functions Useful in Describing Managerial Work? Author(s): Stephen J. Carroll and Dennis J. Gillen
Source: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 38-51 Published by: Academy of Management
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? Academy of Management Review, 1987, Vol. 12, No. 1, 38-51.
Are the Classical Management
Functions Useful in
Describing Managerial Work?
University of Maryland
This paper attempts to evaluate the usefulness of the classical management functions perspective for describing managerial work and for serving as the basis for management education. It also examines some of the newer conceptualizations of the manager's job and relates these to each other and to the earlier classical approach.
As Miner (1971, 1982) noted, most management
textbooks are organized on the basis of the original classical management functions first introduced by Fayol (1949) and elaborated and extended by others such as Urwick (1952). The Fayol functions are planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling (POC3 elements). Many management books are subdivided into major segments under each of these five categories, although the function, coordinating, is not used as often as the others. To check if Miner's assertion fits contemporary
textbooks, the first author used a convenience
sample of the newer management textbooks in
his office. Of the 21 books identified with publication dates between 1983 and 1986, 17 used at least four of the classical Fayol functions to organize the book. Three of the remaining books used at least three of the functions in their organization.
All 21 books mentioned the Fayol functions in
describing managerial work and 20 texts included a chapter on the nature of managerial work.
Most management textbooks begin with a discussion of the nature of managerial work which
indicates that this topic is the basis of the subject
matter of management just as Fayol indicated
many years ago. However, during the past ten
years or so, the usefulness of the classical functions for classifying managerial work activities has been questioned by a number of writers,
especially Mintzberg (1970, 1971, 1973, 1975), who
developed his own typology for describing managerial work. Kotter (1982a, 1982b) also developed a conceptualization of the manager's job as has Stewart (1974, 1976, 1982). Eleven of the
twenty-one textbooks examined described Mintzberg's conceptualization along with the classical functions as descriptions of what managers do
but, in no case were these two different perspectives integrated, indicating uncertainty about how they fit together, if at all. In some books only
Mintzberg's raw research data was mentioned.
Kotter's research was not included in the chapter on managerial work in any text. It seems clear that authors are having some difficulty in handling these diverse perspectives on managerial work. This is indicated by their consistent failure
to integrate these different perspectives in a way
that is clear to the reader.
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