When you think of the term “manager,” you might be imagining your boss, as he or she does the hiring and the firing and makes major decisions that go above your authority. However, though you may not think of yourself in this way, you may also be a manager. In fact, many of us practice management skills more often than we think. You might have a team of employees that you manage, or lead a project that requires management strategy, or demonstrate leadership qualities among your peers. These are all scenarios that require you to apply the principles of management. In this course, you will learn to recognize the characteristics of proper management by identifying what successful managers do and how they do it. Understanding how managers work is just as beneficial for the employee as it is for the manager him- or herself.
Management began to emerge as a practice during the Industrial Revolution and with the rise of large corporations in the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. The fundamental concepts of modern management were famously explored by Frederick Winslow Taylor, an American engineer who wrote The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. Taylor aimed to couple the efficiency needs of a business with the specialized talents of the employees. Each employee was then seen as a cog in a wheel, as a useful yet expendable part of the whole operation.
Taylor’s analysis was heavily driven by the research he conducted. His conclusion was that employees are almost always driven by money. Because businesses had very little production capacity, the principles of management focused on driving this production by enticing employees with more money for increased production. Management’s focus was on producing as much as possible to meet the consumer demand for goods and services. Many industries during the early 1900s did not have any competition, so they dominated their industries. But in the 1920s, the world of business conceptualized the assembly line and began to automate some of the production processes. This change in management strategy caused businesses to rethink how they managed their resources (people, finances, capital, and tangible assets).
By the late twentieth century, automation, higher educational levels, and the push for speed had changed management practices, and business had by and large moved away from the top-down, centralized direction style to leaner organizations with less regimentation. Nevertheless, Taylor’s theories and their lessons remain important to this day as a foundation for understanding how to manage large projects that require a variety of skills and a large number of workers.
This course will also illustrate the ways in which the practice of management evolves as firms grow in size. Historically, middle managers have served as “gatekeepers” who collect, analyze, and pass on information and messages up and down the management chain in an organization. Two developments—low-cost data manipulation in computers and the emergence of widespread, real-time communication (low-cost long-distance and global calling, email, text messaging, and wireless phones)—have reduced the need for these gatekeepers, and companies have eliminated thousands of such positions. The goal? To speed the flow of information and decision making and reduce the number of layers that separate the customer from the leadership of the organization.
This course is based upon the idea that the essential purpose of a business is to produce products and services to meet the needs and wants of the marketplace. A manager marshals an organization’s resources (its people, finances, facilities, and equipment) towards this fundamental goal. In this course, we will begin by looking at what managers do, and then delve into the key knowledge areas for running a business.