What Are the Functions of Management?

It has been years that I have been in a college classroom. However, I clearly remember an undergraduate Principles of Management course at Southeast Missouri State University where I was introduced to a management challenge of understanding what are the functions of management?. I was an impressionable sophomore, and I was energetically and frantically looking for something that described and outlined what I had confidently chosen as a future career. Previously, through a series of mindless, dead-end physical jobs that I had to pay for college, I was highly motivated to create a professional career that didn’t rely solely on the strength of my back. I was galvanized to find a career that leveraged my brain, my skills, and my evolving neophyte leadership skills. I was putty in the hands of professor Dr. Dan. This was my first chance to learn about the mystical art of MANAGEMENT and I was all-in and ready to learn.

I clearly remember, and have memorized the 5 functions of Management…..Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Controlling and Directing. Forty years later, I can recite and teach those 5 components like I was in that classroom. Call me impressionable, and I was..and still am. After a long career of leading business leaders, I now have a very successful business & executive coaching practice where I have the joy and honor of teaching entrepreneurs how to be better leader, managers, and executives. I still gladly teach what I learned that fall semester at SEMO.

So here is my response to the question, what are the functions of management?


Our role as a manager includes objectively defining the strategic and operational vision for your group. This includes a concise and very clear statement of what your team will become and what you will attain. This in an inward statement and not be shared with customers or clients. This is about being selfish and inward focused. Secondly, your responsibility is to provide a mission statement which is an outward description of the desired future for your group. It should be about being great, and not about just beating the competition. Your vision should emotionally touch the hearts and spirit of your team members and staff. Lastly, you are responsible for planning. This is your challenge to outline the objectives that need to be achieved and the resulting goals that will get you there. This could be at a strategic level and what is really important is how to execute tactically. Effort means nothing without results and managers have to do more than say the words, we have to make it happen.

You and I have an obligation to create an effective organizational structure with a distribution of authority that delivers on the vision, mission, goals and tactics. Defining the division of labor using an organizational chart is paramount. Delegation is a critical part of the organizing function. Your team needs to know who has the power, influence and authority to make decisions whether it is formal or informal. Your job is to departmentalize, as needed, so that your group is efficient and effective.

Recruiting, screening and assessing, hiring, and training are critical functions of our staffing function. This function is frequently delegated and seen as the soft, squishy stuff that human resource administrators do for a living. If you choose to be an effective manager, you will not avoid or entirely delegate this important function. People make things happen in all businesses. In the end, motivated talent always wins. To defer this to an HR group sub-optimizes your success. Enlightened leaders know that success comes from spending more time here than the incumbent old-guard executives.

Great managers establish standards for jobs and behavior so that all team members are help accountable for their performance and results. In order to do that effectively, you should be installing key performance indicators that measure how your team is doing and whether it is in synch with the organizational goals. Part of this is to establish and manage against a financial budget. Without a comparison to the plan, we never know how we are doing. I highly recommend that your review is done on an exception/variance basis so that you don’t get caught in the analysis-paralyis that dogs most companies. The control function implies and requires that there is action when the train jumps the rails. Great managers react strongly to problems before they become problems. Your control responsibility never ends. It is an iterative, cyclical process which means it never ends.

This function of management was originally thought to be very process oriented and clinical. Gladly, it has evolved and grown to be called Leadership. Much has been written on leadership but I want to focus on the building blocks. This includes problem solving and decision making. They are closely linked and are mirrored in the efficiency and productivity of your management and staff. Organizations do not succeed while their people are failing. Strong, fair, decisive leadership that displays compassionate use of the five functions of management will ultimately succeed. The key to successful directing lies in effectively communicating directives. Faulty communication always results in poor execution and your success is all about driving execution. Another component of Directing is motivation. Needs, rewards, and effort are the three most important components of positive motivation. When you figure out an employee’s needs, you can satisfy them and ultimately they will be motivated. The avoidance of pain and discomfort is a powerful method of holding your people accountable. Once your behavioral guidelines have been established, then dispassionate discipline must be exercised. I highly recommend that you spend time clearly defining behavioral expectations for your team. You can imprint how you and your team will behave internally and externally when stuff hits the fan.