Many of us have titles like “Product Manager” or “Project Manager”. We report to upper “management” and we “manage” strategic, tactical, and operational goals. And while we often talk of management, we often do not share a common definition or training in becoming good managers.
What is a Manager?
Managers need to accomplish five tasks and activities in order to improve and support a business. These are:
- Allocating resources,
- Directing (leading), and
Often the definitions of these words is quite different in a business context than in a day-to-day conversation.
Managers are primarily responsible for the planning function within an organization. Planning includes the activities designed to develop strategy for the business, incorporating long-range goals and objectives that will increase profit and improve market share. In addition, planning includes medium-term and short-range activities that help to accomplish the long-term strategic goals.
Moreover, strategic plans may include the growth of a particular business segment. We’ll choose dress sales in a retail environment as an example. In order to penetrate the dress market and increase sales, the firm will lay out a long-term strategy that includes new product development (NPD) and improved advertising. These are three to five year goals.
On a medium-term basis, managers will plan market research activities (one to two years) that will identify color, fabric, and style trends for dresses in the North American market. On a short-term planning cycle, operational manager will work with purchasing and manufacturing to ensure inventory is available as needed.
Thus, managers are responsible for long-term strategic planning, medium-term tactical planning, and short-run operational planning. In all cases, managers design activities and tasks to support the firm’s strategic profit and growth objectives.
Organizing is one of those words that has a different meaning in a business context than in everyday language. When we talk about “organizing” at home, we may be referring to de-cluttering or tidying up a messy room.
In product, project, and engineering management, “organizing” refers to how teams will be structured to accomplish the work of the firm and to support the strategic objectives. Organizing teams may be to put staff in a functional structure, where like jobs are completed by individuals with similar training reporting to a functional department manager. Projects are often organized with a “projectized” structure in which a project manager is charged with accomplishing the specific goals of a temporary work endeavor. Because workers are cross-functionally trained in a project, it is one of the most common structures utilized for an NPD effort.
Hybrid structures attempt to take the benefits of both functional teams and project structures to create a unique organizational team. These are the benefits of cross-functional expertise and permanency. However, in practice, hybrid structures tend to lead to frustration among team members, and may result in confusion during goal-setting and management accountability.
Managers are responsible for allocating team member resources to a project as well as good stewardship of financial resources. Human resources should be assigned to tasks that allow the project to meet its goals but also will increase individual and team learning. Financial resources must be utilized frugally and to yield the most production. Engineering managers should not waste precious human or financial resources.
Leadership and management are quite different aspects of a person’s character. Yet, to be a successful manager, one must be a good leader. Managers must be able to inspire, motivate, and reward their teams. Energized teams often produce more, work with fewer conflicts, and are more innovative.
One leadership theory indicates that managers should reward desired behaviors to improve team performance. At the same time, managers should ignore undesired behaviors since unrecognized performance will naturally be extinguished. The same theory states that punishment of negative behaviors leads to mixed and inconsistent results.
Finally, controlling is another important job of a product, project, or engineering manager. Again, controlling is a word with a slightly different meaning in a business context than in our daily language.
In our casual conversations, controlling often has a negative connotation. We associate controlling with manipulation and greed. Yet, controlling in a business sense means that a manager measures the output of work, compares that result to the expected result, and initiates corrective action if the performance did not meet the standard.
Therefore, controlling as a manager is much more like the function of a thermostat controlling the temperature of a room. When the actual temperature is different than the setpoint of the thermostat, the heater will increase its output to change the performance of the system.
The Job of a Manager
Managers are charges with the responsibility of accomplishing tasks to meet the strategic goals of an organization. A manager’s first task is to plan the work. This includes long-term, medium-range, and short-run planning to support all business objectives of growth, profit, and market penetration.
Next, a manager must organize the workforce in a manner that will best accomplish the business plans. Typical organizational structures include functional, project-oriented, and hybrid or matrix organizations. Both human and financial resources are allocated to these teams to complete project work.
Finally, managers are responsible to direct and lead their teams by inspiring and motivating their work. Performance measurements compare and control the outputs to ensure strategic objectives are delivered.
Understanding the functions of management is important for any professional. Join us Project Management Professional (PMP®), New Product Development Professional (NPDP), or Scrum Master Training where you will learn to apply management principles. You will study, learn, and earn. It’s simple!
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by Global NP Solutions, LLC