- Know the dimensions of the planning-organizing-leading-controlling (P-O-L-C) framework.
- Know the general inputs into each P-O-L-C dimension.
A manager’s primary challenge is to solve problems creatively. While drawing from a variety of academic disciplines, and to help managers respond to the challenge of creative problem solving, principles of management have long been categorized into the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (the P-O-L-C framework). The four functions, summarized in the P-O-L-C figure, are actually highly integrated when carried out in the day-to-day realities of running an organization. Therefore, you should not get caught up in trying to analyze and understand a complete, clear rationale for categorizing skills and practices that compose the whole of the P-O-L-C framework.
It is important to note that this framework is not without criticism. Specifically, these criticisms stem from the observation that the P-O-L-C functions might be ideal but that they do not accurately depict the day-to-day actions of actual managers (Mintzberg, 1973; Lamond, 2004). The typical day in the life of a manager at any level can be fragmented and hectic, with the constant threat of having priorities dictated by the law of the trivial many and important few (i.e., the 80/20 rule). However, the general conclusion seems to be that the P-O-L-C functions of management still provide a very useful way of classifying the activities managers engage in as they attempt to achieve organizational goals (Lamond, 2004).
Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.
Planning is a process consisting of several steps. The process begins with environmental scanning which simply means that planners must be aware of the critical contingencies facing their organization in terms of economic conditions, their competitors, and their customers. Planners must then attempt to forecast future conditions. These forecasts form the basis for planning.
Planners must establish objectives, which are statements of what needs to be achieved and when. Planners must then identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives. After evaluating the various alternatives, planners must make decisions about the best courses of action for achieving objectives. They must then formulate necessary steps and ensure effective implementation of plans. Finally, planners must constantly evaluate the success of their plans and take corrective action when necessary.
There are many different types of plans and planning.
Strategic planning involves analyzing competitive opportunities and threats, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and then determining how to position the organization to compete effectively in their environment. Strategic planning has a long time frame, often three years or more. Strategic planning generally includes the entire organization and includes formulation of objectives. Strategic planning is often based on the organization’s mission, which is its fundamental reason for existence. An organization’s top management most often conducts strategic planning.
Tactical planning is intermediate-range (one to three years) planning that is designed to develop relatively concrete and specific means to implement the strategic plan. Middle-level managers often engage in tactical planning.
Operational planning generally assumes the existence of organization-wide or subunit goals and objectives and specifies ways to achieve them. Operational planning is short-range (less than a year) planning that is designed to develop specific action steps that support the strategic and tactical plans.
Organizing is the function of management that involves developing an organizational structure and allocating human resources to ensure the accomplishment of objectives. The structure of the organization is the framework within which effort is coordinated. The structure is usually represented by an organization chart, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization. Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as organizational design decisions.
Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out. Decisions made about the nature of jobs within the organization are generally called “job design” decisions.
Organizing at the level of the organization involves deciding how best to departmentalize, or cluster, jobs into departments to coordinate effort effectively. There are many different ways to departmentalize, including organizing by function, product, geography, or customer. Many larger organizations use multiple methods of departmentalization.
Organizing at the level of a particular job involves how best to design individual jobs to most effectively use human resources. Traditionally, job design was based on principles of division of labor and specialization, which assumed that the more narrow the job content, the more proficient the individual performing the job could become. However, experience has shown that it is possible for jobs to become too narrow and specialized. For example, how would you like to screw lids on jars one day after another, as you might have done many decades ago if you worked in company that made and sold jellies and jams? When this happens, negative outcomes result, including decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, and turnover.
Recently, many organizations have attempted to strike a balance between the need for worker specialization and the need for workers to have jobs that entail variety and autonomy. Many jobs are now designed based on such principles as empowerment, job enrichment and teamwork. For example, HUI Manufacturing, a custom sheet metal fabricator, has done away with traditional “departments” to focus on listening and responding to customer needs. From company-wide meetings to team huddles, HUI employees know and understand their customers and how HUI might service them best (Huimfg, 2008).
Leading involves the social and informal sources of influence that you use to inspire action taken by others. If managers are effective leaders, their subordinates will be enthusiastic about exerting effort to attain organizational objectives.
The behavioral sciences have made many contributions to understanding this function of management. Personality research and studies of job attitudes provide important information as to how managers can most effectively lead subordinates. For example, this research tells us that to become effective at leading, managers must first understand their subordinates’ personalities, values, attitudes, and emotions.
Studies of motivation and motivation theory provide important information about the ways in which workers can be energized to put forth productive effort. Studies of communication provide direction as to how managers can effectively and persuasively communicate. Studies of leadership and leadership style provide information regarding questions, such as, “What makes a manager a good leader?” and “In what situations are certain leadership styles most appropriate and effective?”
Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of three steps, which include (1) establishing performance standards, (2) comparing actual performance against standards, and (3) taking corrective action when necessary. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.
The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree.
The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives.
Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization.
The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.
The principles of management can be distilled down to four critical functions. These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.
- What are the management functions that comprise the P-O-L-C framework?
- Are there any criticisms of this framework?
- What function does planning serve?
- What function does organizing serve?
- What function does leading serve?
- What function does controlling serve?
Huimfg.com, http://www.huimfg.com/abouthui-yourteams.aspx (accessed October 15, 2008).
Lamond, D, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42, no. 2 (2004): 330–56.
Mintzberg, H. The Nature of Managerial Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); D. Lamond, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42, no. 2 (2004): 330–56.