Reflecting on Managing Organisations

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Reflecting on Managing Organisations



Reflecting on Managing Organisations

Sarah Millar, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University



Management can be defined as “a set of activities (including planning and decision making, organising, leading and controlling) directed at an organisation’s resources (human, financial, physical and information), with the aim of achieving organisational goals in an efficient and effective manner” (Griffin, 2005, p.8).  Managers who perform effectively and with efficacy can help a business to succeed. Managers need to be able to communicate in addition to utilising conceptual and technical skills.  Within an organisation, managers may have different styles and there are different orgainsation cultures.  The organisation culture can help enhance the business and it is important that staff match the culture of the business.  Decision-making can be delegated to employees who are able to make the best decision and this would help to engage employees.  Strategies, planning, the business structure and staff motivation need to be considered by management for a business to be successful.  Control also needs consideration as it involves setting standards and measuring performance. This article reviews and reflects on management, in particular organisation culture, decision-making, strategic management, planning, organisation structure, motivation and control.  It is presented in both an informative and reflective style.

Keywords: Control, decision-making, management, organisations, planning


Management, which can be defined as “a set of activities (including planning and decision making, organising, leading and controlling) directed at an organisation’s resources (human, financial, physical and information), with the aim of achieving organisational goals in an efficient and effective manner” (Griffin, 2005, p.8), is a complex subject that involves not only scientific theory but also the human nature reflected in managers who are responsible for implementing these activities.  This essay will explore several areas of management: organisational culture, decision-making, strategic management, planning, organisational structure and design, motivation and control.  It will explore both expository and a reflective style and will include some of my own thoughts and observations based on my previous experiences.



Management involves communicating with staff, conceptual skills and technical skills and managers need to be able to utilise these different areas. Managers themselves can have different management styles, some of which are task-orientated whilst others are people-orientated. This will influence how a manager supervises his team. Managers have goals and their approach may be adapted to the different situations and the stage of the goal.

There are several theories regarding scientific management and these involve an analytical approach and application of scientific method to management. One of these theories uses the ‘one best way’ approach, where staff must be a good match for the job itself and that the correct equipment must be available in order to achieve the optimum output of work. Management has certain scientific elements, such as observation, collecting facts and making predictions (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). It is important for staff to be in the right job for the benefit of both the staff and the organisation. Selecting the right people could be considered an art, as there are many different personalities in the workplace. Managers should be able to use their communication skills to motivate their staff and enhance production.

The role of the manager is vast. They need to manage staff and achieve goals. Managers may set goals for their team and then need to ensure their staff are motivated and understand how to meet these goals. It is important for managers to be able to adapt to different situations, which include the different personalities of employees.  Some of the CEOs have no management training but have excellent judgement and instinct (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). This is why I believe that management is an art.


Organisational Culture

Organisational culture plays an important role within businesses and affects employees. Businesses should employ staff that match the culture and successful businesses are able to install a culture that employees buy into and want to be a part of. Businesses with a strong culture often have higher employee engagement and benefit from lower staff turnover. Griffin (2005) states that a strong organisational culture promotes more effective businesses. Disney is a good example of a company with strong culture. Employees, or ‘cast members’ as they are called, have their own jargon and stories to share. The business is based on a two-way conversation between management and employees. Teamwork is also key to their culture and staff are encouraged to socialise after work together. Disney is very specific about the individuals that they employ and this ensures that the person is a good match for their organisation.

Organisational culture can vary, as the same company may have different cultures depending on their location and Griffin (2005) adds that there are also cultural differences between departments. From my personal observations, people in Hong Kong work longer hours and take long lunches compared to those in London. Within HSBC in London, lunch is shorter and staff leave work on time, however in Hong Kong staff have longer working hours and enjoy longer lunch breaks. It is possible that even departments within a large organisation may have their own organisational culture. Successful businesses will fully consider cultural differences in the countries they operate in. Consideration should be given to both interactions with customers and internal issues. It appears that culture should be considered with regard to the organisation, the department and the location.



Decision-making is something people do all the time and decisions can be made without much thought, for example what to eat for lunch. It can be “part of the planning process that involves selecting a course of action from a set of alternatives” (Griffin, 2005, p.10). Successful businesses will delegate decision making to the employees best placed to make those decisions. This will also empower employees and make them feel like they are an important part of the business in such a way that should also help improve employee engagement and retention.

In the ‘Lost at Sea’ decision-making exercise it was stimulating to think more about the decisions being made and the decision-making process. This involved ranking items in order of importance in relation to surviving and being found while at sea. When it was time to discuss the scenario with other students reasons needed to be given for a particular choice. During this time I realised that I had no strong feelings about the items and did not challenge the other student, but I did request an explanation of the importance or irrelevance of the items. In cases where I felt stronger about my decision then I would raise my concerns and argue my case. This exercise taught me about my own decision-making process. Group work helps me to provide a rationale for my decision and to consider other people’s views. It is possible that other people may suggest an idea that I have not previously considered but may influence my decision.

Griffin (2005) argues that there is greater knowledge and information in group decision making, which leads to an increased number of alternatives. Group decision-making creates enhanced decisions but may involve a longer duration to reach a decision. There may also be a dominant member of the group who may take control and make decisions for the whole group. From observing other groups during the class, it was clear that group work can be complicated. Those who could not agree spent longer on the task. Within an organisation, if decisions cannot be made and agreed on this may be costly as on occasions decisions need to be made quickly.


Strategic Management

In order to be successful it is vital that businesses adopt a coherent strategy. Optimally, this should be set by the senior management, be disseminated to all employees, easily understood and achievable. Mission statements state the main goals of a company and these mission statements can be a powerful tool, as managers, employees and customers can use these to understand the ultimate goal of a company (Griffin, 2005). McDonald’s mission statement states that they want “to be our customers’ favourite place and way to eat” (McDonald’s, 2012). From this mission statement, more specific goals and measures can be put into place to ensure the mission statement is achieved.

For businesses to have success there needs to be dynamic managers who are leading their teams.  Employees need to have clearly defined roles and goal congruency (ensuring all employees are working towards the same ultimate goals). Without goal congruence, different parts of the business and employees may have competing approaches, which may reduce the success of the business as a whole. This includes departments that are not directly involved in the actual sales process but are still an important part of the organisation, for example human resources and finance departments.

A business that can create innovative products may entice more customers and increase sales and this is essential for a company to succeed. Strategic management involves knowledge of the market. Tools such as the SWOT analysis and the BCG matrix should be used to analyse the current market situation (Griffin, 2005).



Effective planning is essential for business to succeed. Planning allows managers to make clearly defined goals and determine how to optimally achieve them (Griffin, 2005). Strategies should centre around achieving the mission statement by formulating plans that ensure that each department’s or employees’ goals are met.  Plans should be made for the short, medium and long-term. The detail of the plans may be determined by the level at which they are formulated.  Plans may be more strategic at the executive or senior management level and become more specific at lower levels of the business. Strategies should be easily understood to ensure that managers who are tasked with implementing them and communicating them to team members are fully aware of what they need to do. Having plans, which should be updated to account for significant unforeseen events, also enables whole teams to evaluate where they are and what else is required in order that objectives are met.

Effective tactics also enable managers to set goals and objectives for individual employees. By doing so, staff will be given specific measureable tasks that can be used in performance appraisals. Clearly defined objectives also mean that there should be fewer disputes arising from the staff appraisal process. In my previous roles, I have had clearly defined objectives and these have been used in my annual appraisal and in some cases they related to my bonus payment. These bonuses can provide motivation to achieve individual goals.

Organisational Structure and Design

The structure of a company is important for both the success of the business and for staff. A business can be structured around departments, work specialisation or through a direct chain of command. The organisation will be influenced by centralisation, where the executive managers make the decisions, or decentralisation, where decisions can be made by lower managers, as well as considering the span of control.  Management structures help larger companies to demonstrate reporting lines. Staff will know who to report to and where they are within a company.  In smaller companies the management structure is more difficult, as employees will be required to be knowledgeable and skilled in all areas in order to provide support and cover to other employees.

The organisational structure will depend on the type of business. For example, a small restaurant may have a functional departmentisation, but employees would have the ability and flexibility to work in all departments. However, this may differ in a large garment factory, where it is probable that staff have work specialisation and functional departmentisation, but the employees remain in the same department at any one time. In comparison, a hotel chain may opt to structure their hotels based around the location.

Span of control refers to the number of staff that can be managed by a supervisor. This is basically the balance between effectiveness and efficiency when a manager supervises a large team compared to a small team. Supervisors with more staff can relay the announcement more rapidly than a smaller team but effectiveness may be greater in smaller teams as the manager can focus on a smaller number of staff.



Motivation can be defined as a “desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm” (Motivation, 2012). There are numerous theories regarding motivation and one of these is the Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene Theory (Kinicki & Williams, 2006). The theory considers hygiene factors, outside issues that can cause dissatisfaction, and motivators, that are internal issues that cause satisfaction. Within this theory the motivators are growth, promotion, recognition and interesting work. Salary is a hygiene factor and can create dissatisfaction, rather than satisfaction.

In class we discussed the most tedious jobs and I identified that working in a factory would be uninteresting due to the repetitive nature. However, this job plays a significant role in the quality of the goods produced and is therefore a vital role within a manufacturing company. The Job Characteristics Model states that task significance is an essential characteristic of a job.  In addition, autonomy, feedback, skill variety and identity are also important. Staff that have these five characteristics in their employment have increased motivation, which might lead to higher quality of work and reduced absenteeism. Within class we ranked what factors were imperative to our own motivation and my motivator was interesting work. Interestingly, supervisors believe that a good salary is the number one motivator. This may explain why I have been offered extra money when I have resigned from my previous workplaces.

Supervisors should be aware of factors that motivate staff as this will ensure an improved standard of work, lower turnover of staff and lower absenteeism. At SAS, ranked number one company to work for, staff enjoy the benefits of flexible working and childcare and hospital facilities on site (Editorial Board of CNN Money, 2011). The company emphasises the balance of the home and work life and allows staff to achieve this by having flexible working hours. Employers need to understand what motivates staff in order to retain staff and to improve work standards.



Control can be defined as “monitoring organisational progress toward goal attainment” (Griffin, 2005, p.12) and is the last part of management. Companies incorporate various control systems, which include market, bureaucratic and clan control. Market control is reflective of more customer orientation, for example some restaurants always use a specials board, while bureaucratic control involves rules within the company.  Clan control is closely linked to organisational culture and is based on traditions and shared values.

The control process involves setting standards, measuring performance and then comparing this to the standards and any follow-up action (Griffin, 2005). The process of control can be used to assess sales performance whereby the actual sales are compared to the target sales and then action can be ensued. If the sales staff is within an acceptable performance range then no action is needed. There are different times when control could be implemented and these are feed forward, concurrent and feedback control. Management should try to predict the problems that may occur and use feed forward control to stop them before they occur.

Currently in businesses there are many distractions for employees that reduce the amount of time actually spent producing productive work. These distractions include the use of phones, both work phones and mobile phones, and the Internet. Companies need to control the use of these to ensure that employees are working; however there is a difficult balance between excess control and adequate control. Excessive control may cause dissatisfaction and reduce motivation. Phone calls made on the office phone could be monitored, with reduced international access. Personal mobile phones should be observed by the supervisors to ensure that staff are not using the phone for long periods of the day. With regard to the Internet, many businesses block social networking websites, such as Facebook, eBay and email accounts, for example Hotmail.  Companies also examine websites that employees are visiting. There are other ways in which companies can control their staff. In a previous company I worked for, they would monitor the duration spent logged into the computer system. I have also had to clock in and out of the workplace to check my time keeping. While control is necessary in a workplace, I feel that there should be a balance between control and motivation as intense control may reduce the motivation.

In conclusion, management involves many aspects and skills. Managers need to make decisions, plan, implement strategies, as well as motivate and control staff. If managers can perform effectively and with efficacy then the business may succeed. In addition, managers who motivate staff and create organisational culture can benefit from productive staff and reduced employee turnover and absenteeism. All of the areas discussed and class activities have provided me with a valuable


experience that I hope I can use in my future career.



Editorial Board of CNN Money. (2011). 100 best companies to work for. CNN Money. Retrieved from

Griffin, R.W. (2005).  Management (8th ed.). Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

Kinicki, A., & Williams, B.K. (2006). Management: A practical approach (2nd ed.).  London: McGraw Hill.

McDonald’s. (2012). Company information. McDonald’s. Retrieved  from

Motivation. (2012). In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from



This essay was completed as part of the assessment for a course on management organisation, and required a review and reflection of all the information learnt during the course.



Sarah Millar is a final year student in Veterinary Nursing. Prior to studying at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Sarah worked in the UK in the financial services industry and in Hong Kong as an English teacher.