Trends in Modern Management

In recent years, major developments in management reflect the acceptance to various degrees of the following elements:

a. the management process approach,

b. the management science and decision support approach,

c. the behavioural science approach for human resource development,

d. sustainable competitive advantage. These four approaches complement each other in current practice, and provide a useful groundwork for project management.

The management process approach emphasizes the systematic study of management by identifying management functions in an organization and then examining each in detail.

There is general agreement regarding the functions of planning, organizing and controlling. A major tenet is that by analyzing management along functional lines, a framework can be constructed into which all new management activities can be placed. Thus, the manager’s job is regarded as coordinating a process of interrelated functions, which are neither totally random nor rigidly predetermined, but are dynamic as the process evolves. Another tenet is that management principles can be derived from an intellectual analysis of management functions. By dividing the manager’s job into functional components, principles based upon each function can be extracted. Hence, management functions can be organized into a hierarchical structure designed to improve operational efficiency, such as the example of the organization for a manufacturing company shown in Figure 4-2. The basic management functions are performed by all managers, regardless of enterprise, activity or hierarchical levels. Finally, the development of a management philosophy results in helping the manager to establish relationships between human and material resources. The outcome of following an established philosophy of operation helps the manager win the support of the subordinates in achieving organizational objectives.

The management science and decision support approach contributes to the development of a body of quantitative methods designed to aid managers in making complex decisions related to operations and production. In decision support systems, emphasis is placed on providing managers with relevant information. In management science, a great deal of attention is given to defining objectives and constraints, and to constructing mathematical analysis models in solving complex problems of inventory, materials and production control, among others. A topic of major interest in management science is the maximization of profit, or in the absence of a workable model for the operation of the entire system, the suboptimization of the operations of its components. The optimization or suboptimization is often achieved by the use of operations research techniques, such as linear programming, quadratic programming, graph theory, queuing theory and Monte Carlo simulation. In addition to the increasing use of computers accompanied by the development of sophisticated mathematical models and information systems, management science and decision support systems have played an important role by looking more carefully at problem inputs and relationships and by promoting goal formulation and measurement of performance. Artificial intelligence has also begun to be applied to provide decision support systems for solving ill-structured problems in management.

The behavioral science approach for human resource development is important because management entails getting things done through the actions of people. An effective manager must understand the importance of human factors such as needs, drives, motivation, leadership, personality, behavior, and work groups. Within this context, some place more emphasis on interpersonal behavior which focuses on the individual and his/her motivations as a socio-psychological being; others emphasize more group behavior in recognition of the organized enterprise as a social organism, subject to all the attitudes, habits, pressures and conflicts of the cultural environment of people.

The major contributions made by the behavioral scientists to the field of management include:

·         the formulation of concepts and explanations about individual and group behavior in the organization,

·         the empirical testing of these concepts methodically in many different experimental and field settings,

·         the establishment of actual managerial policies and decisions for operation based on the conceptual and methodical frameworks.

Sustainable competitive advantage stems primarily from good management strategy. As Michael Porter argues that:

Strategy is creating fit among a company’s activities. The success of a strategy depends on doing many things well – not just a few – and integrating among them. If there is no fit among activities, there is no distinctive strategy and little sustainability.

In this view, successful firms must improve and align the many processes underway to their strategic vision. Strategic positioning in this fashion requires:

·         Creating a unique and valuable position.

·         Making trade-offs compared to competitors

·         Creating a “fit” among a company’s activities.

Project managers should be aware of the strategic position of their own organization and the other organizations involved in the project. The project manager faces the difficult task of trying to align the goals and strategies of these various organizations to accomplish the project goals. For example, the owner of an industrial project may define a strategic goal as being first to market with new products. In this case, facilities development must be oriented to fast-track, rapid construction. As another example, a contracting firm may see their strategic advantage in new technologies and emphasize profit opportunities from value engineering.

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