Functions of management

Writers differ slightly on the functions and activities of management.

Let’s look at the functions and activities of management according to Louis Allen.
The term management activities is used to refer to the basic categories of managerial work. The term management functions refers to a group of related management activities, similar in nature and features.

Koontz and Weihrich (1989; p12) followed a system approach.  They believe management plays an important role in the process whereby an organisation transform inputs to certain outputs.

Louis Allen distinguishes four managerial functions that contribute to the transformation process

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Activation (Directing/leading/Guidance)
  4. Control

Some sources adds staffing and monitoring, but these could be included in organizing and controlThe process of converting input to output with the contribution of management can be represented as follows:


Lets look at the functions of management.


Without planning it will be sheer luck if an action deliver the right result at the right time at the right cost. Planning is the work a manager does to determine the required action in advance. The purpose of planning is to help the organization to move from a current situation to a more desirable situation in terms of outputs or results. The planning process consists of several steps.

  • First, a manager attempts to understand what will be possible in terms of the delivery of products or services in an uncertain future.
  • Next, the manager must set a mission for the organization describing the reason for it’s existence.
  • Goals that will contribute to the achievement of the mission must be formulated.
  • Formulate action plans aimed at achieving these goals
  • Planning also include support activities, like decision-making, budgeting, setting up programs and schedules and establishment of policies, rules and standards.

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When people work together in groups, it is important that everyone knows exactly what their role is in the group.  Imagine a vital operation is being performed on a patient, but no one in theater team knows what is expected of them.  It can only result in chaos.  It is not only big, important and complicated tasks that require to be awarded roles.  Even the simplest tasks to be performed in groups, requires rolls to be awarded.

Koontz and Weihrich (1989, p.16) describe organization as the interpretation and establishment of a purposeful structure of roles that people in an organization entails. The purpose of an organizational structure is to create an environment where people can perform successfully.

Roles must be assigned to those that can do it best.   It can be quite a challenge to find people who can play the roles successfully.

Tasks must be grouped and allocated to the various divisions and subdivisions. Tasks must be grouped even further to form jobs. 

Organisational relationships must also be defined.  Responsibility and authority must be assigned to people in the structure.  It must be clear who is held accountable for results


Activation is described by Koontz and Weihrich (1989, p.16) as the process through which people is led to collaborate and achieve the company’s objectives as efficiently as possible.

If a manager does not give sufficient attention to the leadership element of management, his team may not achieve success even though he did plan, organize, direct and control.  Leadership is only one of the activities of the activation function.

The activation function is all about the interpersonal aspects of management.  It is therefor the most dynamic and also the most difficult of all the management functions.  Each person is unique.  Their needs, attitudes, expectations, knowledge, skills and personality traits differ.  It is therefor imperative to take note of these differences and to treat people as individuals.

The activation function includes decision-making, communication, leadership, people management and conflict resolution


Control is the last of the management functions.  No plan includes a guarantee, doesn’t matter how well thought out it is.  There are usually many variations of the original plan.  The deviation is often so severe that it can cause the plan to fail completely.

According to Kroon (1990, p.9), control is the process whereby the execution of instructions and plans are evaluated and measured against standards and goals with the help of a management information system.  The purpose of this function is to ensure that plans are brought to completion.

Employee performance must be compared to set standards to identify deviations from the original plan.  Remedial action must be taken to redirect actions to achieve set goals.

In practice management functions and activities are intertwined.  For example, while a manager is engaged in planning, he also apply the activities of activation in order to get the cooperation of the group in the planning process.  While a manager is developing the organisational structure, he also makes decisions that relates to planning. Communication as like a golden thread that runs through the entire management process. It is only through communication that the manager is able to plan, organize, and lead people to goal achievement.  Even though management functions and activities are intertwined, it is easier to master the management profession if activities and functions are broken down to study it’s techniques and characteristics.  


Hannes Kruger, Management training manual.  Written for the Meat Board, Chapter 1

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