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Functions of Management

Most successful businesses are guided by the basic philosophy that every action taken by the business should translate into a benefit to the bottom line, or increase in profit. To this end, the company at which I am employed (we’ll call it AFL) is the world leader in automotive wiring harnesses and follows this philosophy religiously. As an example, each year in our president’s policies outline is a goal for management improvement.

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Our president defined our management strategy as “Establish company-wide Performance Management and measure effectiveness of improvement training initiatives” (George Herman, 2003). Performance Management is a web-based system to assist in managing the four functions of business management: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. This paper will discuss how these four functions of management apply to AFL, to my direct supervision and to my position at AFL.

At AFL, Performance Management is a new system to improve the quality of the data presented to management, improve delivery timing and documentation of events and milestones. The Performance Management system covers the four functions of management. Planning, which is a separate department in YNA, is responsible for the “make or buy” and “production location” decisions. The decisions made by the planning department can determine and effect the producing of parts anywhere in the world. Organizing, again a separate department at AFL called Program Management, is monitored by skilled managers tracking the progress of new product development projects.

Organizing also means that the program management department has a vital role in effectively communicating information within AFL and to our customers. Leading is a function of management that is not departmental at AFL. Rather, leadership is business unit based. What this means is that decisions affecting the customer will be made at a level that takes into account all the information available along with the entire needs of the customer. At AFL, this level of leadership and decision-making is at the business unit director level. This may sound like a lofty level for decisions affecting the customer, but AFL is a customer-focused company that is driven to delight the customer. This level of management leadership has served as a recipe for success for AFL. These four functions of management, from an organizational standpoint, create the direction of and support to the supervisor level of management at AFL.

The effects of the four functions of management on my direct supervisor are wide in scope and potentially catastrophic financially. My direct supervisor is the President of the Components Business Unit (ComBU) for AFL, Mr. Bryon Wilson. In this position, Mr. Wilson relies on the planning and organizing information my department provides to him to determine strategic direction and goals for our business unit to move forward towards. Examples of data provided to Mr. Wilson from my department include sales performance (monthly and fiscal year to date), cost of sales percentage, and status of behind orders to name a few key measurables. Mr. Wilson provides leadership for my department by reviewing our monthly business objectives and providing input or direction for areas of improvement. Mr. Wilson’s leadership can also be seen in the controls he places on my department.

For example, corporate policy dictates that department Directors must have the business unit president’s pre-approval to purchase items over $100,000. Mr. Wilson however, allows me to purchase items up to $500,000 without requirement of his pre-approval. This “relaxing” of a control allows me and my department to have more agility to accomplish the goals and objectives set forth by Mr. Wilson. Certainly, the relaxing of this control in no way relieves my department from accountability for the expenditure. Mr. Wilson exhibits a fair administration of the four functions of management by blending both explicit objectives and goals (planning and organizing) with enough departmental control and executive management support (leadership and control) to accomplish them.

The four functions of management apply to my position, Director of the Advance Product Manufacturing Center (APMC), as well. In my position, planning is vital to accurately forecast labor, material and machinery needs to meet customer delivery due dates. Leading my area is done in a fashion similar to Mr. Wilson’s style. APMC managers are empowered to determine their own needs to accomplish the objectives I have given them. In turn, it is my responsibility to analyze each request for completeness and provide the needed capitol investment, labor or material requested to accomplish the department’s goals.

Another way to describe the four functions of management is plan, do, check and act (PDCA). This is a Japanese developed system that provides similar results and styles as the four-functions method. For example, planning is identical in nature and scope. “Do” refers to actually performing the function consistently. This can be compared to organizing from the four-functions method in that a business process is optimized to perform efficiently. “Check” refers to the monitoring of results from the business process. This is a direct correlation to leading in the four-functions method. “Act” refers to adjusting a process if the yield is less than expected. Likewise in the four-functions method control is to respond and support to shortcomings in results. Whether one calls a management system “four functions” or “plan, do, check and act”, each is a highly effective method of piloting a business on the voyage to success.

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