Week 1 What Do Managers Do? Activity 5

Allow 20 minutes for this activity.

This activity is designed to identify one main pressure or stress in your work as a manager and what you could do about it. Consider all the sources of pressure and stress covered in Readings 4 to 7. Identify just one that currently affects you most, and one action that you can take to reduce it. Say how you could carry out this action. When you are deciding on what action you will take, remember the demands and constraints that will restrict the choices you have. If you find that you have identified a pressure or stress about which you can do nothing, or not easily, then select one that you have more influence or control over. You might discuss with your line manager the major pressure you can do nothing about. Use Table 1.3 for the activity.

Table 1.3 Stresses and actions

The major stress factor in my work:
What I will do about it:
How I will do this:

It is likely that your responses to the activity focussed on the last two readings, and possibly the last one of all. The kinds of pressures set out in Reading 6, Recognising pressure and avoiding stress, are easier to recognise than to deal with. Time management issues, covered in Reading 7, Managing your time, are often easier to deal with.

If you were now to review your first week’s activities you would see that you have created a profile of your job:

  • the roles you perform
  • the demands of the job and the constraints that limit your choices over how you carry out your task, when and how
  • one important aspect of your job that creates most pressure or stress.

At the same time, you have planned an action that you can carry out to improve your effectiveness. You have begun networking with your fellow students and had the opportunity to gain insight into organisations other than the one you work for.

Activity 5 output

  • A completed version of Table 1.3.

B628 Table 1.3 Stresses and actions

The major stress factor in my work:

Role ambiguity, incompatibility and role conflicts. My role is not clearly defined and I am sometimes asked to do some work that should be done by Project Managers or Developers on my team.

What I will do about it:

Make sure that only spend time doing managerial work (planning, mentoring, etc.) specific to my job description.

 

How I will do this:

By requesting a clear job description from my supervisor and having her sign off on it.

 

References

The Open University (2012) B628/BZX628. Managing 1: Organisations and people, Module Activities, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

List any other sources of information you used.

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Week 1

Allow 20 minutes for this activity.

Consider the demands made on you when you carry out your job. Rate each type of demand from 1 (low) to 10 (high), and provide an example in cases where a demand is high. Record your scores in Table 1.2. Then consider the factors that place constraints on what you can do. Rate these in the same way and record them. Provide an example in cases where a constraint is high.

B628 Table 1.2 Demands and constraints

Demands

Rating

Example

Constraints

Rating

Example

Manager-imposed

5

Resource limitations

8

Currently my staff has been reduced by 4 people but we have continued to work on the same number of projects without recruiting. Due to budget restrictions, no hiring is possible till the next year.

Peer-imposed

5

Legal regulations

1

Externally-imposed

3

Union agreements

1

System-imposed

8

Daily and weekly meetings to attend (Daily standups, Sprint plannings, Sprint retrospectives, Sprint reviews, Managers meetings, Developers meetings, etc.)

Technological limitations

1

Staff-imposed

10

– Weekly one-on-one (check-in) with all the direct reports.

Physical location

1

Self-imposed

8

– Streamlining and documenting business process

Policies and procedures

1

Attitudes and expectations

4

Ethical considerations

1

Environmental concerns

1

(Source: based on Stewart, 1982)

References

The Open University (2012) B628/BZX628. Managing 1: Organisations and people, Module Activities, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

List any other sources of information you used.

Activity 4 should provide you with a picture of the demands and constraints you are subject to. The choices you have in your job will be greater when you have few demands and few constraints, although not many managers find themselves in that position. Most managers face substantial demands, but often from only two or three sources. Similarly, most managers have a number of constraints but not in all the areas shown. Activity 4 demonstrates how your context shapes what, how and when your work, and that of your work group, is done. It also has an important purpose in this module too. When you are resolving workplace issues you will always need to consider demands, constraints and choices. You will also need to consider the extent to which you have an influence over some demands and constraints. As you carried out Activity 4, you may have begun thinking about this!

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Week 1 What do managers do? Reading 3

Reading 3, The demands, constraints and choices of your job, in Chapter 1 takes you more deeply into the context of management – the particular situation that you work in. The text sets out different types of demands on you – things you must do; different types of constraints – factors that limit what you can do; and choices that you may have. As you read, consider your job in terms of each type of demand, constraint and choice. This will prepare you for Activity 4.

Note:

Rosemary Steward (1982) developed a concept which enables jobs to be examined in three very important ways:

  1. the demands of the job, which are what the job-holder must do;
  2. the constraints, which limit what the job-holder can do;
  3. and the choices, which indicate how much freedom the job-holder has to do the work in the way he/she chooses. 

Her purpose was to show how dealing appropriately with demands and constraints, and exercising choices, can improve managers’ effectiveness. 

Demands of the job. Demands are what anyone in the job must do. They can be ‘performance demands’ requiring the achievement of a certain minimum standard of performance, or they can be ‘behavioural demands’ requiring that you undertake some activity such as attending certain meetings or preparing a budget. Stewart lists the sources of such demands as being:

  • Manager-imposed demands – work that your own line manager expects and that you cannot disregard without penalty.
  • Peer-imposed demands – requests for services, information or help from others at similar levels in the organisation. Failure to respond personally would produce penalties.
  • Externally-imposed demands – requests for information or action from people outside the organisation that cannot be delegated and where there would be penalties for non-response.
  • System-imposed demands – reports and budgets that cannot be ignored nor wholly delegated, meetings that must be attended, social functions that cannot be avoided.
  • Staff-imposed demands – minimum time that must be spent with your direct reports (for example, guiding or appraising) to avoid penalties.
  • Self-imposed demands – these are the expectations that you choose to create in others about what you will do; from the work that you feel you must do because of your personal standards or habits.

Constraints. Constraints are the factors, within the organisation and outside it, that limit what the job-holder can do. Examples include:

  • Resource limitations – the amounts and kinds of resources available.
  • Legal regulations.
  • Trade union agreements.
  • Technological limitations – limitations imposed by the processes and equipment with which the manager has to work.
  • Physical location of the manager and his/her unit.
  • Organisational policies and procedures.
  • People’s attitudes and expectations – their willingness to accept, or tolerate, what the manager wants to do.

To this list for today’s world we would add factors which will impose constraints such as:

  • ethics – your own and those to which your organisation adheres
  • the environment – climate change and remediation.

Choices. Many managerial jobs offer opportunities for choices both in what is done and how it is done, though the amount and nature of choice vary. Managers can also exercise choice by emphasizing some aspects of the job and neglecting others. Often they will do so partly unconsciously. The main choices are usually in:

  • what work is done
  • how the work is done
  • when the work is done

 

Week1 What do managers do? Activity 3

Allow 30 minutes for this activity.

When you have completed Table 1.1, copy and paste it into a message to the Week 1 activity forum. As you read other students’ contributions, compare them with your own. Then post a short message setting out your findings on the similarities and differences in your own management roles and those of other students. The purpose of this activity is for you to gain an understanding of the range of management roles adopted over a variety of management jobs, organisations and sectors.

  • Just like Anthony Tindale, I find myself playing the different roles throughout any given work week. But I particularly find it interesting that he will also like to be more proactive (Entrepreneur) than reactive (Disturbance handler). This is not to say that I do not initiate any change in the organisation but it seems that I am always trying to put out fire, instead of setting measures so that fire never starts in the first place. Since many people have not posted their answer I cannot talk about the differences yet. 

Activity 3 outputs

  • A contribution to the Week 1 activity forum containing a completed copy of Table 1.1.
  • A contribution to the Week 1 activity forum setting out your findings regarding the similarities or differences between your own management roles and those of other students.
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Week 1 What do managers do? Activity 2

Allow 20 minutes for this activity.

In this activity you will identify the Mintzberg roles you have performed in the last week.

  • First, consider Mintzberg’s 10 roles (which he places under three headings or categories). Then, think about the main managerial tasks you carried out last week.
    • The 10 roles described by Mintzberg are:
      • Interpersonal roles:
        • 1) Figurehead, 2) Leader and 3) Liaison
      • Informational roles:
        • 4) Monitor, 5) Disseminator and 6) Spokesperson
      • Decisional roles:
        • 7) Entrepreneur, 8) Disturbance handler, 9) Resource allocator, and 10) Negotiator.
      • The main roles are carried out this week are those of figurehead leader, liaison, monitor, entrepreneur, disturbance handler, and resource allocator. 
  • Identify THREE different tasks that occupied you most and match them to three of Mintzberg’s 10 roles. Record the activity against the appropriate category in Table 1.1. The table will help you to structure your response to the activity. Next, think about any of Mintzberg’s roles that you don’t perform.
    • The three different tasks that occupy the most are as below and they can be matched to the following roles :
      • Meetings – Monitor and Disseminator roles
      • Resource allocation.  – Resource allocator role
      • Problem solving – Disturbance handler role
  • Finally, with reference to Mintzberg’s 10 roles, note what changes you would like to make in your roles to increase your contribution to the success of your organisation, or your part of the organisation. When considering changes it is always good practice to identify who might be affected by the changes, a timescale and whether consultation with other people is needed. Record your responses in Table 1.1.
    • I would to focus more on the role of Entrepreneur than that of a Disturbance handler. I need to be proactive instead of being reactive. For example, developing business processes that will streamline our workflow and unify the way all the staff works. This will of course take some time, in my estimate at least 3 months and will require input from Senior management as well as the developers themselves. 

The purpose of this activity is to help you to be more aware of the management roles you perform in your job and to consider changes or improvements.

Table 1.1 Management roles

Mintzberg role Brief description of the activity that matches the Mintzberg category
Monitor and Disseminator (Informational roles) Daily meetings to exchange information with project teams, senior management, and sometimes external stakeholders. 
Resource allocator (Decisional role) Decide how to best allocate software developers to the different projects we have, depending on demands from stakeholders and urgency of the project.
Disturbance handler (Decisional role) Working in emergency situations, they are always unforeseen events that happen that need to be fixed. For example, server outage, overlooked bugs in the application, and so on. So we need to quickly react and find a solution for these issues.
Mintzberg roles I don’t carry out List: None. I perform all the roles at one time or another. 
Changes I could make in relation to Mintzberg’s roles List:  I would to focus more on the role of Entrepreneur than that of a Disturbance handler. I need to be proactive instead of being reactive. For example, developing business processes that will streamline our workflow and unify the way all the staff works. This will of course take some time, in my estimate at least 3 months and will require input from Senior management as well as the developers themselves. 
Who else would be affected by these changes List: The developers, business analysts, project managers and QA engineers. 
The timescale of the potential changes 3 months
Who I should consult  Senior Management and Team (UI/UX, Software, QA, BA/PM) Leads
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Week 1 What do managers do? Readings 1 and 2

Reading 1 – Chapter 1: What do managers actually do? What do managers actually do?

Notes: 

Management is the planning, organising, leading and controlling of human and other resources to achieve organisational goals efficiently and effectively.

As a new manager, you may feel that you are responding to a range of demands (being reactive) without being in as much control of your work as you would like. 

One of the most well-known definitions of what management is and what mangers do was given by Henri Fayol, a French mining engineer, in a book on management published in 1916. He defined management as a process involving:

  • forecasting and planning,
  • organising,
  • commanding (leading),
  • coordinating,
  • controlling.

The most effective way to measure your managerial effectiveness is how well you help your organisation achieve its aims and objectives. Therefore it is very important that as a manager you know the goals of your organisation and what is expected of you. 

Among many, we will consider two approaches to explaining the purpose of a job:

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Setting KPIs is often an organisation-wide process and one version of this process is Management by Objectives. Management by Objectives aims to identify key areas in a person’s work and to set targets against which his/her performance (or effectiveness) may be measured. 

Peter Drucker, a well-known writer on management, suggests that effective managers follow the same eight practices. They:

  1. ask “what needs to be done”,
  2. ask “what is right for the enterprise”,
  3. develop action plans,
  4. take responsibility for decisions,
  5. take responsibility for communicating,
  6. focus on opportunities,
  7. run productive meetings,
  8. think and say “we” rather than “I”.

The first two practices give managers the knowledge they need. The next four help them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensure that the whole team or organisation feels responsible and accountable. 

At least four sets of factors influence your managerial effectiveness:

  1. You: your knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and experience.
  2. Your job: how well are your skills, experience, etc matched with your job?
  3. The people you work with. One measure of managerial effectiveness is the extent to which a manager can motivate people and coordinate their efforts to achieve optimum performance. 
  4. Your organisation. How the organisation is structured and your position in it affect your authority and your responsibilities, and impose constraints on what you are able to achieve. 

Effectiveness, then, does not come from just learning a few management techniques. Though techniques are important and necessary, it will be influenced by the factors mentioned above. 

Questions:

  1. Do you feel that you are responding to demands instead of being in control?
    1. Yes, I do feel like that most of the time. 
  2. Do you follow any of Drucker’s eight practices of effective managers?
    1. I think I follow few of them. But now that I see them now, I will be actively thinking about them on a daily basis. 
  3. How much do you think your effectiveness depends on you, your role, the people you work with and your organisation?
    1. A lot. I find that I spend most of my time trying to motivate a team of unmotivated or immature developers and I also feel limited by the structure of the department. 
  4. How important is each of these four elements in the effectiveness equation?
    1. I think they are all equally important as they each can substantially affect the outcome of your work. 

Reading 2 – Chapter 1: What do managers actually do? Your job

Notes:

In an article in the Harvard Business Review untitled ‘What effective managers really do’, John P. Kotter found that effective managers spend 70% or more of their time in the company of other people, sometimes with outsiders who seem to be unimportant. They hold lots of brief conversations on seemingly inconsequential matters, often unconnected with work, and they do a lot of joking. They ask many questions but rarely seem to make any ‘big’ decisions during their conversations. They seldom tell people what to do. Instead, they ask, request, persuade and sometimes even intimidate.

Kotter says this behaviour is ‘less systematic, more informal, less reflective, more reactive, less well-organised, and more frivolous’ than a student of management would ever expect. However, he says the behaviour can be explained. He suggests that the two main dilemmas in most senior managers job are:

  • working out what to do despite uncertainty, great diversity, and an enormous amount of potentially relevant information,
  • getting things done through a large and diverse set of people despite having little direct control over most of them. 

Thus, the seemingly pointless and inefficient behaviour is, in fact, an efficient and effective way of:

  • gathering up-to-the-minute information on which to base decisions,
  • building network of human relationships (networks that are often very different from the formal organisation structure) to enable them to get their decisions implemented. 

Besides Kotter’s explanation and various others, there are two to other ways to make sense of the manager’s job::

The ‘job description’ approach:

One way of gaining a clearer picture of what you do as a manager would  be to list all your activities (not your role) in a giant description table. Example: Make forecasts, prepare plans, schedule activities, etc. 

The role of a manager:

Henry Mintzberg in 1971, studied a number of Chief executives and concluded that managerial work had the following six characteritics:

  1. The manager performs a great quantity of work at an unrelenting pace.
  2. Managerial activity is characterised by variety, fragmentation and brevity.
  3. Managers prefer issues that are current, specific and ad hoc.
  4. The manager sits between his organisation and a network of contacts.
  5. The manager shows a strong preference for verbal communication. 
  6. Despite his heavy obligations, the manager appears to be able to control his own affairs. 

Mintzberg identified 10 different roles into which he was able to fit all the activities he observed. He grouped the 10 roles under three broader headings on the grounds that, whatever they were doing, they were doing invariably doing one of three things: 1) making decisions, 2) processing information, or 3) engaging in interpersonal contact. 

  • Interpersonal roles:
    • Figurehead: they are figureheads because of their formal authority and symbolic position representing the organisation.
    • Leader: they have to consider the needs of an organisation and those of the individuals they manage and work with.
    • Liaison: this role deals with the ‘horizontal’ relationships which studies of work activity have been shown as important for a manager. 
  • Informational roles:
    • Monitor: they monitor what goes on in the organisation, and seek and receive information about both internal and external events
    • Disseminator: they transmit the information collected to others. 
    • Spokesperson: A manager has to give information concerning the organisation to staff and outsiders. 
  • Decisional roles:
    • According to Mintzberg, making decisions is the most crucial part of any managerial activity, and the four roles are:
    • Entrepreneur: managers make decisions about changing what is happening in an organisation. They may have to initiate change and take an active part in deciding exactly what is done – they are proactive. 
    • Disturbance handler: manager make decisions arising from events that are beyond their control and which are unpredictable. 
    • Resource allocator: this role is central to much organisational analysis. A manager has to make decisions about the allocation of money, equipment, people, time and other resources. In doing so a manager is actually scheduling time, programming work and authorising actions. 
    • Negotiator: the manager has to negotiate with others and in the process be able to make decisions about the commitment of organisational resources. 

All the above roles will not be equally present in any one manager and one might be more dominant depending on the job and time. 

 To do:

As you read, consider the main day-to-day tasks in which you are engaged. Then take note of how Mintzberg categorises managerial activities into roles.

  • Which roles are dominant in your job, or do you perform them equally?
    • Currently the dominant roles in my job are resource allocator, disturbance handler, entrepreneur, negotiator, figurehead, and leader. The remaining roles are less significant at this point. 
  • Are there any roles that you don’t perform?
    • The information roles are limited to internal communications with the employees that I manage and work with. No external communication. 

Week 1 What do managers do? Activity 1

Activity 1 Introduce yourself to your tutor group and respond to at least one other student. (Allow 30 minutes for this activity.)

Introduction

Hi all,

My name is Aboubacar Sidiki Douno but everyone has been calling me by my last name since primary school, probably because it is shorter and simpler, so you can call me Douno as well. 

I am a Software Developer currently working as Health Informatics manager in a non-profit organisation (eHealth Africa) operating in the health and humanitarian section in sub-Saharan Africa. My job consists mainly of managing the development cycle of various Health Information Systems (HIS) from the initial idea, the brainstorming and planning phases, up to the development, pilot and finally, evaluation phase. Of course, this also includes managing and mentoring the developers, business analysts and project managers working on these projects. 

One interesting thing about me is that I love learning new languages, I can communicate effectively (upper-intermediate level at least) in 7 languages. 

Reply to another student:

Hi Jonathan, it’s great to meet another fellow wanderlust. I have been traveling mostly around Europe, Africa and America  (17 countries so far) and seeing the Great China Wall is on top of my list of things to do. It’s pretty awesome that you are also doing for a good cause. Hopefully, we will sharing ideas and notes. Cheers. 

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