four functions of management

Understanding the 4 functions of management

Reading time: about 4 min

According to a Gallup report, less than 10% of the American workforce has what it takes to be great managers, and 50% of Americans have left a job because they no longer want to work with their manager.

If you have recently been promoted or are interested in pursuing a management role, you might have questions about what’s expected. You also may wonder if you are ready to be a manager. 

But we can help. Everything you do as a manager is based on the four functions of management, and understanding and mastering them allows you to build stronger, happier, and more efficient teams. This article will explore these functions and how to apply them in your role.

What are the four functions of management?

In 1914, Henri Fayol, a French mining engineer, theorized that management could be improved through planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Commanding and coordinating have since been replaced by leading because leading by example is better than telling people what to do.

These functions typically occur in succession while working on a project, but they also might overlap or repeat. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Planning

Before you can manage anything, you need to know what you want to accomplish. What are your goals and objectives? What do you expect the outcome to be? 

Planning might include:

  • Long-term strategic planning, like meeting with customers to understand their needs or identifying strengths and weaknesses that affect how you compete in the market
  • Short-term tactical planning, like determining your budget and resources, prioritizing tasks, or assigning deadlines
  • Operational planning, like outlining processes and standards to increase efficiency or assigning tasks based on skill and availability
  • Communication via meetings, memos, and regular updates to keep everyone aligned

Lucidspark’s strategic planning template can help you to create, implement, and visualize your plan.

four functions of management
Strategic planning template example (click to modify image online)

Organizing

Organization is critical to ensuring your project runs smoothly. In this phase, you bring resources together—finances, equipment, materials, and team members—to complete tasks and work toward goals. Organizing includes:

  • Assigning tasks to the people with the skills to get the job done
  • Ensuring that employees have what they need to complete their tasks
  • Monitoring team performance and processes to ensure everything is working efficiently together
  • Responding quickly to issues and making adjustments to timelines or assignments when needed

This org chart template can help you visualize how your team is organized and better understand what skills each member has.

four functions of management
Org chart template example (click to modify image online)

Leading

This function focuses on managing people. You won't be successful if your employees and team members don’t believe in your leadership.

Leading is not about telling people what to do. Instead, it’s about supporting each individual, understanding their needs, building trust, and helping them succeed. Being a good leader involves:

Motivation

The motivation phase requires good communication and interpersonal skills. Understanding what motivates individual team members makes it easier to assign them to tasks they are passionate about. Knowing each person also helps you identify when they need positive feedback to stay motivated.

Conflict resolution

Diversity brings value to a company. But bringing together people with different personalities and backgrounds can also lead to conflicts, so conflict resolution is vital to management.

Flexibility in leadership style

There are a variety of leadership styles, but some of the most common ones are directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating.

Directing managers tell or show employees what to do with little input from employees. This seems like it could lead to discontent, but it’s a good leadership style if you have new employees with little or no experience in your industry.

Coaching is a mentor/mentee style of leadership that focuses on building trusting relationships and offering support and constructive feedback as needed. The coach can share their knowledge with a team member learning something new while still being receptive to ideas themselves.

Supporting managers focus on building interpersonal relationships among team members, so they welcome input and implement it when possible. A manager might use this leadership style with team members who are highly skilled and experienced. However, it can lead to inconsistent performance from team members.

Delegating managers are typically associated with self-governing teams and individuals. The manager knows their team members, understands their skills and capacity, and trusts their tasks will be completed on time with little guidance. This leaves the manager to focus on high-level goals.

All leadership styles require good communication between managers and team members. Our asynchronous team charter template can help you keep your distributed teams aligned and supported while collaborating asynchronously.

four functions of management
Asynchronous team charter template example (click to modify image online)

Controlling

You shouldn’t control your team in an authoritarian way. Instead, focus on monitoring and tracking performance improvement and analyzing work ethic. The controlling function helps ensure the quality of employee work and the quality of the output. That way, minor adjustments or reassignments can be made as needed so the project stays on track. 

Lucidspark’s performance review template helps your employees stay aligned with department and company initiatives. The goals they set and the feedback you provide can help your employees understand what they need to do to further their careers and support objectives.

four functions of management
Performance review template example (click to modify image online)
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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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