Management is an aspect of the business that doesn’t have the same specific duties some of the other parts of the business have. While an accountant will always know quite clearly the expertise and responsibilities he or she has, a manager needs to have a much broader set of skills, with the tasks ranging depending on the business. Yet, management like all the other parts of the business have certain functions to guide the operations.

Functions of Management – Planning, Organizing, Staffing and More

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In this guide, we’ll talk about these functions, first by looking at the definition of management and then moving on to present popular theories regarding the functions of management. You’ll also be able to read about the five functions core functions – planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling – and why they are important and how you can achieve them with your management.


To understand the functions of management, you must first examine what management is about. How do you define management?

Management is a process with a social element. It requires the efficient use of resources combined with the guidance of people in order to reach a specific organizational objective. It involves responsibility to achieve the objectives and to fulfill specific organizational purposes through economical and effective planning and regulation. It’s about taking charge and ensuring focus is placed on the things and aspects of the business that help achieve the vision and the goals.

Three key characteristics define the process of management.

  • First, management is a process of continuing and related activities. Each of the functions is related to each other and the functions complement each other. It is hard to consider the functions in isolation, as management requires each activity to complement one another. When you as a manager engage in one function, you in effect also start the process of another function.
  • The second core characteristic of management is about it involving and concentrating on organizational goals. Management is largely focused on achieving the key mission of the organization, its vision. Whilst there are detailed objectives it might focus on, management is mainly interested in identifying the wider organizational goals and using the different functions in order to achieve the objectives. Each function takes the organization closer to achieving its vision.
  • Finally, management achieves the organizational goals by working with people and organization resources. You might use different financial resources or physical equipment as part of the process, while also directing and guiding the staff towards the objectives. The manager is in charge of supporting the people and connecting the right person with the right resources.

In essence, management is about a dynamic process, with a number of elements and activities as part of the process. The dynamic and social element of management mean the functions of management are separate from operational functions. Whilst operational functions refer to activities and processes such as marketing, finances and purchases, the management functions differ depending on the organizational level at which they take place.

The functions remain the same, yet are essentially different depending on the organizational hierarchy. A manager at the senior level will be involved in different activities than the manager at the junior level. The core concepts might be the same, but they are dynamic in manifestation. On the other hand, operational function of marketing will change according to the organization, the person in charge and the operational goals. For management functions, the objective of the specific activity remains largely the same, even though the manifestation might be different depending on the specific situation.

Management functions are the same, but the management processes people use can differ. A management style or process can depend on the organization, the manager in question, and even the objectives. You’re likely to change management style if you are directing a single person or being in control of a team. You can find out more about management styles from the introductory clip below:


Since management involves solving the problems within an organization in order to reach the desired objectives, the focus is on understanding the functions that make up the process. As experts began studying and theorizing the essence of management, different ideas and concepts regarding the functions were born.

Although the theories about the functions of management lead to rather similar results, it can be helpful to study the differences as well as the historical journey to our current understanding of the functions. Here are a few of the most influential theories and theorists, who’ve outlined their ideas about the functions of management.

Henri Fayol

Henri Fayol was the first to attempt classifying managerial activities into specific functions. The French engineer established the first principles of the classical management theory at the start of the last century. Fayol is considered the founding father of concepts such the line and staff organization. When Fayol developed his strategies and ideas, managers in organizations didn’t have any kind of formal training and therefore Fayol’s ideas were ground-breaking.

As well as setting out 14 general principles of management, Fayol also defined the five core functions of management, which are still used and which form the basis of much of the later theories. To Fayol, manages is a process, which includes forecasting, planning, organizing, commanding and controlling. These are the foundation of setting the relationship between the subordinates and the superior and the five core functions help the management to solve problems in the relationship or within the organization in a creative manner.

George R. Terry

After Fayol, many theorists have looked at the functions and crafter their own ideas, deviating only slightly from Fayol’s core functions. George R. Terry wrote a book Principles of Management in 1968 and outlined his view on the principles. Terry believed there to be four core functions, each function posing and responding to a specific question the management must solve. The question, the fundamental function and the resulting action are outlined in the below graph:

The Question The Function The Result
What is the need? Planning Objectives, policies, procedures and methods
Where should actions take place and who should do what work? Organizing Work division, work assignment, and authority utilization
Why and how should group members perform their tasks? Actuating Leadership, communication, development, and incentives
Are the actions being performed according to plan? Controlling Reports, comparisons, costs and budgets

Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell

In 1976, Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell published an essay Management: A Systems and Contingency Analysis of Managerial Functions. They felt the previous studies have been effective in describing the functions, but believed the division should be more detailed. Koontz and O’Donnell believed there to be five key functions of management:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing
  • Directing/Leading
  • Controlling

These five functions of management have become perhaps the most cited and they are explained further in the following section. Overall, the quick outlook would hopefully have highlighted the alignment of the functions of management in different management theories.


While there are slight variations in how the functions are named and the different management theories might combine or divide certain functions into smaller chunks, the consensus points to five core functions. What do these functions entail, why are they important and how to utilize them?


The first managerial function involves planning. The function is about creating a detailed plan towards achieving a specific organizational objective. When you are planning, you are identifying the tasks, which are required to achieve the desired goals, outlining how the tasks should be performed, and identifying when and by whom they must be performed. The focus of planning is about achieving the objectives and it does require knowledge of the organization’s objectives and vision. You will need to look both at the short- and long-term success of the organization as part of the plan.

An example of planning would be a situation where you have an objective, such as increasing the sales by 20% in the following month. You will need to look at the different ways you and the team could achieve this goal. This might include things like creating a new advertisement campaign, reducing prices or speaking to customers about their shopping plans. Your role is to pick the processes that you find the most appropriate and to organize them into a logical pattern. You must also identify the timeline for these processes.

As you might realize, planning is on on-going function. Management will regularly have to plan the future tasks and adjust the plans based on the organizational situation and the achievement of previous goals. Furthermore, it requires the whole organization to work together as the different departments or team plans need to link to each other and align with the organizational objective. Henri Fayol called the function the most difficult to achieve! You need a lot of knowledge and flexibility in order to plan activities effectively.

Why is planning essential?

Why is planning important? Planning provides the organization a better sense of what it wants to achieve and how it can achieve this. You essentially have more focus when you plan for things. Think what would happen if you went into a big job interview without any planning.

You might be OK, but you wouldn’t be able to focus on the details and it might take time for you conduct your answers. But if you plan for the interview, you now exactly the points you want to make, you have enough knowledge to respond to specific questions about the company and so on.

In effect, planning ensures the proper utilization of the available resources and the ability to understand how these should be used in order to achieve the goal. In the example of the interview, the planning helps you take advantage of information on company websites, research interview questions and to then use this information to outline example answers.

A key part of planning is also the vital role it plays in reducing risks. When management plans for the tasks ahead, they are looking at the situation and detailing the possible pitfalls ahead. As with your interview, the risk of not knowing anything about the company or giving an incoherent answer is higher than if you had planned your answers a little.

How to plan?

Planning is an intellectual activity that doesn’t always require a lot of visible labor and effort, as much of it is about thinking creatively about the issues at hand. When you need to come engage in planning, you should focus on the following steps:

  • Gain knowledge of the issues – You need to understand the organizational objectives, the different components they involve, and the available resources you and the team have. You also need to be knowledgeable of the topic at hand. In terms of increasing sales, you need to have an understanding of how the sales industry works and what different methods can effectively boost company sales.
  • Look into the future – The function is about understanding the short- and long-term objectives the organization wants to achieve. You need to consider not just these different elements, but also be able to make predictions about the future conditions for achieving these. Perhaps you have noticed changes in customer behavior due to the downturn in the economy. When you are planning, you need to take into account these little nuances.
  • Determine the objectives – Once you are aware of the organizational objective, the resources available, and the future outlook to achieving the objectives, you need to identify the specific processes and detailed goals that are required to achieve the bigger goal. You might want to create a marketing campaign to increase sales, which requires the team to conduct market research and to come up with ideas. The more detailed objectives and processes you can set, the better the plan is.
  • Create flexible structures – However, your planning needs to be flexible and take into account things don’t always go according to plan. Your management plan must take into account the other departments and their specific organizational goals. Perhaps the financial team has to cut down costs for the sales team and you need to be aware of the impact this would have on your new marketing campaign.


The next function of management follows planning and it is about organizing. It’s about using the plan to bring together the physical, financial and other available resources and use them to achieve the organizational goal. If your task were to increase sales, you would look at the plan and determine how to divide the resources you have in order to put your plan in place.

The marketing campaign would be handed out the Becky and you would provide them with the financial resources available and needed to give birth to the campaign. You would also need to ensure the team has access to the customer files in order to utilize vital information. You’d then direct Danny and his team to calculate the possible reductions you can make, help them have the resources to determine which products are best to discount and so on.

You’d use the above plan and information about the resources you have or which you need, and arrange the resources to the right tasks. As the example shows, this can be about arranging the finances, ensuring the right equipment is used and appointing the personnel to the specific tasks.

Your objective as the manager is to provide your team or department the resources it needs to turn the plan into reality. The organizing function is about the overall structure of the specific managerial level. You are creating the foundations to everyday operations by organizing the resources. This function is closely linked to the hierarchy of management.

Depending on your management level, you will have different responsibilities and resources to organize. The top-level managers need to organize the teams below them, while the lower-level managers will be partly taking orders for effective organizing from the managers above. Organizing is a vital part of ensuring the company can function effectively and it concerns the day-to-day activities.

Why is organizing essential?

While it might be difficult to work without a plan, it can be impossible for an organization to function without organizing. The function is vital because it ensures there is structure to the operations. You are aware of the resources and you ensure they are used in a manner that best helps the company to achieve its targets.

In terms of finances, organizing can guarantee you don’t waste money on functions that don’t provide the right results. If you don’t organize the right persons to do the right jobs, you might damage productivity. If you know Sarah is talented in accounting, you don’t want to put her in charge of marketing. By organizing the resources, you ensure operational efficiency and structure. The company’s day doesn’t start in chaos, with people trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. Organizing puts the plan in action.

Without organizing, resources wouldn’t necessarily work towards the operational goals. While you might have the team still doing tasks, the tasks might not be the correct ones for the situation. Consider you are a manager of a team in a café. When you organize the team to perform the tasks required to boost coffee sales, you have each person working towards the goal. Jerry might be greeting customers and telling them about the new coffee flavour, while Dina and Jack are working to make the sale and the coffee as quickly as possible.

If you hadn’t organized them, you might end up with a situation where Jerry is wiping the floors (although they are clean) and Dina is working alone at the counter.

How to organize?

When done efficiently, organizing tends to follow the pattern and steps outlined below:

  • Identify activities and classify them – The step is straightforward enough because you already have a plan. Your objective is to identify the different roles, processes, and activities required to achieve the objectives. These would be the roles for the team members, the different tasks each role would need to perform and the specific processes the tasks would include.
  • Assign the duties and resources–Once you’ve identified the above, you would begin organizing the resources. You would assign the specific tasks for the persons you feel are the most qualified and provide the resources to the processes, which most need them.
  • Delegate authority and create responsibilities–Managers shouldn’t behave like dictators. Although the power is concentrated to your as the manager, it doesn’t mean you should have all the authority. In order the get the marketing campaign working properly, you might want to ensure the person in charge of the team has the authority to make decisions. You need devolution of responsibility, as it can ensure the plan works efficiently.
  • Co-ordinate authority and responsibilities–As well as delegating authority, you also need to co-ordinate it to match the overall functionality of the organization and the structure of the objectives. For example, you might want two people to share the responsibility of organizing the price reductions, with each having the ability to respond to supplier queries. Furthermore, if you have other managers above you, it’s important to co-ordinate the authority to ensure the functionality doesn’t suffer as a result of different plans.


The staffing function is an increasingly important function of management, although it is sometimes left out when the core functions are discussed. It can be seen closely related to organizing, with both focused on ensuring the resources are directed to the right processes and tasks. For staffing, the focus is on people and their labor in relation to the organizational objectives.

The function aims to ensure the organization always has the right people in the right positions and the organizational structure isn’t hindered by lack or excess of personnel. You would essentially be looking at the tasks ahead of you and determining who should do what and if you have the right manpower to achieve the objectives you want.

In terms of hitting your sales targets, you would need to analyze if the current staff is capable of performing the tasks and whether you have enough employees to ensure the integrity of the organization. You might find the marketing team to be too small and consider hiring a temporary or even full-time worker.

The reason staffing is included as a separate function and why it’s a crucial part of management is due to the changing nature of the workforce and the organization. Today’s companies are much more complex in terms of where and when they operate – companies aren’t confined between national boundaries anymore. Technology has also had a huge impact on company structures, requiring new positions and destroying others.

Whereas your car sales company might have mainly relied on face-to-face sales in the past, today you might also do business online, which would mean you need people for IT-specific roles and perhaps fewer salespersons. Management has also become more focused on the human behavioral aspect of leadership. Finding the right company fit, ensuring employees are satisfied, and guaranteeing emotional wellbeing as well as physical work safety have emphasized the importance of staffing as a function.

Why is staffing essential?

As the above showed, staffing’s importance as a core function of management has increased in the past few decades. But having the right amount of staff and the right people doing the required roles isn’t just crucial because of changing technology of enhanced focus on complex human behavior. Staffing is essential to guarantee the operational functionality of the organization.

If you don’t have the right amount of people working in your organization, you make achieving organizational goals harder. You might either be in a situation where you can’t increase the sales, as you don’t have the manpower to respond to company queries. On the other hand, you might be wasting resources by having too many employees with not enough tasks to perform. The numbers do matter.

Staffing also guarantees the staff you have is qualified to perform the tasks and that they are adequately supported in those roles. This will further deepen the organizational efficiency, since people are motivated and qualified to work towards the common objective. You can’t hire a plumber if you are hoping to fix the roof. Furthermore, even the most qualified of employees need the occasional help and support. The staffing function helps create these development opportunities.

How to staff?

According to Koontz & O’Donell, staffing “involves manning the organisation structure through proper and effective selection, appraisal and development of personnel to fill the roles designed on the structure”. It consists of a number of separate functions, which are:

  • Manpower planning – You need to stay on top of staffing, as manpower requirements can change from season to season. Planning would see you make estimations of the number of employees you need, searching for the right kind of employees, and hiring the perfect employees to the roles in front of you.
  • Recruitment, selection and placement – Another key function is the actual recruitment process, with its various steps.
  • Training and development – Staffing also includes the creation of structures, which ensure the employees are always on top of the latest skills in the position and the industry. You should also consider training programs in terms of succession, as you need to ensure the next generation of managers and leaders is coming through your organization.
  • Remuneration – A big part of the function is the financial aspect. Staff remuneration is key in terms of attracting the right talent without damaging the organization’s finances. If you aren’t offering a competitive remuneration package, the applicants will go to your competitors.
  • Performance appraisal – You must also create structures of feedback within the organization. Feedback can play a crucial role in motivating and developing employees; with the reward structures ensuring good behavior is supported and noticed.
  • Promotions and transfers of roles – Related to the above two points, promotions are essential for staffing operations. You can reward and motivate the staff by offering enough opportunities to climb up the career ladder. Creating structures for role transfers and promotions also ensure the talent and knowledge you’ve attracted doesn’t leave elsewhere.


The fourth function is known as directing, sometimes also referred to as the influencing or the leading function of management. Directing is about the actuation of the methods to work efficiently to achieve the set organizational objectives. The function goes beyond organizing the employees to their specific roles and involves ensuring they are able to perform the tasks through a variety of means. Directing in essence is looking after productivity and ensuring productivity is going up instead of decreasing.

The function delves deeper inside human interaction, making the manager motivate, communicate and inspire his or her personnel. At this stage, you are meeting and connecting with your employees to find out how the tasks are going. You would talk to them about the new marketing program, get their feedback on the project and spend time inspiring them with new ideas. The directing function is all about the day-to-day interaction between the management and the staff.

The function of directing has strong links to things such as leadership. A good manager will be able to inspire the workforce to work towards the goals not because they have to do it, but because they are driven to achieve these objectives. The manager’s role is not just about ensuring the workplace has the right resources and employees know what they are doing; it’s also important to create an environment of friendship. The manager wants to be someone who can encourage and motivate the personnel and not fear them into submission. With proper directing, you are able to set in motion the processes you’ve prepared with the above three functions.

Why is directing essential?

Directing has an important role in an organization as it helps strengthen the operational capability of the organization. It does so by ensuring the different parts of the organization are working better. Directing is a bridge between the operational needs and the human requirements of its employees. You essentially create a link between the necessity of turning in a profit, with the need of keeping employees motivated and interested. Since directing aims to improve productivity, you are strengthening how well the organisation succeeds.

Research has pointed out how important human-focused management is in today’s organization. When objectives are approached from a human perspective that aims to ensure people’s opinions are listened to, the goals are met faster than in task-oriented environments. The management’s ability to listen to the workforce, support and inspire them will boost the productivity and profitability of the organization.

If you listen to your team’s concerns and perhaps provide them inspiration with quotes, films or the occasional days out of the office, you can refresh their resolve to achieve the goal. If you just throw a blank paper in front of them and tell them to write a story, they are less likely to remain interested.

How to direct?

You can direct and lead your team by utilizing four key methods based on the findings of human behavioral studies. These are:

  • Supervision – You need to oversee the work your employees are doing. The method requires watching and monitoring the performance, but also supporting and guiding the employees when things are not going as planned. You could use evaluation reports, examine the quality of work, and be present during certain parts, such as team meetings or when the person is talking to clients. In terms of support, you want to discuss the work and how it’s moving along. You also want to provide materials that can help the employee perform better.
  • Communication – Directing is built around effective communication. As a manager, you need to create an environment that supports different communication methods from passing information to exchanging opinions. The important thing is to ensure these different communication channels are not just between manager and subordinate, but also between employees and different management levels.
  • Motivation – As mentioned above, big part of directing is about inspiring and motivating your employees. You need them to get behind the objectives to ensure there is enthusiasm to achieve the goals. Motivating as a manager includes positive and negative feedback, provision of ideas and the opportunities to develop skills further. Directing might also have an element of monetary or non-monetary incentives, such as the introduction of bonuses.
  • Leadership – Managers must essentially act more like leaders when directing the workforce. This means that you need to occasionally motivate and inspire by setting an example, instead of simply telling the subordinates what they need to do. You want to get hands on with the work and be part of the process of achieving the objectives. Although managers and leaders tend to differ, leadership skills are something a good manager should keep in mind.

The function might seem rather complex and getting it right might be harder than any of the other functions of management. You should watch the video of Jim White, professor emeritus at North Lake College, explaining directing as a function and giving his take on what he thinks are the three key elements of directing: leading, motivating and communicating.


The final function of management is controlling. The function ensures the other four functions are followed correctly and the flow of work is moving the organization towards the objectives it has set itself. As Theo Haimann has put it, controlling is

the process of checking whether or not proper progress is being made towards the objectives and goals and acting if necessary, to correct any deviation“.

In our example of having the objective to increase sales in a particular month, controlling would be the function that measures whether the sales are increasing and helps to correct the situation if the specified target is not getting closer. As a manager, you would examine the processes you set forward and take note whether they are enhancing your sales records. The marketing campaign’s effectiveness would be evaluated and measured. If you find the price reductions being inefficient during the process, you might consider swapping the products on sale, reduce the reduction, or abort the discount campaign altogether as inefficient.

Controlling requires you to examine the objectives in a measurable manner. You essentially need to set standards, which guarantee you know exactly what you want to achieve and what counts as success or failure. But controlling is also a function that due to the set of standards will ensure you have the ability to correct behaviors when they deviate from the standards. In essence, controlling is about quality monitoring. You are looking at the processes and ensuring they achieve the right things for the organization.

Why is controlling essential?

Controlling’s most important function is the risk-reduction ability. Since you are essentially monitoring the performance of the team and comparing it against the objectives you’ve set, you can react to problems more easily. Instead of realizing at the end of the month that you’ve missed your sales target by a huge margin, you can keep on eye on the situation during the process.

If you notice the marketing campaign, for example, is not producing any new customers or leading to increased sales, you can re-tweak it to better attract customers. With the re-tweak, you might be able to change the campaign’s attractiveness and recover the situation. This could end up guaranteeing you meet the sales target at the end of the month.

Even if you miss the target, you might not miss it by as much and you’ve at least had the chance of correcting the situation. With controlling, you are reducing the risk of failure and the impact of failing to meet your objectives. As mentioned, even if you happen to fail, you’re prepared for it and you can start analyzing the reasons behind it immediately.

In the business world, measuring performance can be the difference between the successful and the failing companies. Think about a start-up. If the management doesn’t have a set of standards to measure its performance against, they don’t have any idea what success or failure looks like. Even when they have a set of objectives and they know whether they met them or not, they don’t have anymore information to go by.

Let’s say they want to earn $100,000 in the first three months. Without standards and proper control, after three months all they know is whether they earned it or not. They won’t know the why. Was the success down to the product? Did the marketing help? How much did their social media strategy push sales? Was it all about the saving mechanisms they put in place? In the end, understanding the reasons behind success or failure will help the business perform better.

How to control?

For controlling to be effective, you need to take the four steps of this specific function of management:

  • Establish standards of performance – You first need to establish the standards of performance you are aiming for. These must be set with the organizational objectives in mind. You look at the objectives and the plan you have set, creating a set of measurements that would tell you are on the right path. For example, let’s say you want the manufacturing team to make 10 more shoes every day to boost productivity. Your first measurement would be the team creating 10 shoes, but you could include other factors to the set of standards. You might look to reduce the downtime by ensuring problems are fixed within 30 minutes and add a new person in the chain to fasten the process by 10 minutes.
  • Measure the actual performance – Once you’ve set the standards and you’ve set the new processes in motion, you can start monitoring the actual performance. The monitoring process will depend on your standards and the ease of measurement. Part of the process can be performance reviews, actual quantifiable data and so on. The key is to start collecting the information from the start.
  • Compare the actual performance with the expected standards – As you receive performance data, you can start comparing it with the standards you’ve set. The comparison helps you to identify the problem areas or notice patterns that are actually working more efficiently.
  • Take corrective action – With the data you’ve collected and the information you have about performance, you can take any necessary corrective action. If the recovery team is not repairing the machinery quick enough, you can look deeper into it and find ways to boost the performance. On the other hand, you might notice the team is producing more shoes than you expected, which could help you revise your objectives.


Henri Fayol developed his ideas regarding the functions of management and his theory has largely shaped the current understanding of the core elements any management would have to perform. The functions are key to management in all levels, from the entry positions to higher roles of management.

Furthermore, each five functions – planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling – are linked to each other. In order to use one function, you typically need to follow with another or have established one beforehand. While certain theorists and experts might disagree whether there are three, four, five or six functions, the consensus agrees on the detailed representations of the above skills, processes and structures.

The question is often more about how broadly you want to define each function. If one of the functions is missing, management is operating insufficiently and the organizational efficiency might suffer. A good manager has to be able to keep an eye on all of the five functions, often at the same time, to guarantee productivity and profitability.

The functions of management are crucial to understand if you want to succeed as a manager. Knowing the above will guide you as a manager to focus on the right aspects when doing the job and give you confidence in your ability. It also helps provide more clarity in terms of the skills and characteristics you need to possess to be a good manager.

By studying the above, you have hopefully identified the areas you need to develop and gain more knowledge. While your management style might differ from someone else’s style, the above functions will be necessary in order for you to do a good job as a manager. Since management is a crucial part of any organization, emphasis and proper understanding of the above functions will boost the company’s operational efficiency and therefore, its chances of success.

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