What is management?
Most textbook definitions of the art of management (or science, depending on one’s leanings) aren’t particularly edifying. They all somehow seem to miss the essence of what it means to be a manager. Judge for yourself – here are some definitions of management gleaned from online resources:
Directing and controlling a group of one or more people or entities for the purpose of coordinating and harmonizing them towards accomplishing a goal. (Source: Wikipedia)
The process of getting work done through people (Source: UNR College of Business Administration, attributed to the American Management Association).
Additionally, this article provides an annotated compilation of definitions.
My problem with each of the above definitions – including those in the article – is that they emphasise a superior-subordinate relationship between the manager and the managed. Now, the good managers (that I know) go to great lengths to downplay the “I’m the boss” aspect of the relationship. Yet, the definitions – through their use of words like direct, control, supervise, manipulate, get done etc. – continue to propagate a distorted notion of what it really means to be a manager.
To date, the best definition I’ve seen is tucked away in half a line on page 19 of Scott Berkun’s book, The Art of Project Management. Here it is; a simple and succinct definition that captures the essence of what it means to be a manager:
Managers (are hired to) amplify the value of everyone around them. (Source: Scott Berkun, The Art of Project Managment, O’Reilly Media Inc., Sebastopol, 2005 – Page 19)
“That’s it!”, I thought, when I first read it.
What I like about this definition is that it downplays the superior-subordinate aspect of management, which is not that important anyway. Instead it highlights the fact that everyone has something to offer (special skills, talents, whatever), and that a manager’s job is simply to amplify that “something” to best effect. As an aside I should add that, in my opinion, the tired debates on management versus leadership are misplaced, as (good) management encompasses many elements of leadership as well.
I’m interested in your opinion. What do you think – does Scott Berkun’s definition capture the essence of what it means to be a manager? Let me know through your comments.