Management Theory According to Experience
The capacity for managerial success is not exclusive. Every
individual has the opportunity to integrate the qualities necessary to move
an organization in a satisfactory direction. This can be achieved by an
assimilation of the four functions of management: organization, planning,
leadership and controlling. To a large part, these are four distinctive
elements of what it is to be the central engine for an effectively
maintained vehicle. This is something that I have come to understand
through my own personal experiences as I have evolved to accept managerial
and leadership challenges. As I have come to understanding management
theories with greater acuity, I have also come to appreciate that
applicability of Kolb’s Model of Learning, which denotes that all
individuals possess and display different preferences in terms of the
receipt of and action upon information. As I have sought to understanding
which of the learning style categories I might fall into, I have also
gained great insight into that which is demanded of the competent leader.
Certainly, I have learned that the organization of any functional
entity must first be built on a firm base of organizational dexterity. It
falls upon a manager to determine that this is a policy which is executed
appropriately. This can be achieved through personal efficiency at
balancing schedule demands, responsibility, inter-dynamic structural
relationships and a sensible distribution of tasks. In smaller
organizations, this may be accomplished by one central manager or
management team which then devises instructions for its staff thereto. In
larger organizations, such responsibilities may be filled from a top-down
approach, with central authority delegating organizational demands to lower
tiers of management. In either instance, Kolb denotes that an organization
will tend to exude the qualities of its leadership. Therefore, where
leadership is prone toward what he describes as concrete experience, for
instance, management will tend to “have the most hands-on approach, with a
strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to ask ‘what
if?’ and ‘why not?’ to support their action-first approach.” (Kolb, 1)
When this is combined with the processing dimension of what Kolb refers to
as an active experimenter, the organization is likely to experience a
management style that is aggressively proactive, with risk-taking
behaviors and innovation being likely. This is especially a prominent
management style in very small organizations, where management is expected
to provide a certain degree of active guidance to day to day operations.
At the root, I have learned from my experience that organizational
development is the process by which an organization comes to identify with
a specific procedural orientation, approach to personnel management,
collective identity and internal culture. This is a process which occurs
both naturally over time and under the guided leadership of an
organization’s key decision-makers. Through these figures, the whole of
the organization can come to reflect its developmental goals. In
particular, human resources have been essential to a strategy of
organization which is effective and which can even improve the flow of the
organization. In a field such as healthcare which is considered here, for
instance, personnel and personnel management must be regarded as valuable
human resources in which are contained a vast wealth of knowledge regarding
the most optimal ways in which to divide responsibilities amongst
organizational members, the most sensible distribution of tasks along a
time-line and what the ideal way might be to complete any number of
functions necessary to the operational effectiveness of the organization.
Therefore, in the process of organizational development, it is
crucial to bring into consideration the input and perspective of
organizational members at every level. This will induce greater knowledge
economy and stimulate motivation through a sense of individual involvement
amongst employees. Additionally, this will allow organizational leadership
a greater latitude for the execution of managerial responsibilities by
unburdening it of some less integral but nonetheless organizational duties.
The application of such principles to my uniquely situated and unusually
small organization will require some careful analysis
My organization is particularly small, with my role as sole
managerial authority of the household for which I was a live-in aid and
primary caregiver to an elderly man defining my responsibilities to said
household’s organizational functionality in total. I was responsible for
maintaining that careful balance of demands through a simple method of
lucid organization. This also defined my approach to planning. It was
often necessary for me to schedule months in advance to ensure that the
elderly gentleman to whom I was responsible received his appropriate
medical attention, prescription fillings, exercise routines and
entertainment. I learned that an organization can only function properly
if its central management offers a defined vision for the organization’s
immediate and long-term future.
Naturally, even as I sought to define a well-planned schedule on
which to facilitate the health of the man with whom I worked and the
functionality of the household, I found that the position subjected me to
constant strategic changes. My plans were never rendered useless but
instead, they became a fluid framework for the definition of my leadership
responsibilities. When the organization was beset by unexpected changes,
sometimes incurred by external factors such as a doctor’s unavailability or
the rare instance of a banking error, it fell upon me to take control of
the plans and adapt them to the new needs as might the active experimenter
described by Kolb.
Sometimes this means drafting a plan with the flexibility to be fused with
necessary modifications. Learning how to plan accordingly also endowed me
with the opportunity to take control of circumstances which may have
otherwise fallen outside the pale of my control.
It was also common that internal circumstances demanded a quality of
leadership in me that was absolutely essential to my ability to fulfill my
important duties as a managerial authority. I refined my own definition of
leadership as I evolved into the role, recognizing nuances such as
flexibility, sensitivity to the needs of an organization’s members and a
well-outlined presence of authority. This also causes us to consider
Kolb’s conception of the abstract conceptualizer as one whose preference
dimension inclines a way of critical thinking that is inherently meant to
content with the situations which are daily in flux in such an organization
as mine. This is to suggest that while there is value in achieving a
confluence of these nuances, by way of the specific needs of the
organization and my own personal managerial style, I learned how to
actualize leadership as the dominant focus in fulfilling my manifold
duties. In addition to planning and adapting to changes, I made an effort
to imbue the organization with a daily spontaneity that would keep us ahead
of the challenges that can be developed by allowing it to fall into a rut.
It is healthy for the elderly to enjoy a normal, functional life and it
became one of my primary goals to see that this was a part of the
organization’s overarching accomplishments. In order to do so, it was
required of me to develop a rational sense of ingenuity with regard to the
manners in which this could be achieved. I took a position of leadership
in determining how we spent our days and how our various mutual goals could
Overall, I learned that the integration of these above mentioned
skills was equally as important as their individual applications, helping
to underscore the value in Kolb’s theory, which inherently merges the
principles of action and theory into leadership development skills. Given
the organization’s perpetually changing needs, as well as the unique daily
challenges of assisting a man in his 80’s through the basic functions of
living, I learned that an equanimity of approach is every bit as crucial as
the refinement of skills. A good manager will learn to weigh these skills
against one another to determine how and when to execute them. Balance is
a key element to managerial success, which I learned as I implemented each
function to its prescribed degree. Effective management is embodied by the
process of honing this balance and applying it to the everyday demands of
I would find in my experience that a successful organization is one
which is molded to meet its goals through internal efficiency. Though
there are possibly infinite circumstances which can effect the day-to-day
and long-term outlook for any organization, it is in the hands of competent
administrative direction that such an organization can poise itself to
drive toward its goals regardless of the outlook. Such administration can
be achieved by a sensible and pragmatically derived balance between the
four functions of management. This is an accomplishment which can be met
by implementing a strategy specifically applicable to the needs of the
organization, with measures of planning, organizing, leading and
controlling meted out to reflect that application.
Of these functions, perhaps leadership is the term most difficult to
discern from the overall roles of a management. But in fact, leadership is
a concept unto itself and a quality which can often mean the difference
between effective management or authoritative impotence. Leadership is an
ability which, either inborn or developed through hard work and ingenuity,
presents the members of the organization with a paragon to forging action
toward rational goals. While it is the responsibility of managerial
personnel to issue directives, instructions and clarifications on goal-
orientation, it is only a leader who can find ways to motivate the members
of his organization. By finding ways to personally and professionally
invest these members into the shared goals of the organization, a manager
can evolve into a credible leader while positively impacting internal
Another quality which differentiates management from leadership is
that the former carries with it implications of top-down authority.
Leadership is instead a process of give-and-take, where one’s effectiveness
may be inclined by his susceptibility to the counsel and talent of others
within the organization. Again, I have found that this has a variety of
effects on the dynamics of interpersonal relations therein, the most
significant being the indication that the input and talents of all members
is valued. Such a virtue can be crucial to establishing an internal
culture of collective goal-orientation. It is also central to ensuring
that a manager is making use of all the resources which he has at his
disposal. Something which separates a manager from a leader is that the
latter finds ways not just to utilize employees but to encourage them to
develop and make use of their unique skills as they relate to the mission
of the organization. Of course, in my very small organization, those who
play key internal roles are usually not everyday members of the
organization, but physicians, therapists, pharmacists, family members and
friends who play a role in my client’s lifestyle. Therefore, many of the
challenges to internal leadership are compounded by the demand to interact
with those whose roles and presence are significantly diverse.
This type of organizing around roles is part and parcel of the
creation of an organization which is sound in both its infrastructure and
personnel. Such a status can be attributed to healthy organizational
culture. This is something which is formulated through an ongoing effort
to sustain and even renew the drive toward staying on mission course. In
my experience, it is incumbent upon the leadership of even the smallest
organization to employ strategies of goal-orientation that are closely
aligned with its needs and capabilities. Multi-directional communication
is a method which can yield such results if accommodated to function within
the structural framework of the organization.
In my personal experience as the manager of a household and the
primary healthcare assistant to the elderly and infirm man who owns this
house, a two-way path of communication has been the most reliable route to
maintaining operational flow. As the manager, I take it upon myself to
both defer to the counsel of either my client or his adult children who,
also serve as functional members of the organization, and to offer my
insight to responsibilities which they must attend to individually. By
integrating what I learn through open dialogue with other members of the
organization, I am always developing a more intimate understanding of the
various intricacies that set my organization apart from others. This helps
me to make decisions, issue directives and dispatch members of the
organization to responsibilities which are most suited to their particular
skills and knowledge.
As this relates to interaction outside the parameters of the
organization, my capacity to represent my client’s needs in medical
contexts, with respect to living demands and in terms even of social
interaction is centered on the externality of my management interests.
Often, I find that in my external organizational demands, I must make use
of all the human resources at my disposal.
This characterizes another important element of maintaining a healthy
organizational culture through the functional delegation of charges. A
good leader will know when to apply his skills to a responsibility and when
to transfer the responsibility to others. Certainly, this is also
something that one learns by experience. Returning to the discussion of
Kolb, which is divided according to strategic individual responsibilities
within an organizational structure, we learn that some individuals are
inherently driven toward concrete action. As one such individual, I have
often been challenged to find ways to utilize the skills of those around
me. Delegation is a crucial route to bringing to the surface the
leadership skills of non-managerial personnel. By authorizing others
within an organization to chair certain responsibilities or initiatives, a
manager can more effectively divest his attention. And by orienting others
toward roles of leadership, one can facilitate the development of natural
group dynamics. Members of the organization will tend to gravitate toward
effective non-managerial leaders and may experience a greater intimacy with
the collective goals.
One thing which a good leader can do make sure that such a culture is
achieved is to continually implement processes of internal review. It is
important to audit an organization in order to keep it on the path toward
the various aspects of its vision. In our organization, the vision is
centered around the health and well-being of my client. Our mission is
therefore composed to most optimally address all the tasks and charges
which must be daily executed to assure success. As the leader of the
organization, I am always attempting to find ways to keep the mission fresh
and the attendance to its clauses consistent. I have found it very helpful
to initiate a review of my scheduled demands at the end of each calendar
week. By taking stock of the ways in which various necessities have been
met over the course of each week, I can adequately evaluate our overall
competence in striving for our goals. It is also a useful way to assess
whether or not current operational structures are properly designed to do
Another suggestion for which I have found meaningful grounds both
through course-work and personal experience is the institution of shared
organizational values. It is the province of leadership to ensure that
there is a generally high inter-organizational morale and such can be
established through a reasonable adherence to a refined set of ethics. The
employment of an ethical system is not simply a supplemental luxury of
effective management. Rather, it is a much needed element of the
organization’s cultural fabric. As such, it is imperative that it be
crafted not with a blind appeal to a generic set of absolute values but
with a lucid applicability to the needs and human makeup of an
In my organization, for example, the concept of ethicality is almost
synonymous with the task of attending to my client’s health. The unique
circumstances which define his condition also define our conception of
value prioritization, with the allocation of healthcare services, the
personal accompaniment to medical establishments and the contingency means
to accomplish these tasks on a spontaneous basis when called for all taking
primacy not just as responsibilities but as part of a moral canon. Our
organization’s culture relies very heavily upon our reflection of this
ethical structure. This structure is maintained by several internal
approaches to control.
As far as one of the more pressing external aspects of orientation is
one of the most significant in modern America is that concerning
globalization. The organization over which I implement managerial duties
is not one whose needs demand global expansion. But recognizing this is
also an important element of managerial savvy. While I could orient my
planning toward establishing broader support networks for my household, my
intimate understanding of the nature of my organization and the goals which
define its plans leads me to conclude that expansion on this scale would be
counter-productive to the internally defined needs of the organization.
Recognizing this is crucial for the key decision-maker of any organization.
Though my service as the top administrator involves a lot of decision
making and spontaneous problem solving, there are also a number of inbuilt
control mechanisms that help my organization reach its operational
potential. My organization is most directly regulated by Clan Control.
The medical concerns of my client dominate the direction of my initiatives,
activities and schedule demands. As a result, I have turned my attention
toward controlling the organization around this factor, allowing medicine
allotment schedules, regular physician visits, the daily condition of my
client and the abundance of additional household responsibilities to mold a
sensible time framework for the ways in which I move us toward our goals.
Though Clan Control is the dominant mechanism in our organization,
there are other mechanisms in place as well. Factors which are also
helpful to keeping the operational capacity of the organization in a state
of normal efficiency are bureaucratic control mechanisms such as the above
mentioned factors relating to internal review, inter-organizational
communication and an overall organizational makeup which limits personnel
variation, maintaining a fundamental stability. The process of internal
review is a useful tool for checking the completion of responsibilities
against modeled expectations of the organization and thus controlling
performance output by all members of an organization. In the scope of my
uniquely situated organization, this is accomplished through close and open
consultation between myself and my client, who in addition to being the
cause for the organization, is also its sole proprietor. This level of
communication brings me constant, ongoing and source consistent input on my
efficiency at meeting short and long-term goals. Such communication is
also necessary for the successful inter-organizational relationship between
myself, my client and his adult children, who also function as permanent
members of the organization. Their close relationship to the goals of the
organization also creates a natural control mechanism that ensures a
collective adherence to a common mission.
As a manager and a leader, I have been well-served in both delegating
tasks and attending to my own responsibilities by emphasizing the
centrality of these ethics in our approach and processes. Due to the
excellence of communication and the personal involvement which
organizational members have come to bear, it has not been too difficult to
effectively communicate this emphasis.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-
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