Managing the Business Management Process: How To Do It Well
All you need to know about the management process.
Effective business management isn’t easy. It involves putting strategies and structures in place to coordinate and control resources and deliver an outcome. It’s both a science and an art. And, while good business management certainly involves instinct and experience, there are also specific management functions that every company should focus on to maximize its chance of success. In this article, we’ll focus on exactly what business management is, why it’s important, four key elements that provide structure to business management, and how management software can improve its efficiency.
Let’s get started.
What is the Business Management Process?
The most successful business management combines intuition with a more structured approach that requires the understanding and execution of four key elements within the management process. The management process is a model for scoping, planning, executing, and controlling the actions required to deliver business success. It consists of a set of interrelated functions necessary to drive tasks forward to meet the organization’s goals. These functions happen at a company level but also at a department, team, project, and process level.
Responsibility for the process is dependent on the level. At an organizational level, senior management is accountable for the process’s smooth functioning. At a project level, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that their team successfully delivers all the functions.
4 Key Functions of the Management Process
There are four main parts to a robust management process:
Whether you’re planning a marketing campaign, leading an organizational transformation, or optimizing a business process, you should be guided by the wider vision and mission of the company. Without this alignment, you can manage your department, project, or process as efficiently as you want, but you likely won’t realize the business benefit. The planning phase of the management process is all about understanding the context you’re managing within and using that knowledge to choose the best course of action to achieve business goals.
At an organizational level, analysis models, such as SWOT, can be helpful to support this understanding. The SWOT framework enables you to look honestly at your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and determine how these internal capabilities allow you to exploit opportunities and mitigate threats. SWOT can also be applied at departmental and project level and you can get started with your analysis by focusing on the following questions:
- Strengths: What unique strengths does your business have that offer it a competitive advantage?
- Weaknesses: What areas of your business are weaker, and what gaps do you have to fill so your business remains viable and competitive?
- Opportunities: What are the current opportunities available to your business?
- Threats: What are the current threats affecting your business?
Of course, smaller projects aren’t going to need a full-on assessment of the current macroeconomic climate or concern themselves with the challenges of market-entry barriers. But, it might be worth revamping the model as a prompt to consider the environment you’re working in. For example, what do you know about what similar projects have struggled with in the past? How does the organizational culture affect work getting done? What are the skills or resourcing gaps you’ve got in your team that might hinder progress?
This type of analysis can help you look for and reduce potential roadblocks that stop your work from moving forward. It can also help you identify possible opportunities that might arise from decisions you take or ways you approach your work. Whatever size project or process you’re managing, you’re going to need a solid plan. You’ll need to figure out the goal you’re trying to achieve and understand what success looks like.
You’ll also need to know your key stakeholders and their level of interest in and influence over the project, and you’ll need a communication plan for engaging them. In addition, you’ll need to scenario plan for things that might go wrong, identify, monitor, and mitigate risks, and pounce on emergent opportunities like a particularly hungry cat.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on. But, don’t panic. We’ve got a solution to help you keep tabs on all things you’re going to have to juggle.
This key management function is about the organizational design, structures, and policies that help to manage work at a functional level. Of course, this looks different at a project management level, but there are still four basic elements you need to think about organizing:
- People: In a nutshell, you need to consider the best way to organize your people to deliver the plan and move the organization or project closer to its goal. This will include the size of your team, how it’s organized, capacity levels, and what knowledge, skills, and experience employees need to deliver the plan.
- Processes: Organizing involves identifying and grouping activities into functional areas. Processes then need to be established in order to move work forward in the most efficient way possible. At an organizational level, this could be how budgets are managed and financial authority is delegated. At a project level, this could be how change requests are handled, for example.
- Resources: This includes the organization of any infrastructure, capital, knowledge, or materials required to move the business closer to its goals. At both a company and a project level, this might require you to think about how you’ll transport, store, and organize raw materials most efficiently.
- Technology: This is about understanding what technology is needed to help organize work, including what systems, platforms, and tools are required.
The leading element of the management process is about getting the best from your people.
Managers need to direct work and motivate employees to get things done, which might require them to use different management styles and approaches. You also need to match tasks to employee capacity and capability.
Plus, you’ll need to supervise and manage the performance of your employees. This will require you to monitor task completion and outcome and provide appraisals and development plans. As a manager, how effective you are accounts for 70% of the variance in how engaged your employees feel — which can be a lot of pressure.
Setting appropriate tasks that stretch but don’t break your employees, communicating effectively, and offering regular feedback are three essential things to consider if you want to make the leading part of the management process a success. This is especially true when leading in a remote or hybrid work structure. Lack of transparency can lead to micromanagement as managers overcompensate for limited data by monitoring their employees more closely. This increases employee disengagement as they don’t feel they’re trusted.
The right software can make a real difference here by ensuring both employees and managers get the information they need to succeed. More on that later.
The controlling function requires an ability to monitor and report progress to stakeholders. But, it’s more than just a tracking function. It’s critical that information gathered from the controlling process is used to inform effective decision-making and enables managers to take action.
Within the controlling function, there are several essential elements:
- Understanding what ‘good’ looks like: The first part of controlling is about identifying performance expectations and setting standards. At an organizational level, this might be about deciding employee working hours. At a project level, this might be setting your baseline schedule.
- Tracking actual performance: Once you’ve established the expected performance, you then need to track actual performance and compare it to expected.
- Taking corrective action: As noted above, the controlling function comes crashing down if performance monitoring doesn’t lead to action. If there are any deviations from what you expect, you need to take corrective action to bring things back on track. Using our example above, if an employee was consistently late to work, this might involve their line manager reminding them of work hours, discussing any challenges making them late, and explaining consequences for continued tardiness. At a project level, if your costs are spiraling out of control, this is when you avoid burying your head in the sand and, instead, tighten the purse strings.
- Learning from experience: It’s vital to record deviations, their possible causes, and the action taken to correct them. This way, managers don’t end up making the same mistakes or reinventing the wheel. Noting when issues occurred and sharing that information means others can learn from your experience.
Why is an Effective Management Process Important?
There are several reasons why you need an effective management process. Let’s walk through them.
- Maximizing resource use: With a good management process, it’s crystal clear who’s doing what. Good organizational design and effective recruitment ensure the right levels of capability and capacity. In projects, roles and responsibilities are agreed upon at the start, which means there’s no confusion, overlap, or useless effort. Efficient processes mean resource use is maximized, and people can move seamlessly between tasks.
- Strategic alignment of departments: An effective planning process allows your teams to establish shared goals that foster collaboration and coordination between functional areas. Organizational design and business processes can be created that encourage the alignment of departments rather than silos.
- Business objectives aligned to strategy: As well as greater functional alignment, good planning ensures that business objectives are aligned to the overall strategy. Consistent analysis of the business environment keeps the company responsive to changing market trends and customer requirements.
- Business readiness: With effective horizon scanning, scenario planning, and process optimization, your business has the best chance of managing risks and capitalizing on opportunities. This might result in a competitive advantage or improved business continuity.
- Engaged, loyal employees: Effective leadership that clearly directs work, motivates teams, manages performance, and communicates well results in engaged and productive employees. Human capital is a business’s greatest asset, so effective leadership is vital to its success. As an added bonus, engaged employees also lead to happier customers.
- Learning from experience: With an effective management process that builds in time for effective monitoring, reporting, and reflection, businesses can learn from their previous experiences. This means they don’t make the same mistakes and don’t reinvent the wheel, which keeps productivity high.
How Software Improves the Business Management Process
As we said earlier, there are several moving parts to successfully delivering these four essential management functions.
Management software can help you better stay on top of the process through:
Improved Process Efficiency
Good management software increases the visibility you have over the work your team is doing. This visibility helps identify bottlenecks, which means you have an opportunity to address them before they compromise productivity.
This visibility also supports process optimization as cross-functional stakeholders can understand the end-to-end process and make suggestions for its improvement.
Successful Collaboration and Communication
Whichever part of the business management process you’re considering, it’s going to rely heavily on effective collaboration and communication. For example, planning requires input from stakeholders in order to create robust plans developed in the context of the wider business or project environment.
And leading can’t be done well without good communication between leaders and their teams. Businesses can use collaboration tools so that line managers can offer informal feedback quickly and easily to make sure employees stay motivated and engaged.
Effective Task Assignment and Management
Management software solutions make it simple to organize work by quickly and easily assigning tasks. Task completion is made easier by the ability to view, share, and store associated documentation and @tag colleagues for their comments. Plus, managing everything in a single platform means everyone is always working securely and with the most up-to-date version of the different project parts. So, you can tick off the mitigation plan for “risk of confidential documents being left on the train.”
Customizable workflows help you stay organized and put management software to work for you and your team — not the other way around. And, integration with other tools means you keep all your activity and data in one place. This improves control and stops you from pulling your hair out while moving around between a million different tabs.
Effective Resource Management
Management software makes resource management simple.
Job descriptions, recruiting information, and organizational structures charts can be accessed according to set permission levels and easily amended, so it's clear what capabilities are required and who’s responsible for delivering what. At a functional, team, and project level, resource capacity can be monitored to ensure an equal workload across team members. And, automations can be used to free up employees from routine or mundane tasks, further boosting motivation and engagement.
Real-Time Progress Tracking
Management software is incredibly helpful for the controlling function of the management process. The ability to track the progress of work toward business goals is imperative for effective decision-making and action-taking. It’s the only way to spot opportunities and mitigate risks before they become issues.
Look for a software solution that provides real-time reporting and numerous ways to view your data. Built-in analytics functionality offers insight that can help inform your decisions and make sure you take timely action to bring things back on track when required.
A Centralized Workspace
A single work management solution makes organizing your people, processes, and resources simple. You can complete planning, organizing, and controlling within one place, which makes directing work and monitoring performance much easier. And, with everything in one place, it’s an opportunity to preserve organizational learning. So you never make the same mistake twice.
Boost Efficiency in Your Management Process
Ensuring you focus on each of the four management process elements is vital to organizational success. Each element is equally important and impactful. For example, without planning, you risk inefficient resource use. Without controlling, you might miss out on organizational learning.
Management software can be especially helpful in delivering an effective management process. It does this through ensuring successful task management, providing opportunities for sharing and collaboration, and offering reporting functionality so you can check progress toward your business goals. SmartSuite is a work management solution that can do all this and more. By keeping all your work within a single platform, information sharing is seamless, silos are removed, and team collaboration is effortless. Which means you can work smarter, not harder.
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