In a traditional management structure–also known as Management by Level– an organization has several layers of management. Think of these layers as forming a pyramid, with top managers occupying the narrow peak at the top, frontline managers the broad base at the bottom, and middle-managers the levels in between. As you move up the pyramid, management positions get more demanding, but they carry more authority and responsibility (along with more power, prestige, and pay). Top managers spend most of their time in planning and decision making, while frontline managers focus on day-to-day operations. For obvious reasons, there are far more people with positions at the base of the pyramid than there are with jobs at the other two levels (as you get to the top, there are only a few positions).
Top managers are responsible for developing the organization’s strategy and being a steward for its vision and mission. They are responsible for the health and performance of the organization and set the objectives, or performance targets, designed to direct all the activities that must be performed if the company is going to fulfill its mission. Top-level executives routinely scan the external environment for opportunities and threats, and they redirect company efforts when needed. They spend a considerable portion of their time planning and making major decisions. They represent the company in important dealings with other businesses and government agencies, and they promote it to the public. Job titles at this level typically include chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), president, and vice presidents.
As the name implies, middle managers are in the “middle” of the management hierarchy. They report to top management and oversee the activities of frontline managers. They’re responsible for developing and implementing activities and allocating the resources needed to achieve objectives set by top management. Common job titles include operations manager, division manager, plant manager, and branch manager.
Frontline managers–also referred to as first-line managers– supervise employees and coordinate their activities to make sure that the work performed throughout the company is consistent with the plans of both top and middle management. They’re less involved in planning than higher-level managers and more involved in day-to-day operations. It’s at this level that most people acquire their first managerial experience. These job titles vary considerably but include such designations as department head, group leader, office manager, foreman, and supervisor.
For many years, this traditional, pyramid-shaped structure served as the ideal organizational hierarchy. However, in recent decades a more contemporary management layout has emerged. In contrast to the traditional, hierarchical relationship among layers of management, in a more contemporary view of management the top managers support and serve other managers and employees. In this structure, the organization ultimately exists to serve its customers and clients. This “reverse-pyramid” setup can be viewed as Management by Empowerment. Accordingly, empowerment is the process of enabling or authorizing an individual to think, behave, take action, and control work and decision making in autonomous ways.
Another management structure – one that often overlaps with the two described above – is Management by Department or Function. In addition to level in the hierarchy, managerial responsibilities also differ with respect to the type of department or function.
Functional managers are responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of an area, such as accounting or marketing. Supervisory or team managers are responsible for coordinating a subgroup of a particular function or a team composed of members from different parts of the organization.
A line manager leads a function that contributes directly to the products or services the organization creates. For example, a line manager (often called a product, or service manager) at Procter & Gamble (P&G) is responsible for the production, marketing, and profitability of the Tide detergent product line. A staff manager, in contrast, leads a function that creates indirect inputs. For example, finance and accounting are critical organizational functions but do not typically provide an input into the final product or service a customer buys, such as a box of Tide detergent. Instead, they serve a supporting role.
A project manager has the responsibility for the planning, execution, and closing of any project. Project managers are often found in construction, architecture, consulting, computer networking, telecommunications, or software development.
A general manager is someone who is responsible for managing a clearly identifiable revenue-producing unit, such as a store, business unit, or product line. General managers typically must make decisions across different functions and have rewards tied to the performance of the entire unit (i.e., store, business unit, product line, etc.). General managers take direction from their top executives. They must first understand the executives’ overall plan for the company. Then they set specific goals for their own departments to fit in with the plan. The general manager of production, for example, might have to increase certain product lines and phase out others. General managers must describe their goals clearly to their support staff. The supervisory managers see that the goals are met.
Management 2020 text remixed from multiple sources under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. View a complete list of original sources.