Why do managers do what they do

That managing through people involves the creation of

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that managing 'through people' involves the creation of groups, teams and unit cultures, rather than working with or within existing ones; and that managing 'through linking' involves the choice of networks, rather than the obligation to operate through existing ones. Consequently, the role of 'context' in Mintzberg's model is not only am- biguous - occasionally intruding into the job, but usually receding into the background - but also contentious in that there is little sense of whether, and if so how, this context shapes, rather than merely provides the arena for, what managers do. An adequate explanatory account of the gen- eric features of managerial work must be attent- ive to the constitutive influence of context - how managers' location within different institutional and organizational systems both generates and shapes their work. For, whilst some (but only some) variation in managerial work may be accountable in terms of managers' individual choice, commonahties in managerial work must reflect the way in which managers generally draw upon and reproduce certain structural properties in the task of 'managing'. This explanatory account must also, however, be empirically grounded by engaging with the available body of evidence. In the remainder of the article, a preliminary sketch of such an account is attempted. Towards an explanatory account of the commonalities in managerial work: responsibility, resources and rules One point of departure for any explanatory ac- count of the common features of managerial work is to attempt to identify the generic character of 'managing' - what it is that defines work, or jobs, as 'managerial'. Amidst considerable diversity in definitions of the managerial job, one character- istic persistently recurs: responsibility (Drucker, 1974; Stewart, 1986; Watson, 1994). Managers, particularly, though not exclusively, in capitalist work organizations, are conventionally agents de- signated as 'responsible' for a particular bounded area of work activity and, crucially, 'responsible' for the efforts of those who are engaged in that work - a definition reflected in job titles where 'manager' is always qualified adjectivally by a description of an area of activity (e.g. 'works man- ager' 'marketing manager' and so on). Linked to responsibility is accountability: managers are deemed answerable for what happens in the area of work activity for which they are responsible. However, whilst responsibility and accountability per se are necessary characteristics of managing, the scope and nature of that responsibility and the form of accountability (what the manager is responsible and answerable for) are variable and contingent, as is the degree of delegated power which the manager has to discharge that respon- sibihty. Any account of the generic features of managerial work, therefore, must be concerned with tracing what flows logically from this respon- sibility and accountability per se, rather than their specific forms.
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  • Management, managerial work, Colin Hales

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