Many scientists, experts, and just common people have been investigating the role of management in our everyday life. Many people play the role of a manager in different situations: at the workplace, at home, at the hospital, or anywhere else. Some people are born to be leaders, but for others, it requires hard and persistent work to become a good specialist. The growth and survival of any business are highly dependent on the competence and skills of its management. Management is in charge of the efficient utilization of limited resources. It is a creative force that transforms the resources of production into output and predetermines the success or failure of an organization. So, is management an art or a science? Does it require a person to possess just some kind of talent or profound knowledge?
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In fact, some authors consider management to be a science because there is a range of well-based principles of management and an organized body of knowledge. Besides, leadership requires a lot of statistical and analytical skills. Moreover, managers of different levels widely use data provided by such sciences as sociology, economics, finance, and even psychology. Other experts believe that management is a kind of art because it requires a lot of practice, skills, and creativity to achieve perfect results. Frankly speaking, the most appropriate answer here is that management is both a science and an art; it is a synthesis of these two notions.
Management: An Art or a Science?
To find the answers to the above questions, the notion of management itself should be defined. Management means directing the actions of other people to achieve objectives in the most efficient manner; it is a process of achieving organizational goals with the help of people and organizational resources. In general, experts state that managers should possess the following skills. First of all, these include specific subject related skills. Then, they should definitely possess interpersonal skills, such as skills related to communicating with others, leading and/or motivating them. Furthermore, managers require conceptual skills that are revealed in the ability to see the whole picture and to recognize important factors that can lead to company’s failure or success. In other words, managers act as decision-makers, leaders, team members, and analysts (Needle 2010). Among major functions of managers, one can single out the following: leading, planning, organizing, coordinating, assessing, controlling, and staffing.
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Management enables efficient use of scarce resources, eliminating wastages, and introducing discipline to a workplace. In business, good knowledge of management is essential for the generation of profits. The productivity of a business is largely dependent on the quality and competence of its managers (Thomas 1993). In fact, managerial knowledge shows characteristics of both a science and an art; they just supplement each other. Management may be regarded as an art due to the following reasons:
· Like other arts, the knowledge of management has practical application. Management is applied to specific situations with the purpose of achieving the best results. In different situations, managers try to solve issues or reach the target with minimum resources and efforts.
· Application of management requires a creative approach and out-of-box thinking. A manager usually uses his/her analytical abilities and managerial knowledge along with creativity in an attempt to discover new ideas or more efficient ways of doing business.
· As a rule, theoretical knowledge may not be adequate or appropriate for solving the arising problems. In this case, a leader should use his/her experience, judgment or intuition. Sometimes a manager should use a little bit of creativity and perhaps pieces of advice from subordinates to restructure the problem and find the solution.
· In due course, a manager, who is constantly working and making managerial decisions, gains experience that becomes his/her personal possession. Thus, managers who have more experience become more efficient, meaning that they develop greater abilities in order to put their theoretical knowledge into practice (Price 2004).
Just as artists need to master their crafts, business managers need to improve their skills in dealing with people and expressing themselves verbally; just as artists need visions and passion to realize them, managers need imagination and audacity to redesign their organizations; and just as great masters communicate their visions, great leaders inspire those who work for them. To complete this process, managers as well as artists require constructive criticism and models to emulate. (Boettinger 1975)
Boettinger (1975) draws a parallel between art and management, comparing artists who create immortal masterpieces and managers who guide and inspire their “followers”. The author concludes that one of the responsibilities of top management should be teaching, guiding, and nurturing the executives. Just like an artist, a manager should have not only the vision he/she wants to share but also the skills or talent to do that. Good artists and, consequently, good managers possess two qualities: well-developed imagination (the ability to produce vision in one’s mind) and competence or technical skills to put the vision into practice. If a leader manages to combine these two qualities, he/she will be able to communicate their visions and find support in the audience.
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Nevertheless, great talent requires hard work and persistence. In the field of art, an amateur without practice, even if he/she possesses all necessary tools, will never use them properly. Every artist may once break his/her instincts through discipline, and improved practical methods by trial and error. To better understand this idea, the following example should be presented: no one will be glad to see an unprepared practitioner operating an airplane or leading a multinational corporation, and the major reason for that is the lack of practice.
All artists use tools and materials, the nature of which they know very well. This knowledge ensures that an artist will do his/her best to produce a masterpiece. The materials of managers are their employees’ talents and their own abilities. Therefore, his/her major responsibility is to organize others’ talents and achieve goals through the use of human efforts. To gain profound knowledge about his/her materials, a manager should thoroughly study their nature and potential. Leaders should not look at their subordinates as if they were a homogeneous mass that can take any form; otherwise this way of thinking will deadlock all their initiatives. Moreover, this type of motivation is quite primitive (Thomas 1993).
In this context, diversity should be mentioned. If executives promote and encourage diverse labour force within their organization, it means that they understand the fact that a team of workers from different backgrounds can be more efficient. Every person has his/her own strong and weak points, and he/she is talented in their own way. An organization can use this to fulfil its objectives.
Diversity can directly affect the company’s prosperity and help build its competitive advantage. Researchers say that, first of all, diverse workforce can improve employees’ productivity and inspire them in their work at all levels. Secondly, executives have a great chance to find out the needs and desires of their customers. It is also important for them to understand that all people regardless their race, as well as political, sexual, and religious views are equal and have different talents, so that each of them can enrich the company’s experience and help achieve organizational success. It is crucial to find mutual understanding and establish fruitful cooperation through active communication with employees and their participation in the decision-making process (Harvey & Allard 2012).
Today, workplace diversity along with employee inclusion appears to be the major managerial tool. Small firms, as well as huge multinational corporations try to use diverse workforce to the fullest. The understanding and encouragement of diversity at a workplace can bring much more benefits, than new recruitment or retention strategies. When people are heard and when their cultural backgrounds are something they are proud of, they can freely use all their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. It is essential for managers not just to manage, but to unite, inspire, and motivate employees, while the successful accomplishment of these tasks is a real art (Leviticus n.d.). Workplace diversity appears to be a significant managerial tool when businesses want to penetrate foreign markets. Employees with different cultural backgrounds can help a company adjust to the entirely new environment (Mayhew n.d.).
It is also an art to combine the strategy of the company with its current human resources management (that is to create strategic human resources management) and to wisely combine the organizational culture with business performance (Farnham 2005). Managers, like artists, should be able to communicate their vision to others, infect them with their enthusiasm and make sure that their vision will be realized through the use of human resources as efficiently as possible (Wright & McMahan 1992).
As a science, management has the following characteristics:
· It has a systematic body of knowledge that consists of principles, concepts, and approaches which are to be applied in real-time situations. This knowledge enables managers to understand the process of management itself and problems which may arise.
· A systematic body of knowledge that management possesses has been developed with the help of universal scientific methods such as observation, analysis, research, and experimentation similarly to other sciences.
· Management principles are systematized and based on the cause-and-effect relationship like in other sciences being universally applicable. It means that they can be used in all kinds of organizations and provide general guidelines for managers in different industries.
One of the major features of a science is that it consists of the exact principles, the validity of which can be easily verified at any time. Every time they are tested, the same results will be displayed. Consequently, future events or outcomes can also be predicted with the help of scientific principles. Only some of management principles can be tested for validity. Though management has some characteristics of science, it is not as exact as other sciences such as mathematics or physics. This is because management deals with people and it is extremely difficult to precisely predict their actions. Management can also be called a flexible science because its principles and theories may produce different outcomes in different situations according to the variables involved.
There is also a new notion in the sphere of management; it is a management science, which is a study of decision making and problem solving processes with strong links to other sciences such as economics, engineering, psychology, and others. It uses analytical methods, scientific-based principles, and strategies to make sound decisions and find optimal solutions to complex problems. Management science widely uses algorithms, formulas, statistics, and mathematical modelling. In fact, the techniques of management science can be applied not only to the business sphere but also to public and medical administration, community groups, and the military. The study of management science can be conducted on three levels. The first level is fundamental, and it uses the theories of optimization, probability and dynamical systems. The second level is called a modelling level, which includes gathering and analysing information, as well as building and implementing models. The third level is an application level, which uses findings of two previous levels to make practical contributions.
Over the past few decades, many experts have perceived management as a science and in this regard, Aaron Buchko (2013) says in his article: “Research findings became the basis for managerial practices—Six Sigma, leadership models, motivation theories, organizational behaviour studies, and the accompanying measures and metrics became the standards that drove managerial behaviour.” Consequently, there appeared a lot of models and theories, which nowadays help organizations measure almost everything and evaluate lots of data with the help of computer-based analytics. Though there are a lot of methods, tools, and techniques, many models, and many managerial data, the results of some organizations have not been so great. There are cases of a great organizational success, but there are many examples when businesses have failed to achieve success, or when managers could not produce the results expected by their companies.
There arises a paradox: there is much knowledge about the practice of management, but there are still many failures among organizations. Aaron Buchko (2013) has made a very important observation:
… knowledge about management is not sufficient, because management is not a scientific discipline; it is a profession. And what is a profession? A profession is “a combination of disciplines, the practice of which is an art.” Therein lies the key—management is based on and grounded in practice. The only reason organizations need management is because there are practical matters that must be addressed. And fortunately … a lot of those practical matters have to be addressed by people … since, by definition, management is “getting things done through people.”
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Having analyzed all the aspects and characteristics of management, one can say that management is both an art and a science. It is an art to make one’s employees work more efficiently than they would do without one’s assistance, and science lies in how to achieve that. Science provides common cases and common examples as for what usually takes place, what usually most employees do or what most successful organizations do. But managers do not work in most organizations and do not manage most people; they work in a specific firm during a specific period of time using their own resources and employees. Science can only offer general clues, but it is unable to solve a specific issue. In management, theoretical knowledge of financial systems, employee motivation, or laws of the market is undoubtedly useful, but it cannot make an employee work overtime in order to create a new concept of the next iPhone or close a deal. For this reason, businesses should draw strength in the art of management that can be defined as the ability to combine and coordinate theoretical knowledge with practical skills in a specific set of conditions to produce desired outcomes.
If an organization wants to be successful, its managers should, first of all, understand the basic concepts of management and disciplines of economics, finance, accounting, marketing, etc., which refers to the scientific field. Secondly, leaders should learn and follow the ideas of such great managers as, for example, Steve Jobs, in terms of how to make sound managerial decisions. Thirdly, they should also analyze the context, in which those great managers have been working, as well as evaluate and understand the decisions they have made, which is a practical part. Only in this way, executives will be able to apply all gathered data to their own circumstances in the relevant organizations and industries. Therefore, management is a synergy of art and a science, so that it cannot be regarded as merely one or another because successful management requires not only excellent theoretical knowledge but also intuition and practical skills.