How does an organization move the needle toward achieving its goals? Who’s in charge of steering employees in the right direction as they pursue those objectives?

Here’s the answer: management

Yes, leaders and supervisors are the ones who not only set the finish line but also support their teams in crossing it. To do so, managers need to fulfill core responsibilities known as the four functions of management. 

Introducing the four functions of management

Think of the four basic functions of management as the four core responsibilities every leader needs to fulfill. 

They were initially identified as five functions by Henri Fayol in the early 1900s. Over the years, Fayol’s functions were combined and reduced to the following four main functions of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. 

No matter which industry you work in, the functions of management are consistent and applicable across all sectors. 

Below, we’ll give some clarity and define four functions of management. But first, it’s important to understand that each function isn’t exclusive. Instead, each one builds upon the function before it —  when they’re all in place,  the most effective management happens. 


Managers first need to develop a detailed action plan. In the planning phase, management should identify the goals and create a reasonable course of action to attain them. There may be multiple ways to achieve the goal, but it’s management’s responsibility to determine the best course of action.

Drafting a successful plan includes aligning the goal with the organizational vision, considering factors that may impact the project internally and externally, and establishing a realistic timeline while being mindful of resource and budgetary constraints

Three different types of planning in management include:

  • Strategic: A long-term, high-level type of foundational planning that emphasizes the mission, values, and vision of the organization. Upper management drafts its strategic plans, and all managers should refer back to the strategic plans to guide their decisions.
  • Tactical: A short-term (one year or less), objective-focused type of planning, often carried out by middle management.
  • Operational: A plan that describes the daily roadmap of the activities within the company. Low-level managers and supervisors devise operational strategies in most cases. 


The organizing function consists of taking the previously created plan and putting it into action. Key activities in this function include:

  • Identifying all of the necessary steps of the project
  • Determining who will complete the actions and deploying those resources to work
  • Establishing levels of authority and responsibility for every individual involved

Organizing facilitates a clear development of the organizational structure for executing the plan, but it also encourages collaboration among team members spread amongst various teams and departments. When the Project Management Institute (PMI) cites poor communication as one of the leading causes of project failure, it’s evident that ensuring effective collaboration amongst team members plays an influential role in driving a project’s success


With the first two functions of management underway, managers should then shift their attention to the people. 

The leading stage consists of motivating and influencing employees to do the work and meet performance standards. Keep in mind that effective leadership extends beyond delegating and directing employees what to do. 

Examples of effective leadership skills that managers can focus on include frequent and clear communication, expressing empathy, being an active listener, maintaining transparency, and empowering the team to perform to the best of their ability. Utilizing interpersonal skills and different leadership styles for different situations is crucial for managers to tap into while leading their employees. 


The controlling function consists of monitoring performance and progress through project execution and making adjustments as needed. Managers should ensure that employees meet deadlines while simultaneously balancing synchronicity amongst the project’s resources and the overall budget. Managers may need to take corrective actions and be proactive in their approach to ensure that team members meet their assigned deadlines. 

Two key areas where managers may need to make adjustments include staffing and budget. For example, let’s say an assigned leader working on a project leaves the company. The manager will need to identify a replacement as soon as possible, train them efficiently, and, hopefully, keep the project running smoothly. 

From a budget perspective, managers should monitor spend closely. Suppose a project starts to run over budget — in that case, the manager should identify what’s causing the overspend. If that expense is justified, they should proactively ask for additional funding or curb spending to be more mindful of the budget in other areas.

Tips for applying the four functions of management

Applying the four functions of management may seem challenging at first, but with the right resources and knowledge, managers can carry out all duties successfully.

Feeling intimidated? Don’t be. Here are a few quick tips for getting started:

  • Set yourself up for success at the start and document your plan using a project management platform like Wrike. 
  • Identify how your team may work best together during the organizing stage, such as through an Agile work environment.
  • Implement processes for recognizing employees for a job well done at the start of the project, and ensure you acknowledge and celebrate them accordingly.

Keep in mind that leadership is a learning process — whether you’re brand new or well-established. As you manage a team or project, you’ll uncover different areas where you can improve and grow.

Become a successful manager using the four functions of management 

Management isn’t an easy gig, and there isn’t a tried-and-true approach that works for everybody. However, every manager fulfills the same core responsibilities, known as the four functions of management.

When a manager checks the box of each of those major functions, they’re well-equipped to lead projects, teams, departments, or even entire companies to their objectives. 

Want to boost your management abilities and keep your team and project on track?  Sign up for a free trial of Wrike and start planning today.

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