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On the Nature of Managerial Tasks and Skills: Their Distinguishing Characteristics and Organization

Richard Whitley

Journal of Management Studies, 1989, vol. 26, issue 3, 209-224

Abstract: Managerial activities have grown in importance as large corporations co‐ordinate and control an increasing number and variety of economic activities. Their distinctive characteristics derive from their constitutive role in establishing, maintaining and changing such organizations as relatively distinct and semiautonomous units of resource combination and use. As a result, managerial tasks and problems are highly interdependent and systemic, relatively unstandardized, they combine both social reproduction and innovation and generate collective, indirect outputs. These characteristics mean that managerial skills differ considerably from other sorts of expertise in their limited standardization across industries, their susceptibility to change, their specificity to situations rather than problems and their diffuse, varied knowledge base. These differences imply management education and research should be more concerned with developing organizational skills and understandings than analytical skills derived from highly abstract and general models.

Date: 1989
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