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The theories and practices of OB and management are intertwined. Managers rely upon and use their knowledge of OB in managing people. If you do not plan to be a manager, you are still likely to be influenced by the behavior of managers in your workplace.  The most common definition of management has two components, one focuses on what managers do, and the other on how they do it: Management is the process of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling human and other organizational resources towards the achievement of organizational goals. This definition and its conventional application to organizations arose during the industrial revolution and remain dominant today.

Despite calls for change in the way we do management from Gary Hamel and others (see “OB in Action: Moonshots for Management 2.0”), the basic functions of management continue to be planning, organizing, leading and controlling. These four tasks were first identified by Henri Fayol almost a century ago. [i] We look at them briefly and then suggest how conventional and sustainable perspectives might result in different organizational behaviors for each. 


From a conventional perspective, planning focuses on how managers set goals and design strategies to achieve them. Typically the focus is on how managerial plans to improve productivity and profits. A sustainable approach emphasizes how managers work alongside others to set goals and design strategies. Moreover, sustainable managers reach for goals that go beyond profits and productivity, even when such goals are difficult to measure, such as those related to environmental sustainability, human dignity, and happiness. Sustainable OB emphasizes using practical wisdom (prudence), which is exercising foresight, reason, and discretion to achieve what is good for the community.[ii] Because a sustainable approach to planning recognizes that individual and community wellbeing are closely related, members strive to make decisions that reflect the needs of multiple stakeholders (an organization’s members, customers, owners, suppliers, and neighbors).

Organizing From a conventional perspective, organizing is arranging human and other organizational resources in order to achieve planned goals and strategies. Basic organizing issues include concepts such as centralization (how much authority people at different organizational levels have), specialization (dividing large, complex tasks into a series of simpler tasks), and standardization (achieving coordination across organizational members).  Sustainable organizing includes arranging resources but emphasizes a spirit of dignification,

[i] Henri Fayol’s original mention of the functions was in Fayol H. (1916). Administration industrielle et générale, Bulletin de la Société de l’Industrie Minérale, 10, 5-164. Réédité 13 fois chez Dunod. He identified the five functions of management as planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and controlling.  A translation in 1949 by C. Storrs led to its wider dissemination. Coordinating was later dropped by most management scholars in recognition of it being instrumental to the other functions.  Commanding also was revised to be leading.

[ii] Practical wisdom is the opposite of an attitude to life that is small, calculating and “which refuses to see and value anything that fails to promise an immediate utilitarian advantage” (Schumacher, 1973: 249).

The virtue of courage is manifest in managers who work to improve overall happiness, even if this might threaten their own status, because they hope the world can be made a better place. Courageous OB envisions and nurtures a sense of wholeness and integrity and promotes organizational structures that help employees flourish. 


From a conventional perspective, leading uses systems and interpersonal human skills to influence others to achieve organizational goals.  Leadership styles or motivational techniques are valued for contributing to maximizing individual productivity. Sustainable leaders seek to develop workplaces where the emphasis on financial and productivity goals is balanced by an emphasis on sustainability and healthy social relationships. Self-control is necessary for fostering other corporate virtues such as caring, gentleness, and compassion.[i]Self-control, sometimes called temperance, relates to a person’s emotional regulation and ability to overcome impulsive actions and greed. Leaders require self-control to use, but not abuse, their power when leading those around them. From a sustainable perspective, leaders take the role of a servant, focusing on the development of others and working together to meet mutually accepted organizational goals. 

Controlling From a conventional perspective, controlling ensures that organizational members do what they are supposed to be doing, and that their performance meets expectations. Control can be achieved through systems that monitor and encourage particular behaviors.  For sustainable managers, control goes beyond simply ensuring that organizational directives are followed. Rather, it has much to do with overseeing the values, and particularly the sense of justice, that guide OB. Justice—a sense of fairness that ensures everyone connected with an organization gets his or her due—is a basic virtue that guides organizations and holds them together. Social justice, or a special sense of compassion for people ill-served by the status quo, also is a hallmark of some sustainable OB practices.

[i] Solomon (1992).


The study of OB is important because it facilitates a better understanding of who you are and of your life ambitions, it improves the working relationships you will have with co-workers, and it helps you to increase your contribution to an organization and prepare you to serve in a management role.  OB and Management can be considered and practiced from at least two perspectives: Conventional OB and Sustainable OB.

Effectiveness emphasizes outcomes associated with personal benefits, performance, commitment, predictability, and what profits a narrow set of stakeholders in the short-term.

  • Planning is the process of deciding on an organization’s goals and strategies. 
  • Organizing means ensuring that tasks have been assigned and the structure of organizational relationships facilitates the meeting of organizational goals. 
  • Leading means relating with others so that their work efforts help achieve organizational goals. 
  • Controlling means ensuring that the actions of organizational members are consistent with the organization’s goal and values.

Effectiveness balances conventional outcomes while emphasizing community benefits, creativity, and consequences for a broad set of stakeholders into the foreseeable future.

  • Planning happens through participation, practical wisdom, and higher-order goals.
    • Organizing emphasizes courage and experimentation.
    • Leading relies on relational self-control and treating members with dignity.
    • Controlling requires fairness and sensitivity to the marginalized.


 Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.  What outcomes do you think represent effective OB? Why?

2.  Think for a moment about a current or past manager you have worked for. Would you rate that person as a conventional or sustainable manager? What factors did you take into account in choosing your answer? 

3.  The conventional approach to OB has been the dominant approach for well over a century.  Max Weber argued that is it not sustainable in the long term. Do you agree with Weber? Explain.

OB Activities

Application Journal: This is the first in a series of journal entries that can be used for class discussion or compiled as input into a self-reflection paper.

Based on this introduction to OB, what do you want to take away from this journey through the book? Create a series of goals for the course and explain why each is important to you.

Self-Assessment Exercise:This exercise is designed to see how your understanding of effectiveness compares to that of other students. The questions ask about how important you think different forms of well-being are in being an effective leader. Answer each question on the five-point scale provided. Your instructor will have information about how other students have answered these questions.

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