Understanding the work of the city manager

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Griffin, Quincy
Kavanagh, Donncha
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The managerial behaviour approach to understanding managerial work has developed from research over the course of fifty years. The approach represents a marked departure from mainstream (and still prevalent) management approaches that depict management as a set of general composite functions. The managerial behaviour approach is distinctive in its empirical research background, object, focus and methodology. Its objective is to provide the simple answer to the complex question: what do managers do? However, the emphasis in the studies on managerial behaviour represents a limitation in so far as a context for locating and judging that behaviour is largely absent (Hales, 1986). This paper presents the results of initial research into managers operating in a different and largely neglected context - city councils. The research uses Mintzberg’s (1973) concept of behavioural roles as an analytical tool to explain and understand what city managers do. This study assesses whether these roles adequately capture the important features of managerial work in the city council. It is argued that while Mintzberg’s role framework is useful, structured observation alone does not adequately address the complexities of environments and styles of managers or the cognitive processes of managers. However, by integrating this approach with an appreciation of context and cognitive processes and how they can influence or affect managerial behaviour, we develop a more realistic description of what managers actually do and why they do it.
Managerial behaviour , City councils , City managers , Henry Mintzberg , Organization studies
Griffin, Q. and Kavanagh, D. (2003) ‘Understanding the work of the city manager’, 19th EGOS Colloquium Copenhagen, Denmark, 3-5 July.
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© 2003 the authors