What is the Difference Between Management & Administration?

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Management and administration are both important functions that support the success of any business or organisation. But what is the difference between management and administration?

In this post we will answer that question and look at just how management differs from administration. But first, its important to note that both management and administration are needed in any organisation in order for it to function successfully.

At a high level we can say that management is concerned with getting things done, whereas administration looks at how these things are done.

While that definition should provide a frame of reference there is a lot more than goes into understanding the difference between administration and management, the unique skill sets each entails and how they impact the success or otherwise of an organisation.

So let’s get started

What is Management

Broadly speaking management is focused on managing resources, in particular people, and how they are utilized by an organisation in order to achieve a common goal or outcome.

Essentially a Manager works in an environment where they need to pool resources together, such as people, plant or equipment, financial resources and industry knowledge into a cohesive unit that has the capability to achieve this goal.

Functioning more as a coordinator Managers have to often juggle the competing priorities of various stakeholders, limited or hard to attain resources, all while taking account of competition and changing market conditions, to achieve a positive outcome.

Beyond this process of management, there is also the human element that brings with it emotions, relationships, desires and fears that all need to be managed. As can often be seen in sporting teams, you can have all the right players on the field, but that still doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome if the mindset isn’t right.

This deficit in a managers ability to coordinate their human capital can manifest itself in a lack of direction, poor planning or control, and a decrease in motivation.

What Is Administration

As we have see management is focused largely getting things done. While there is process involved in the management and coordination of resource this is more often an art rather than a science.

The “science” of business is however more evident in the administration of business. Essentially administration is concerned with the process around which a business operates. So while a Manager may be responsible for hitting a given revenue target, the administration of that goal would focus on how sales opportunities are managed, forecast and eventually closed.

Similarly, a Manager may be responsible for the hiring and firing of people on their team. The administration of that role, especially if the company is of sufficient size, is often handled by an administrative focused person in Human Resources. I.e. there is a policy or procedure that will be followed that instructs them how the company should operate when making these decisions.

As you can see administration is the establishment of procedures, policies, plans, objectives, goals and enforcing not only rules but also regulations. It comes up with an important organizational framework through which the organization management functions. And this is where the relationship between management and administration exists.

In fact, in some smaller organisations you can have a Manager who switches, albeit subconsciously from being a Manager i.e. leading and motivating their team, to an administrator, i.e. developing and then following the policies in place when hiring or firing staff.

To understand the differences between management and administration further we will now look at some of the key differences between the two.

Key Differences Between Management & Administration

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The differences between management and administration can be very broad and hence one needs to pay close attention to details. Below are some of the differences you can expect:

  • Management consists of actions and plans whereby administration entails setting objectives and policies.
  • Management aims at managing not only people but also their work. Whereas Administration focuses on how best the resources of an organization can be utilized.
  • Administration typically has a role in all management decisions, whereas not all administrative decisions require the input of management.
  • Administration is focused on setting and creating policies and procedures. Management however is more likely to deal with the broader functions of an organisation and how tasks are executed.
  • Administrative functions typically are more defined, whereas how managers act and operate in an organisation can differ person to person.
  • The management style of an organisation can also change with the removal or installation of a new Manager/Leader. Administrative policies or procedures however are slower to change and may remain in place for many generations of management.
  • The administrative functions of a business can often be guided or influenced by legislation or law. Whereas how a manager chooses to guide or lead their team is often a function of their experience and the company culture.

These are some of the core differences between management and administration. It is however common to find examples in different roles and industries where the two are more likely to overlap or co-exist.

However by understanding the core differences and when you are expected to manage vs administer policies or procedures can help frame how you act and operate within your organisation.

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About Author

Paul Towers - Founder @ Task Pigeon

Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon. Join me on my journey to build an open & transparent startup from day one. Paul is also the founder of Startup Soda, a newsletter curating the best content from the Australian startup ecosystem.