Management involves four key functions: planning, organizing, coordinating, controlling and staffing. The success of any organization relies on how well these functions are implemented. Managers are key members of each organization tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the operations of the organizations. The success of any organization relies heavily on managers and their prowess. Today, Apple is a force in the market which is attributed to Steve Jobs and the hard work he put towards the success of the company. Microsoft is also an example of how managers are key with Bill Gates having steered the company to great heights. It may seem that management is rewarding and an easy job considering the financial status of managers. However, this is far from the truth, managers have a very delicate role with little room for mistakes. A simple mistake could cost a company millions of dollars.
Managers are faced with tough decisions every day which if they are not careful can overwhelm them and not only lead to the failure of the company but also lead to their own disintegration (Klodiana, Trevor, Amir, 2018). This is why reflection is key for managers. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines reflection as the consideration of an idea. The Cambridge Dictionary defines reflection as serious and careful thought. From these definitions, it is clear that managers need to take a step back and make considerations or give ideas serious thought for them to succeed. Management is very intensive which means that managers often get lost in the day to day running of organizations. Reflection gives them ample time to consider ideas and make sure that they are not too absorbed in their work to lose track of their objectives and who they are (Siebert and Walsh, 2011).
Types of Reflection
Reflection has been studied and categorized into two: reflection in action and reflection on action.
Reflection on Action
Reflection on action is whereby the reflection is done after the event has occurred. The contemplation and consideration of the ideas or subject matter is done after the decision has been made or an event has already occurred. It is a type of post-mortem to enable the manager to examine the event to find out what went according to plan and what deviated causing the objectives not to be met (Munby, 2012). It also enables the manager to gather knowledge by analyzing information that is recalled. Reflection on action enables managers to take time after the pressure of an event or a project and critically examine the decisions they made and the impact they had. This way, they can determine what went wrong and what went right. This serves as a lesson for future projects. In case some objectives were not met, the manager is in a position to determine what went wrong (Comparison Between Reflection-On-Action and Reflection-In-Action, 2017). During the implementation of a project or when an event is ongoing there is immense pressure on those involved and when something goes wrong, people often point fingers at each other and may even lead to loss of jobs. After the dust has settled, an effective manager should take a step back and reflect by recalling events. The manager may have made a decision when he was angry guided by emotions rather than facts or intellect. In order to get a clear picture reflection on action is key. From this, he gains knowledge and is able to deal with issues better in future.
Reflection in Action
Reflection in action is where the manager reflects on what they are doing as the event unfolds (Jones, 2015). It can be expressed as thinking on one's feet which means the event and the considerations are occurring simultaneously. This gives the manager a chance to make changes while the event is ongoing (Reflection and Risk Management, 2018). The manager evaluates the plan to find ways of enhancing it. Reflection in action is especially important when something seems to be going wrong and a manager needs to intervene (Yanow and Tsoukas, 2009). When a project breaks ground, planning is done, money set aside and the right people hired to oversee the project. However, during the implementation of the project, there are a lot of things that occur which were not anticipated. A good example is a construction project which may be delayed by rain. An effective and efficient manager instead of panicking takes a step back and reflects in order to find solutions.
Donald Schon is a scientist who weighed in on the importance of reflection. Most scholars argued on the importance of reflection on action but Schon argued that reflection in action is more important since it gives people the ability to work on their feet and to avoid making mistakes (Clayton, 2016). Schon goes further to show how managers spend many years in school gaining knowledge which in a way is reflection in action. However, when they get to the real world they meet challenges that no book could have prepared them for (Clayton, 2016). This is where reflection in action comes in to avert the challenge. This has an advantage over reflection on action as it allows a manager to impact a current event and also future events and projects. Reflection on action, on the other hand, only allows a manager to impact future projects (Comer, 2016).
In order to show the advantage of reflection in action over reflection on action as argued by Schon, consider the following case. An important customer walks into a manager's office to launch a complaint concerning the delay of delivery of goods to his premises. The manager is not aware that there was a delay and the customer goes on a rant and in the end, he cancels the deal he had with the company. The manager takes it all in and after the client leaves, he calls the supervisor in charge of deliveries and enquires on why the delivery was delayed. The damage is already done and any efforts to mend the relationship with the customer are unsuccessful. This is a case of reflection on action which is done after the event has occurred. The manager may, however, choose to deal with the customer differently. When the customer comes in a bad mood and the manager notices the damage done, the manager may choose to think on his feet and bring in the supervisor to explain to him and the customer what went wrong. He would then promise to make the next five deliveries without any charges in order to make amends. At the end of the day, the customer feels treasured and accepts the apology. This is a case of thinking in action. By reflecting in action, the manager is able to take corrective measures and retain the country. By reflecting on action, the manager has lost the customer and the only benefit is that next time, he may find a way of dealing with the situation differently.
Challenges of Reflection
Reflection can be done in many ways and in most cases in solitary which scholars refer as a subconscious process. This presents the first challenge of reflection in that it occurs without a person being consciously aware of it. This means that our thoughts and considerations when reflecting are not transparent. These thoughts and considerations can therefore not be trusted. Therefore this means that the entire reflection process cannot be trusted as it is a subconscious process whose basis is thoughts and considerations that cannot be trusted (Fowler, 2017). Another challenge faced by reflection is that managers may not understand the reflection process and therefore refrain from it. Some managers do not believe in the power of taking a step back to reflect and think of it as a waste of time. Another challenge is that reflection is time-consuming. Managers have busy schedules with meetings and a lot of work to accomplish and barely get a minute to breathe (Meierdirk, 2012). Since reflection is a process that takes time, this may discourage managers from reflecting.
Reflection on action has one major disadvantage, there is no room for taking corrective measures since it is done after the event has occurred (Buwert, 2012). In the example given in this paper, the manager who made use of reflection on action lost the customer. The question is, why should a manager reflect on something when the damage is already done? This is a mentality that many managers have claiming that there is no need dwelling on the past which they cannot fix. Reflection in action also has its challenges. One challenge is that managers make decisions in seconds and events occur so fast that reflecting in action is at times impossible. A good example is firefighters who are called to put out a fire. While rescue operations are ongoing, the manager is notified that there is a child stuck on the fourth floor. The manager has to make the decision whether to allow one of the firefighters to gain entry to the building to save the child. Time is of the essence and the pressure is immense. The time for reflection is limited and the manager may make the decision guided by emotions. This makes reflection in action questionable whether in fact, it is practical. For such a case it is easier for the manager to reflect on action than in action and in this case, the damage will probably be done (Leggett, 2014). Consider another case of a surgeon who is operating on a patient and something goes terribly wrong. Everything around him is beeping, the nurses are panicking, he is shaking. In such a case reflecting in action is not easy. The challenge is that it needs a lot of experience and calmness for managers to reflect in action and to master the process is not easy.
Importance of Reflection in Future Role as Manager
Effective and efficient managers have to incorporate reflection to be successful. As a future manager, I intend to make use of reflection so as not to lose track of my objectives as well as the objectives of the organization. Most of the time as human beings make the assumption that one's way of thinking is similar to those of others. This often leads managers to make decisions without factoring in the thoughts of others (Miller, 2012). This is one aspect I want to resolve using reflection. By paying attention to input from other employees and reflecting on it, I will be able to make sound decisions that are inclusive of all employees which will help them feel valued and part of the team.
Reflection on action is one culture I look forward to instilling in companies as a manager. After completion of projects or after making major decisions, I intend to spare time to reflect so as to find out what went wrong and how I can deal with the situation in a better way next time. Besides personal reflection on action, I will encourage other employees to reflect and give feedback where necessary. Group reflection is also something I would want to encourage whereby after completion of projects, I will organize for a meeting in a serene environment far from the office where together we will evaluate the major milestones of the project. This will enable us to find out what worked for and against us. This will enable the team to be better prepared for future projects.
Reflection in action is what I value more as it helps managers respond to problems by tweaking and making changes to provide solutions. Since I am a fast thinker and I do not crumble under pressure, I feel that this approach will suit my management style. Reflection in action is the kind of reflection that can save a company millions and avoid problems. I look forward to nurturing this reflection by reading and analyzing situations as events are ongoing to make sure that any potential mines are avoided.
Reflection is the process of thinking seriously and critically about a subject matter. Managers have one of the toughest professions due to the immense pressure placed on their shoulders. For them to be successful man...
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