Guide to Functional-Area Readings

Activity-Based Costing

To support compliance with financial reporting requirements, a company's traditional cost-accounting system is often articulated with its general ledger system. In essence, this linkage is grounded in cost allocation.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is a descriptive phrase for policies and programs designed to correct the effects of past discrimination and increase the representation of historically disadvantaged groups, including women and African Americans. Affirmative action plans exist in the private and public sectors and involve the hiring of job applicants, the selection of contractors for government projects, and the admission of students to undergraduate and graduate educational institutions.

Aggregate Planning

Aggregate planning is the process of developing, analyzing, and maintaining a preliminary, approximate schedule of the overall operations of an organization. The aggregate plan generally contains targeted sales forecasts, production levels, inventory levels, and customer backlogs.

Angels and Venture Capitalists

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that, as of 2003, there were approximately 23.7 million small businesses in the United States. The SBA defines a small business as "an independent business having fewer than 500 employees." Small businesses represent over 99 percent of all employers, and they employ more than half of all private sector employees.

Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeship programs involve on-the-job training coupled with in-class support for students before they directly enter the workforce. Apprenticeships also are called dual-training programs because participants receive training both in the workplace and at school.

The Art and Science of Management

One of the enduring questions in the field of management is whether it is an art or a science. Webster's College Dictionary defines an art as "skill in conducting any human activity" and science as "any skill or technique that reflects a precise application of facts or a principle." Reflected in the differences in these definitions is the use of precision in science, in that there is a particular, prescribed way in which a manager should act.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to computer software that exhibits intelligent behavior. The term "intelligence" is difficult to define, and has been the subject of heated debate by philosophers, educators, and psychologists for ages.

Assessment Centers

An assessment center is a process used to make personnel decisions in which participants engage in a variety of exercises and have their performance evaluated by multiple assessors. The goal of an assessment center is to simulate job tasks so that an applicant can demonstrate skills or characteristics that would be effective on the job.

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory is intended to help a person understand the causes of human behavior, be it their own or someone else's. The basis of attribution theory is that people want to know the reasons for the actions that they and others take; they want to attribute causes to behaviors they see rather than assuming that these behaviors are random.


Autonomy is the degree to which a job provides an employee with the discretion and independence to schedule their work and determine how it is to be done. Higher levels of autonomy on the job have been shown to increase job satisfaction, and in some cases, motivation to perform the job.

Balance Sheets

The balance sheet, also known as the statement of financial position, is a snapshot of a company's financial condition at a single point in time. It presents a summary listing of a company's assets, liabilities, and owners' equity.

Balanced Scorecard

The balanced scorecard is a performance measurement tool developed in 1992 by Harvard Business School professor Robert S. Kaplan and management consultant David P.

Bar Coding and Radio Frequency Identification

A barcode is a series of parallel black bars and white spaces, both of varying widths. Bars and spaces together are called elements.


Benchmarking is the process through which a company measures its products, services, and practices against its toughest competitors, or those companies recognized as leaders in its industry. Benchmarking is one of a manager's best tools for determining whether the company is performing particular functions and activities efficiently, whether its costs are in line with those of competitors, and whether its internal activities and business processes need improvement.

Body Language

People in the workplace can convey a great deal of information without even speaking; this is called nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication can convey just as much as written and verbal communication, and human beings read and react to these nonverbal signals in the workplace.


Brainstorming was developed by Alex F. Osborn in 1939 to enhance the ability of work groups to solve problems creatively.

Break-Even Point

A company's break-even point is the amount of sales or revenues that it must generate in order to equal its expenses. In other words, it is the point at which the company neither makes a profit nor suffers a loss.


Organizations develop specific plans for saving and spending income and these plans, or budgets, are essential for developing spending and saving priorities. Properly preparing a budget also serves as a reference to check how well money is being managed during a period by allowing managers to see actual revenues and expenses compared to budgeted revenues and expenses.