XVIII. The Control Process

Control is the process of monitoring the organization's activities to ensure that they are working out as planned. The control process measures actual performance against a standard and takes actions to either correct deviations or to modify inadequate standards. There are three steps in this process: measurement, comparison and correction.

A. Measuring

There are four common sources of measurement information. The best method is a combination of them to increase reliability. The sources are personal observation, and statistical, oral or written reports. Personal observation provides a wealth of verbal and non-verbal data that might otherwise be missed, but it is time consuming and subject to personal bias. Oral reports are similar to personal observation but unless recorded are fleeting. Statistical and written reports are reasonably permanent and comprehensive, but they both take time to produce and to read.

The criteria to be measured will significantly effect the process manager's control. There is a very old saying in management: "you get what you inspect." If the wrong criteria are chosen, workers in the process will provide the wrong output in their conscious desire to produce quality work! Some criteria are fairly common, such as cost, scrap, output-per- worker. Other tasks may not have easily measured objective criteria. Managers should attempt to use fair subjective standards in this case because when exercising the control function, any measurement is better than none.

B. Comparison

In this step the standard is compared to the actual performance. Managers must realize that they are working in the real world, and the real world is subject to random variation (not all apples are exactly the same, but they are all apples). The task then becomes to determine the acceptable range of variance from the standard.

We can think of this acceptable variance in terms of the game of darts. If a "darts" manager sets the standard as a bull's eye (center of the board) he or she must realize that not all darts will hit that point even with the best worker. Based on either the manager's judgement or a statistical process, an "outer limit" must be established for acceptable performance. If the "darts" manager is working with skilled and knowledgeable workers, the limit might be set at the inner ring (50% of the diameter). Any darts placed outside the limit are out of control and worthy of managerial attention. On the other hand, if the manager faces a new and inexperienced crew, the standard might be widened to encompass the entire board and only darts that stick in the wall are out of control

C. Types of Control

Controls can be implemented before the activity, during the activity or after the activity is complete. These are called feedforward, concurrent and feedback controls respectively.

D. Feedforward

This type of control attempts to prevent anticipated problems. The classic example is preventive maintenance. When a person changes her oil every 3,000 miles she is using feedforward control. Rather than waiting until the oil is dirty and lost its viscosity and actually damages the engine, she actively controls the amount of damage by changing the oil before it can reach this stage. In general however, this type of control normally requires timely and accurate information that is difficult to develop. Therefore, most managers rely on the next two types of control.

E. Concurrent

This control occurs while the activity is in progress. Direct managerial supervision (or computer control) is the most frequent example of this.

F. Feedback

This is accomplished after the fact.

G. Qualities of an Effective Control System

For a control system to be effective, it must have certain characteristics. It must be accurate, timely, relatively inexpensive, adaptable, understandable to the users, reasonable, be focused on critical activities, emphasize exceptions, use multiple criteria, and move beyond indication of a problem to the correction of one.

H. Dysfunctional Controls

Dysfunctional control results from two primary flaws. Either management focuses too closely on the control figures (thus forgetting that this is only ONE of the four basic functions of a manager,) or the wrong criterion is selected.

When management becomes control-centered, the human aspect of leadership and the goals of the organization can become lost in an attempt to follow the rules or meet the criteria. Customer's complaints regarding government bureaucracies can often be traced to excessively rule-bound, control-centered management. The original goal of the organization (helping citizens) is lost as professional workers follow the rules to the letter.

When incorrect criteria are chosen and tied into the rewards system the organization will get exactly what it asked for, even if it wasn't really what it wanted. When a sales force is paid based on sales calls made, they will make the highest possible number of calls per day, but few sales. Sales take time that could be used to give another sales call; the reward system creates a disincentive for the sales force to sell the product! This is most likely not the outcome desired by the organization.



Copyright Information
Title: The Control Process (Lecture Notes)
Author: John Anderson  (Instructor)
University: National University
Course: MGT 409C- Principles of Management and Organization
Date: June 1, 2002 (Received)

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