Some people have strong reaction the phrase “management control”. The word has a negative connotation to many, e.g., it can sound dominating, coercive and heavy-handed. It seems that “management experts” now prefer use of the term “coordinating” rather than “controlling”.
In the planning process a manager has to carefully define his/her mission, continuing vital work, and the specific measurable results he/she is committed to accomplish.
The control process does not begin after the entire planning process ends, as most managers believe it occurs during the planning phase. As a result they often leave control as an after thought or ignore it all together. All too often, the standards of the control systems are derived from previous years budgets rather than from current objectives of company plans The result is that employees at lower levels are simply given “numbers to make” based on factors of which they have little knowledge and over which they have practically no influence.
When this occurs, the manager can attain the desired results only where certain other people fulfill accountabilities to which they are committed. When these other people do not fulfill their accountabilities for their portions of the job, the manager who is accountable for the total job cannot meet his/hers. Thus, the manager needs a way to ensure that the contributions of all contributors are on schedule and within budget. This is only accomplished through the work of Controlling.
Key Management Functions
One of the most common functions of management is planning. That is to say, planning is setting the direction for something – a system – and then guiding the system to follow the direction. There are many kinds of planning in organizations. Simply put, planning is selecting priorities and results (goals, objectives, etc.) and how those results will be achieved. Planning typically includes identifying goals, objectives, methods, resources needed to carry out methods, responsibilities and dates for completion of tasks.
Controlling is one of the managerial functions like planning, organizing, staffing and directing. It is an important function because it helps to check the errors and to take the corrective action so that deviation from standards are minimized and stated goals of the organization are achieved in desired manner. According to modern day management concepts, control is looked at as foreseeing action whereas the earlier management concept of control was used only when errors were detected.
“Control” involves a comparison with predetermined standards; the standards must have been established before control can be effective. In the absence of “standards,” the “control” is reduced to one person’s opinion vs. another person’s opinion, with all of the argument and hard feelings that such comparisons often generate.
Setting Performance Standards
Performance standards may be set by staff or managers, by managers and staff, or by managers with input from employees whose performance is being measured. The last method is considered the best method because it involves employees many of whom believe that line and staff do not have enough information about the conditions of various jobs to set realistic standards.
Managers must ensure that objectives and standards are measurable and that individuals are held accountable for their accomplishment. The level of difficulty should be challenging but within the capabilities of the employee. A standard set too low is usually accomplished but rarely exceeded, while standards set too high, generally demotivate the employee fail to help the employee to reach the goal. Standards must be expressed in simple terms that relate to the job and are meaningful to all affected employees.
Many inexperienced managers continually seek that one magic number that will tell them how well the company is doing or how their employees are performing. Such a number does not exist as there are too many variables upon which performance is determined.
Managerial control is based on creating a proper plan, and creating the proper plan means having a clear understanding of what it takes to achieve that control. Effective control therefore, depends on the proper execution of key management activities such as planning, estimating, organizing, communicating, measuring, tracking, reporting, and documenting. Proper execution depends upon defining the correct standards of performance and then hold people accountable for performing to those standards.
There is no substitute for proper planning. Without it an organization can not exist for long. Modern management concepts focus heavily on planning but tend to ignore the important management role of control. In today’s politically correct atmosphere, control seems to have become taboo. The “offensive” term has been changed to “coordinate”. That has resulted in poorly managed organizations and lack luster performance.
Today there is a huge cry for accountability, yet with out standards of performance and proper control structures, accountability merely means immeasurable responsibility. To that end, ineffective CEOs will continue to be paid high salaries despite poor performance, and companies will continue to struggle for survival.