Having established targets, produced plans, and organised and implemented the work, it is then necessary to ensure that the efforts of your people will result in the targets being met.
The first element of good control is of course to have carried out the other three functions well in the first place for without good standards, plans and organisation managers will have problems in having a reference point from which to control.
The following are different features of control:
1. Establishing Procedures
In some instances one might not need any more procedures than simply setting targets and getting people to give an account of how they have done at a certain time. This gives people great autonomy and flexibility. Where a situation is very fluid this might be best. However it can be very costly for it means people might constantly be "re-inventing the wheel".
Good procedures however lay down ways of doing things in the most efficient manner possible. Because they dictate behaviour, they are therefore a control system. A procedure might be a set of instructions like a cooking recipe or a way to operate a certain paper work system. Procedures have the great advantage of not requiring decisions to be made for everything we do, we simply have to follow the procedure. Method study was discussed earlier, as a way of improving efficiency.
Of course it is important that managers ensure that those involved know the procedures.
In some instances the procedures will be of the policy type laying down broad principles such as safety standards that have to be met in any situation.
Procedures therefore are very useful control tools for directing people's activities along the lines an organisation wants them to go. However, they constantly need to be checked to see if they are still useful for rather than a support they can become chains and get in the way of efficiency.
Just because one has procedures does not ensure that they are followed. This is where the manager comes in for skill is required in checking, observing and correcting.
Although accuracy is very important judgement as to how you handle the human relations involved, is equally necessary. For instance a manager could be too strict in some areas where the spirit of a procedure is more important than strict conformity to the rules, but in other areas things might be different; for example smoking in an office block compared to an oil refinery. Communications and commitment once again play a part, for people are more likely to follow procedures if they understand the purpose behind them and what they have to do.
If they need to be corrected most people respond better to encouragement to get it right rather than threats. In fact threats are inclined to make people cover up their errors.
One of the best ways of ensuring conformity to procedures is if there is a regular checking system in place for one does not like to be "caught". For example, if you know that there is always a speed trap at certain spot on the road and that action will be taken if you are caught then you never drive fast there.
ISO Quality Assurance systems are a systematic way of ensuring quality through using effective procedures.
Procedures should be relevant, understandable, at hand, current and simple. Staff should be trained in the correct use of the procedures.
Flow charts are a useful way of illustrating a procedure.
2. Measuring and Providing Feedback on Performance.
This is closely connected with following procedures for many of the things that can be said about checking performance apply to checking conformity to procedures, policies etc.
Behind this is the need to develop ways of measuring performance. Such measures can include:-
· Financial ones such as; expenditure, costs, relationship to budget
· Output of production
· Use of materials
· Time keeping, sickness, time off
· Speed of work
· Reactions of customers
· Number of complaints
Although measurement is important there are certain questions to consider:-
· Are you measuring the right thing?
· How accurate is your measure?
· Can it be "fixed"?
· Is it skewing performance? - even without feedback people respond to what is being measured. Therefore if you just measure quantity and not quality then the main effort will be on quantity. The problem is that one is inclined to measure what is measurable but these might not be important.
· How costly is it to measure?
· Is the information worth it?
· Are the measures seen to be credible.
The most effective measures are those that are:-
· Respond to people's efforts - that is, if one works better the measures will show improved performance.
Measurement becomes a much more effective controlling tool if there is properly managed feedback. This provides a "control loop".
It is important that measurements of individual performance are relevant to the organization’s objectives. In the end, the performance of each individual, section and department should lead to the organization achieving its objectives. This means also, that sections’ and departments’ objectives should be aligned to achieve the organization’s objectives.
3. Project Control
Once a project is planned (see planning) it is important to implement the plan, and control against it, until the project is completed. This involves following up on the activities in the schedule, and tracking and reporting the progress.
On a project this is performed by the project manager who normally acts as the team leader. However team members might have two managers: the Project Manager and their functional manager. Bechtel the world famous construction management company recognised that this might be a problem and therefore produced a training programme called “Conflict Management in a Matrix Organisation” to ease the potential conflicts that might occur from such situations.
To be effective, the information needs to be: correct, complete, and as close to the event as possible. Poor, incomplete and delayed feedback can cause a drop in performance. It also needs to be recognised that some people are naturally more responsive to feedback than others, these are said to be high in achievement needs.
However, the way feedback is given is very important. In terms of preference of the worker it can be displayed as a pyramid:-
Source of Feedback
Point 1. is the most preferred with point 3. being the least preferred this is partly because often feedback from a manager implies a loss of autonomy and also it often is not neutral but involves criticism. However, if handled correctly this type of feedback can become more effective if the opportunity is taken for coaching.
4. Control through Rewards and Reinforcement
What was said concerning Commitment also applies here, for managers can control the behaviour of people by the way good and poor performance is treated. The aim should be to positively reinforce good work by a variety of means, while poor work should not go unnoticed, although rather than punishing, a problem solving approach should first be tried to encourage the individual concerned to improve his or her performance.
However one should remember that one must be sensitive to situations, for "biased" treatment to one person might result in unfavourable reaction from the rest of the group.
Contribution to Costs
Four control types have been identified for controlling costs in an organization. Basically
managers have to control:-
· The amount of work that takes place
· The cost incurred
· The time taken
· The quality of what is produced
By controlling these, managers contribute to controlling organization costs. This means developing the right attitude of mind so that it is part of people's everyday thinking.
Managers with this attitude will ensure:-
· That they and their people know their objectives
· Efficient systems of work are developed
· They know how their work fits into other units
· They develop ways to recognise what are the really important costs
· They think of quality as zero defects, producing to specification and using the right inputs.
· Quality control is seen as being the responsibility of everybody not just the final check-up.
5. Handling Mistakes Control
Naturally, measuring and checking will occasionally mean that mistakes are found. How to handle these has already been mentioned. However, it is worth dealing with this issue in more detail.
Starting from the assumption that standards of performance are clearly established, that the performance of the person is normally at the correct level and that you have detected a drop off in performance:
Have an interview with the performer in private, set a tone of concern and willingness to "explore" the issue.
Establish that there is "Gap" between Performance and Standard
· Explain your perceptions, give your evidence
· Allow a chance for the worker to prove otherwise.
Explore the Reasons for the Gap
· The reasons might show up a personal problem which should be handled appropriately.
Eliminate the Gap
· Agree on activities to put things right. Follow up to see if the correct action has occurred.
This sequence of events assumes that the manager has to point out the error. However, if good control systems exist to enable workers to monitor their own progress and there is an atmosphere of trust the chances are that workers will approach the manager to discuss the problem. This is a great opportunity for coaching. However, if this "confession" results in criticisms and punishment from the manager then the worker will be defensive from then on.
6. Safety Control
Although safety is a standard of performance like anything else, because it is so important in a manager's list of responsibilities it is worth looking at it as a special case under the heading of control. It also serves as a good example to illustrate many other points already made.
Accidents occur for two reasons: unsafe conditions and unsafe acts by employees.
Managers can have a lot of influence over these.
Managers should be on the constant look out for these and be encouraging the team to do the same and report back.
These unsafe conditions can be listed under the following headings:-
Work Area Hazards
Slipping, tripping, poor lighting, storage, lack of space, stairs, ladders, passages, ventilation, exposed services.
Material Handling Hazards
Weight, sharp objects, slippery, explosive, acid, greasy, poison, fire risk, moving, pinch points, flying pieces, projections, overflow, temperature, static, leaks.
Wrong tools, improper use, damaged tools, in the wrong place.
Shoes, ties, headgear, goggles, badly fitted or lack of safety clothing.
Unsafe Acts By Employees
Even if you eliminate all these potential hazards and provide all the right equipment, peoples' behaviour might result in a serious accident. These acts are usually a result of: complacency, hurry, distractions, and unfamiliarity. Therefore it is important that managers help their workers develop the right attitude towards health and safety. This involves:-
· Communicating safety instructions constantly and being serious about them.
· Ensuring necessary training.
· Being aware of potential distractions including personal problems and taking preventive action.
· Involving the whole group in safety issues.
· Explaining why something is unsafe be it either an object or method of working and why it should be done in an alternative way.
· Reinforcing good practice.
· Taking seriously any accident or near miss, dealing with it as a drop in performance.
· Setting a good example.
7. Dealing With The “Paperwork” ( Hard and Electronic Versions) and Information
A lot of managers dislike paperwork and prefer more direct action. However, paperwork, or the electronic equivalent, is necessary for all parts of the management process. It has been included under the heading of Control because control of paperwork and information is always a concern.
It is important that records are kept of what has happened in order to give feedback both up and down the line. These records should be written in such a way as to be understood by others and should be displayed in ways consistent to the rest of the organisation. Any information should be filed in such a way as to be readily accessible. Ensure all records and information is dated.
Although records are important it is also necessary not to be taken over by data. Therefore, there should be agreement with higher management on exactly what records are necessary, who they should go to and in what format.
The "need to know" concept should be used for sometimes managers get bogged down in “paper” e-mails, reports etc. because they want information on everything people are doing. One must ask if this is necessary, for instance, do you need to know the time everyone arrives or rather do you only need to know those who arrive late or put in extra time? This is known as a "management by exception". In many ways the advent of computer technology as many the problem of “not being able to see the wood from the trees” even worse because managers can be saturated by data. Also, computerisation, Smart Phones etc. while very helpful has also made it easier to micro manage.
Consider how you display information, for it will affect your and other’s decision making. Is it clear, correct and understandable?
Recommended video, “The Paper Chase” (Video Arts).
8. Time Control
This is often closely related to “paperwork” because of the time it takes. Even though often much of our time is scheduled for us we all can use time better and there is a great deal of literature on how to do this. Below are some of the most useful items to remember:-
Distinguish between what is urgent and important, do not procrastinate, try and do the important before they become urgent.
These can get in the way, do not have them.
Often there are unnecessary rules, habits, customs and practices.
Remember this affects people, at sometimes we are more responsive and dynamic than at other times.
Be good at your job, be able to relax while doing it.
Be aware of the many different forms, avoid or handle them.
Be able to see the wood from the trees. Does your so call time saving waste other people's time?
if you are good at managing people you will save a lot of time.
Analyse Time Use
Know where your time is spent.
Make use of the various "time tips" such as:
· Set your priorities
· Plan, have a "things to do list"
· Set deadlines
· Get started
· Have alternative courses of action available
· Consolidate items, effort etc.
· Be effective: do the right job right, optimise, use the best method,
· Avoid unnecessary detail.
· Have routine systems
· Be flexible
· Keep things visible - they get done
· Be brief but polite
· Do not over respond - limit your response to what is needed
· Be aware of the "tyranny of the urgent"
· Practice exception management
· Control interruptions
· Ensure good selection and training
· Be decisive where appropriate
· Be on time
· Have good work habits such as daily log, write the evening before what you intend to do the next day
· Use a planner that balances all your life roles and have a personal mission statement
· Consider how you can assist other managers in using their time
· Know where to find things
· File the pile and then extract from the file the material you need to carry out your activities. Computer scanning can be a great help.