Managing Control

Elements of Managing Control

The key elements of a control process include a characteristic to be tested, sensors, comparative standards, and implementation.

Learning Objectives

Model an effective managing control procedure that incorporates the key components required for effective control processes

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A significant part of a manager’s job is to control the processes involved in the successful operation of a business. This control process consists of key elements that management must be aware of before designing control systems.
  • Because organizational systems are large and complex, it is virtually impossible to control every aspect of their operation. Controllers can, however, determine the key conditions or characteristics of output and monitor them.
  • After determining a condition(s), managers must integrate the various communications and data collecting sensors that procure and pass information from the system to management.
  • Information should be collected and interpreted in a timely and accurate way by management and then benchmarked against previously stated organizational or competitive standards.
  • Finally, after collecting data and comparing it with desired standards, an implementation strategy for alterations can be integrated into the existing process.
  • While each of the key elements is a standalone component of the process, value is derived from the integration of the moving parts.

Key Terms

  • procure: To acquire or obtain.

A significant part of a manager’s job is to control the processes involved in the successful operation of a business. This control process consists of key elements that management must be aware of before designing control systems. While each control system is unique because it is based on the process being observed, the key elements should be factored in wherever applicable. These include the characteristic or condition being controlled, the sensor, the comparator, and the activator.

The Key Elements of Control

While each of the key elements is a standalone component of the process, value is derived from the integration of the moving parts. Controllers and project managers are tasked with recognizing and assessing each element and the relationships between them. The elements include:

Condition or Characteristic – Because organizational systems are large and complex, it is virtually impossible to control every aspect of their operations with rigid control mechanisms. Controllers can, however, determine the key conditions or characteristics of output and monitor them. For example, if an organizations focuses on quality and durability, then the control factors should be testing the consistency of quality and the overall durability in the outputs of the system.

Sensor – After determining a condition(s), managers must integrate the various communications and data collecting sensors that procure and pass information from the system to management. This can be done using various logistics tools (bar codes, data manipulation software, etc.) to provide the controller a source of accurate and timely information relevant to the overall performance of the process. It is important that the communication is carefully worded, as mis-communication and misinterpretation of date can lead to costly mistakes.

Comparison with Standards – Information should be collected and interpreted in a timely and accurate way by management and then benchmarked against previously stated organizational or competitive standards. At this point, deviations from the expected outcomes and/or desired results can be noted and implementation discussed. If the system is too far outside of controlled standards to have a viable solution, the project may be shut down.

Implementor – Finally, after collecting data and comparing it with desired standards, an implementation strategy for alterations can be integrated into the existing process. This is often referred to as a series of corrective actions that address and test issues with the process in the next control cycle.

As implied above, this process is iterative. As long as there are outputs being produced and inputs being consumed, the organization will conduct productivity assessments in a control function to improve the overall efficiency of the organization. The key components of any control sequence will underline these four elements.

Barriers to Managing Control

Barriers to managing control include lack of resources, inaccurate measurements, improper information flow, and incorrect analyses.

Learning Objectives

Outline the most common barriers encountered by managers working to manage control within an organization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Managing control is essential to making sure that a process or system is running effectively within an organization.
  • A lack of resources can inhibit a company’s ability to manage control. Resources that can improve managing control include trained staff, statistical software, and accurate measurement systems.
  • Inaccurate measurement while managing control can occur for a number of different reasons. It can be avoided by having accurate measurement systems and appropriately trained staff.
  • The time lag in information flow can misdirect management to problems at the wrong time in the sequence.
  • Analyzing data from a measurement to determine how to improve and better manage control of the system can also be a barrier.

Key Terms

  • Scarcity: An inadequate amount of something; shortage.

Managing control is essential to making sure that a process or system is running effectively within an organization. There are sometimes barriers to testing, measuring, communicating, or observing how effectively a system or process is running. These barriers can reduce the efficacy of the organization, not only in the process being controlled but also in the controlling process. Barriers to organizational control can include scarcity of resources, inaccurate measurements of the process, improper information flow, and incorrect analyses.

Resource Scarcity

Managing control typically requires a number of resources. These resources include supervisory staff, skilled specialists, tools to measure the control of the system, and often complex statistical software and other tracking technologies. A lack of any (or all) of these crucial inputs can drastically reduce the ability of the control team to collect and communicate their findings. This under-funding of the control system creates resource scarcity for the process.

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Oscillation and feedback: Output changes over time, creating room for error in the measurement process. Because there is necessarily a delay between measuring data, analyzing the data and identifying a problem, and ultimately implementing a solution, solutions may be implemented after the problem is no longer relevant (as shown in the graph—output is already improving before the solution for the prior dip in output is implemented). Timely discovery and reporting of measurements helps minimize this problem of delay in information flow.

Inaccurate Measurement

Inaccurate measurement while managing control can happen for a number of different reasons, including:

  • Inaccurate measuring devices
  • Misunderstanding of the measurement process by staff
  • Inaccurate or misleading measurement processes
  • Lack of staff training to determine how to measure the control process

These issues can result in inaccurate measurements, which can make the control process more of a danger to the evolution of the process than an asset. All measurement tests need to be tested themselves; an understanding of best practices in taking measurements is critical in project managment.

Information Flow Issues

A particularly complex barrier to offset is information flow. Information is collected at one point in the process and analyzed contextually at another. This time lag in information flow can misdirect management to problems at the wrong time in the sequence. Ensuring timely discovery and reporting of measurements mitigates this risk.

Even with adequate resources to manage control and accurate measurement and information flow, barriers to analyzing data can still appear. These can be introduced by human error or software error. It is useful to think statistically: a good manager will consider a 99% confidence interval that a given process is underperforming as sufficient evidence to take action to improve it, despite the fact that one time out of a hundred the issue will not be significant. Even one failure out of one hundred adds up in an organization with thousands of processes to monitor.

A lack of resources, inaccurate measurements, information flow errors, and incorrect analyses can all result in significant barriers to managing control of a process or system. Managers should be aware of these barriers and do their best to avoid them through training and accuracy.