Recommended reading: Strategic Control and Operational Control
Effective strategic control systems tend to have certain qualities in common. These charactristics/qualities can be stated thus:
Suitable: The control system must be suitable to the needs of an organisation. It must conform to the nature and needs of the job and the area to be controlled. For example, the control system used in production department will be different from that used in sales department.
Simple: The control system should be easy to understand and operate. A complicated control system will cause unnecessary mistakes, confusion and frustration among employees. When the control system is understood properly, employees can interpret the same in a right way and ensure its implementation.
Selective: To be useful, the control system must focus attention on key, strategic and important factors which are critical to performance. Insignificant deviations need not be looked into. By concentrating attention on important aspects, managers can save their time and meet problems head-on in an effective manner.
Sound and economical: The system of control should be economical and easy to maintain. Any system of control has to justify the benefits that it gives in relation to the costs it incurs. To minimize costs, management should try to impose the least amount of control that is necessary to produce the desired results.
Flexible: Competitive, technological and other environmental changes force organizations to change their plans. As a result, control should be necessarily flexible. It must be flexible enough to adjust to adverse changes or to take advantage of new opportunities.
Forward-looking: An effective control system should be forward-looking. It must provide timely information on deviations. Any departure from the standard should be caught as soon as possible. This helps managers to take remedial steps immediately before things go out of gear.
Reasonable: According to Robbins, controls must be reasonable. They must be attainable. If they are too high or unreasonable, they no longer motivate employees. On the other hand, when controls are set at low levels, they do not pose any challenge to employees. They do not stretch their talents. Therefore, control standards should be reasonable-they should challenge and stretch people to reach higher performance without being demotivating
Objective: A control system would be effective only when it is objective and impersonal. It should not be subjective and arbitrary. When standards are set in clear terms, it is easy to evaluate performance. Vague standards are not easily understood and hence, not achieved in a right way. Controls should be accurate and unbiased. If they are unreliable and subjective, people will resent them.
Responsibility for failures: An effective control system must indicate responsibility for failures. Detecting deviations would be meaningless unless one knows where in the organisation they are occurring and who is responsible for them. The control system should also point out what corrective actions are needed to keep actual performance in line with planned performance.
Acceptable: Controls will not work unless people want them to. They should be acceptable to chose to whom they apply, controls will be acceptable when they are (i) quantified, (ii) objective (iii) attainable and (iv) understood by one and all.