Recommended reading: Strategic Control and Operational Control
Regardless of the type or levels of control systems an organization needs, control may be depicted as a six-step feedback model:
1. Determine What to Control:
The first step in the control process is determining the major areas to control. Managers usually base their major controls on the organizational mission, goals and objectives developed during the planning process. Managers must make choices because it is expensive and virtually impossible to control every aspect of the organization’s
Set Control Standards: The second step in the control process is establishing standards. A control standard is a target against which subsequent performance will be compared. Standards are the criteria that enable managers to evaluate future, current, or past actions. They are measured in a variety of ways, including physical, quantitative, and qualitative terms. Five aspects of the performance can be managed and controlled: quantity, quality, time cost, and behavior
Standards reflect specific activities or behaviors that are necessary to achieve organizational goals. Goals are translated into performance standards by making them measurable. An organizational goal to increase market share, for example, may be translated into a top-management performance standard to increase market share by 10 percent within a twelve-month period. Helpful measures of strategic performance include: sales (total, and by division, product category, and region), sales growth, net profits, return on sales, assets, equity, and investment cost of sales, cash flow, market share, product quality, valued added, and employees productivity.
Quantification of the objective standard is sometimes difficult. For example, consider the goal of product leadership. An organization compares its product with those of competitors and determines the extent to which it pioneers in the introduction of basis product and product improvements. Such standards may exist even though they are not formally and explicitly stated.
Setting the timing associated with the standards is also a problem for many organizations. It is not unusual for short-term objectives to be met at the expense of long-term objectives. Management must develop standards in all performance areas touched on by established organizational goals. The various forms standards are depend on what is being measured and on the managerial level responsible for taking corrective action.
3. Measure Performance:
Once standards are determined, the next step is measuring performance. The actual performance must be compared to the standards. Many types of measurements taken for control purposes are based on some form of historical standard. These standards can be based on data derived from the PIMS (profit impact of market strategy) program, published information that is publicly available, ratings of product / service quality, innovation rates, and relative market shares standings.
Strategic control standards are based on the practice of competitive benchmarking - the process of measuring a firm’s performance against that of the top performance in its industry. The proliferation of computers tied into networks has made it possible for managers to obtain up-to-minute status reports on a variety of quantitative performance measures. Managers should be careful to observe and measure in accurately before taking corrective action.
Compare Performance to Standards: The comparing step determines the degree of variation between actual performance and standard. If the first two phases have been done well, the third phase of the controlling process – comparing performance with standards – should be straightforward. However, sometimes it is difficult to make the required comparisons (e.g., behavioral standards). Some deviations from the standard may be justified because of changes in environmental conditions, or other reasons.
5. Determine the Reasons for the Deviations: The fifth step of the control process involves finding out: “why performance has deviated from the standards?” Causes of deviation can range from selected achieve organizational objectives. Particularly, the organization needs to ask if the deviations are due to internal shortcomings or external changes beyond the control of the organization. A general checklist such as following can be helpful:
- Are the standards appropriate for the stated objective and strategies?
- Are the objectives and corresponding still appropriate in light of the current environmental situation?
- Are the strategies for achieving the objectives still appropriate in light of the current environmental situation?
- Are the firm’s organizational structure, systems (e.g., information), and resource support adequate for successfully implementing the strategies and therefore achieving the objectives?
- Are the activities being executed appropriate for achieving standard?
6. Take Corrective Action: The final step in the control process is determining the need for corrective action. Managers can choose among three courses of action: (1) they can do nothing (2) they can correct the actual performance (3) they can revise the standard.
When standards are not met, managers must carefully assess the reasons why and take corrective action. Moreover, the need to check standards periodically to ensure that the standards and the associated performance measures are still relevant for the future.
The final phase of controlling process occurs when managers must decide action to take to correct performance when deviations occur. Corrective action depends on the discovery of deviations and the ability to take necessary action. Often the real cause of deviation must be found before corrective action can be taken. Causes of deviations can range from unrealistic objectives to the wrong strategy being selected achieve organizational objectives. Each cause requires a different corrective action. Not all deviations from external environmental threats or opportunities have progressed to the point a particular outcome is likely, corrective action may be necessary.