Control in Management | Characteristics | Prerequisites | Steps in Controlling

Meaning and Definition of Control

Control is intended to ensure and make possible the performance of planned activities and to achieve the predetermined goals and results. It involves monitoring the activity and measuring performance against set standards, correcting deviations when necessary and maintaining the system. It helps the organization to learn from its experience and to improve its capability to cope with the demands of the organizational growth and development. Hence, the exercise of control is the primary responsibility of every manager.

Controlling - Characteristics, Prerequisites, Steps
Image: Controlling – Characteristics, Prerequisites, Steps

Characteristics of Control

The main characteristics of control are given below:

1. Function of Management: Control is one of the functions of management. Controlling is performed by managers at all levels. Managers are responsible for the work assigned to them and they will exercise control over the subordinates for ensuring the attainment of goals.

2. Continuous Function: Control is measurement and correction of performance of activities of subordinates, in order to ensure that enterprise’s objectives and plans devised to attain them, are being properly accomplished. So control function should be exercised regularly.

3. Future Oriented: Control involves measuring the actual performance and on the basis of such measurement, identifying the corrective measures for a future period. Thus, it is future oriented.

4. Action Oriented: Control is action and result oriented. Its main aim is to take corrective action whenever performance is not as per the standards. If such corrective action is not taken immediately, the very purpose of control will be defeated.

5. Measuring the Performance: The control function involves measuring the past performance against pre-established standards, analyzing and correcting deviations as necessary. Actions are taken for correction of deviations through feed back mechanism, for adjusting plans and programmes, for modifying work loads and for re-estimating the required resources.

6. Planning and Control: Planning and control are so closely related to each other that they are often regarded as integral functions. Planning function provides the philosophy and benchmarks within which managerial activity is regulated. The function of control concerns itself with the mission of ensuring that what is planned is in fact achieved effectively and efficiently.

Prerequisites of Control

Following are the basic requirements of control:

1. Planning: Planning and control are like the inseparable twins. Planning is the first function of management. Plan serves as a standard for measuring the performance of individuals and the enterprise as a whole for control purpose. If plans are complete and clear, controls will be effective.

2. Organizational Structure: Control will be effective only when the organizational structure is clear and complete. Control functions through people. In case of deviations from the set standards, corrective actions can be taken only through a person who is actually responsible for such deviation. Unless the organizational responsibility is clear and specific. this can’t be made possible.

3. Adequate Authority: Adequate authority is essential for performing control function. If adequate authority is not delegated to a manager, he cannot take necessary steps to detect deviations and to correct them. When a particular task is assigned to a manager, he decide on various matters to get the job performed effectively and efficiently. Hence, delegation of adequate authority is one of the prerequisites of control system.

4. Supply of Information: Control is a process whereby actual performance is compared with set standards. This is possible only when a manager is supplied with adequate information. Information as to plans, programmes and budget is to be communicated to managers concerned with determination of standards of performance, which in turn to be transmitted to the subordinates who have to meet them through various operations.

As soon as the actual performance is measured, reports are prepared and communicated to the concerned managers for the purpose of evaluation. If there is any deviation in the actual performance, instructions as to corrective action are feedback to the operating system to set right the process in the future. Hence, communication of information at several points is an important prerequisite of the control system.

5. Corrective Action: The very, objective of control function is to take corrective action so that deviations may not happen again. There is no meaning of control unless corrective action is taken to set right the deviations, if any. Hence, corrective action is another prerequisite of the control system.

Steps in Controlling

There are three basic steps in controlling namely,

  1. establishment of standards,
  2. measuring and-comparing the performance, and
  3. correction of deviations

which can be explained with the following figure.

Process of Control in Management
Image: Process of Control in Management

The broken line in the figure indicates the degree of deviation to be measured and corrected by controlling.

1. Establishment of Standards

Standards are norms towards which performance has to be directed and against which the end results are to be compared. Standards are planned paths and results for every organizational activity. They are derived from the objectives and goals of the organization. They serve as a basis for measuring the performance. They may be expressed quantitatively or qualitatively depending on the type of activity to be measured. They must be valid, acceptable, understandable and attainable.

While setting up standards, management should first determine the desired level of performance to achieve the organizational objectives and goals. Thereafter, criteria of performance are established to convert the desired performance levels into specific measurable units. Generally, standards are established for all the key areas such as profitability, productivity, market standing, personnel development, employee attitudes and so on.

2. Measuring and Comparing Performance

Once the standards are established, the second step is measuring the actual performance and comparing the actual performance with standards to find out the deviations, if any.

The progress of work should be recorded at every stage so that it can be compared with the predetermined standards. Accurate reporting of the work done is essential for effective measurement of the performance. Measurements may be in terms of money expended, activities completed, units consumed and customers approached, etc.

The comparison of performance with the standards is made with the object of finding out deviations, if any and find out the reasons for such deviation. The reason may be controllable or uncontrollable. The necessary control reports consisting of deviations and their causes are then prepared and transmitted to executives for their information and remedial action. These reports should be expeditiously prepared and sent to supervisors and executives who are responsible for ensuring matching of planned and actual performance and in a position to make the necessary remedial decisions.

3. Correction of Deviation

Correction of deviation is the final step in the control process. Correction of deviation should be made before deviations damage the system. The reasons of deviations should be investigated and identified and appropriate corrective action should be taken to remedy the deviations. If deviations have occurred because standards are improperly set, standards are to be revised. The corrective actions are generally taken by top management.