What Is Control Management and Why Is It Essential?
One of a manager’s most important functions is to direct and control the actions of employees. Control management is critical to making sure processes and systems are running effectively within your organization.
Tightly controlled management processes don’t happen by accident, and they’re never complete – they are always ongoing. As NASA heartbreakingly realized in 1986 with the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, all processes, major and minor, come together to create the whole.
With the Challenger disaster, a seemingly straightforward decision-making process in O-ring manufacture went awry. As your business grows and day-to-day organization becomes more complex, processes (or a lack of them) can result in corporate catastrophe.
Once your company commits to control management, perfected pieces of the organizational puzzle come together to form one highly effective, optimized whole.
So what steps are needed to master control management?
In this control management guide you will discover,
- What is the controlling function of management?
- The process of control management
- What is the importance of controlling in management?
- Types of control management
- Is control management just a fad?
- Why it’s never too late to enact change
- What investment does control management require?
- Take advantage of proven control techniques
- Advantages and disadvantages of control management
- Frequently asked questions
What is the controlling function of management?
To comprehend the concept in a business context, it is important to distinguish ‘control’ from ‘management’. You can do this by remembering the following:
Manage something = to do something
Controlling something = monitor something
Also referred to as ‘change management,’ control management sets standards, measures performance and takes corrective action.
Control management is dynamic – it responds to change and keeps company goals front and center. It is continuous, action-centered, and end-to-end, with effectiveness and efficiency its primary purpose.
A control management system is working if it:
- Assists in achieving organizational goals.
- Minimizes errors.
- Utilizes and distributes resources effectively.
- Evaluates the accuracy of standards.
- Instils discipline and order.
- Motivates employees and boosts morale.
- Ensures future planning by revising standards.
- Improves overall organizational performance.
The process of control management.
Here is a summary of the five steps of control management:
- Performance standards are established.
- Actual performance is compared with planned performance.
- The difference between the two is measured.
- Causes contributing to the difference are identified.
- Corrective action is taken to eliminate or minimize the difference.
Planned performance may already have been set out by senior management, but this process, shared throughout all levels of the company, can set appropriate goals and expectations for everyone.
What is the importance of controlling in management?
If all your employees always did what was best for the organization, control—and possibly even management altogether—would not be needed. But the reality is, your people are sometimes unable or unwilling to act in your organization's best interests. So you need to implement a set of controls to help steer your people away from undesirable actions and toward the desirable.
Control management is a process as it helps your business to check errors and put the right corrections in place and keeps your project management on track. With control management in place, your company increases its chances of achieving its goals.
A successful control management control system stimulates action by spotting significant variations from the original plan and highlights them so they can be set right.
Types of control management.
- Feedback control – also known as post-action control, this is the most reactive type of control management. Managers gather information about an activity or task and calculate how it fell short or met expected standards. They can then work to enhance future performance through lessons learned.
- Concurrent control – real-time, dynamic engagement in a task while it is occurring. Managers can prevent things getting worse before the activity is completed.
- Feedforward control – future-directed controls that are very proactive and anticipate problems by taking corrective action well in advance.
- Behavioral control – evaluating employees’ output and decision-making and using a reward system to encourage performance. Works best across multiple business departments.
- Financial control – forecasting future performance by comparing profitability, sales, or assets with real budgets.
- Nonfinancial control – using factors other than financial performance to measure success: for example, customer satisfaction or employee loyalty.
Is control management just a fad?
Control management is not a new phenomenon. In the 1920s, Henri Fayol developed a general theory of business administration often called Fayolism. He’s widely acknowledged as a founder of the modern management method, and his principles are still popular today. The military adopted his practices and stand by them even now. Fayol proposed that there were five primary functions of management:
Of this last point, he wrote: ‘Control of an undertaking consists of seeing that everything is being carried out in accordance with the plan which has been adopted, the orders which have been given, and the principles which have been laid down. Its objective is to point out mistakes in order that they may be rectified and prevented from recurring.’
And these control management, or change management, principles are available for your company’s benefit too.
Fayol’s control function is still relevant in the sense that a manager like yourself must receive feedback about a process to make necessary adjustments and analyze the deviations. These days, aspects of management may be carried out using online platforms, but the principles and objectives remain the same. As Fayol identified, the key elements of a control process are as follows:
- A characteristic to be tested (such as products sold, or standards reached).
- Sensors (a way of measuring or testing the characteristic, such as software or visual checking).
- Comparative standards (deviations are expected, but how much should be tolerated?).
- Activator (a response to the comparative information – corrective action is undertaken to regain control).
It’s never too late to enact change.
If you want to introduce control management to your company but feel daunted at the prospect, you’re not alone. Some organizational systems are huge and complex, so how can you be expected to monitor all of them? In short, it’s impossible. But don’t despair. It is sufficient and commonplace for a business to identify and monitor only the key conditions or characteristics of output.
Once you identify a condition or a manageable number of conditions you want to control, you must integrate the communications and data-collecting sensors that gather and pass information from the system to management. This information should be collected and interpreted promptly and accurately, then be benchmarked against predetermined organizational or competitive standards.
After you’ve collected your data and compared it against the initial standards, you’re ready to work on a strategy for implementing changes to your company’s processes. The idea is that as you work on smoothing out each component of your process, all components come together to form a beautifully oiled machine.
What investment does control management require?
What do you need to be aware of when implementing control management? It takes a commitment of time and investment on the part of management.
- A lack of resources can inhibit a company’s ability to manage control. You need to factor in staff training, statistical software, and measurement systems to prevent inaccuracies.
- The time lag in information flow can misdirect management to problems at the wrong time in the sequence. Timely discovery and reporting are paramount.
- There is always the risk of human error, so it is important to have reliable software in place that can make errors obvious. Execution and promotion of control management must come from the top, because despite their best intentions, people do not always understand what is expected of them, nor how they can best perform their jobs — they may lack some requisite ability, training, or information.
Take advantage of proven control techniques.
The control function of management can determine organizational success. All companies serious about their processes need to consider implementing control management. Fayol set the standard for managerial practices being key to predictability and efficiency in organizations, and these standards have stood the test of time. A change management plan can provide the direction for managing your change control process, and documents the associated roles and responsibilities in affecting control management. Ask yourself: is it time for your company to build control into its management systems?
Benchmarking is critical for control management—there is no point setting vague goals such as ‘improve efficiency’ or ‘have fewer meetings’. Formalizing targets means they are visible, can be shared with employees, and shortcomings can be identified, and progress measured. Employee buy-in is critical and avoids resistance from employees who may, at first, resent the appearance of extra controls in their working lives.
Implementing a new software solution is essentially an exercise in control management. Fortunately, there are ample resources available to help guide your organization to a successful adoption.
Of course, choosing the right solution is the first step. At many agile and progressive organizations, Adobe Workfront is a proven leader at delivering results when it comes to improving efficiency, reducing chaos, and helping organizations to run more smoothly and with better focus
With the right control management solution, your organization stands a much better chance of success.
Advantages and disadvantages of control management.
- Undeviating paths to organizational goals.
- Target-based, easily quantifiable.
- Efficient use of resources.
- Employees are better motivated with clear tasks set.
- Order, discipline, and coordination.
- Difficulty in setting qualitative compared with quantitative standards.
- External factors will always come into play, sometimes negating internal controls set up by managers: competition, government policies, technology changes and so on.
- Possible resistance or refusal from employees – or even elevated staff turnover.
- Can be costly to implement, especially in smaller firms.
Frequently asked questions about control management.
How can using control management techniques improve employee motivation?
In control management, employees know in advance what is expected of them, and the standards of performance on which they will be appraised. This helps in motivating and increasing their potential and performance.
Which is the final step in the control process?
The final step in control management is taking corrective action to minimize the divergence between planned output and actual output. Having monitored the gap and found potential causes, you can work to correct the difference and get back on track.
Is control management more important than planning?
Arguably both control management and planning are equally important in business process. While control keeps the project on the tracks, as it were, planning is how you get the project on the tracks to begin with. The two should be treated equally and given the same importance.
Will over-controlling demotivate or irritate staff?
Sharing goals and expected standards with all employees will help avoid this pitfall. Managers will need to exhibit good leadership, communication skills and positive motivation. Efficient employees will be motivated when they see how they are meeting expected standards.