The Collins New Guild Dictionary defines control as “to have under command; to regulate; to check; to restrain; to direct”. A lack of control implies chaos, confusion and anarchy, a state under which no business can function. Without control an organisation will, sooner or later, fail.
While we may appreciate the benefits of control what does it mean to us, and how can we benefit from it? Perhaps it is best to begin by examining what requires controlling in a modern organisation.
Areas requiring control:
People, or rather more specifically staff, require managing. In the working environment, left alone and without direction, an individual may become sidetracked from their appointed duty, may mis-prioritise or wrongly allocate work, may make errors and in extreme cases may stop working altogether. Extend this to a team, department or office full of individuals and we can imagine the resulting bedlam.
Of course this image is in no way typical of the modern working environment but there are increasing difficulties in maintaining or improving the level of control.
Problems arise when a team is split geographically (even by a few floors in a building), when a variety of skills or differing levels of knowledge exist, or when there is a delay in work being available.
In some cases problems can arise, particularly in larger organisations when managing a variety of different sections or departments, concerning the benchmarks that performance is measured against. How can you manage or direct an organisation when each section is measured using separate criteria and standards? How can performance awards or efficiency comparisons be made if you are effectively comparing oranges to apples?
The concept of systems takes into account physical systems, such as computers, machinery and equipment but also process systems, or the way an organisation does a task.
Often a system, physical or otherwise will be put into place because on paper it appears to be the right decision at the time. But how do we ensure that is the case? How do we control what we have, monitor its performance as necessary, and identify whether, in some months (or years) time, we still have the best system for the job? How do we ensure that the systems that have been put in place are still working as intended?
Surprisingly, work load is a common ‘black box’ in modern organisations. Work comes into the ‘box’ is processed and comes out again but exactly where in the box it is at any given time may not be immediately obvious.
We may know how much work, units, documents or products we process in a given month or year but do we know how much work is with any one department or individual at any one time? Are we able to swiftly and accurately identify where any bottle necks are, or even intercept them before they develop? If work load increases can we easily and simply divert it to other resources and share the load?
These are the sort of control factors a modern organisation needs to strive for and they are factors that are achievable.
Often a company is reliant on other parties, external to themselves, for their continued success. This could be clients and customers or suppliers and consultants.
How can the service levels required by a customer be met without monitoring and controls in place? How can you direct a supplier efficiently without knowledge of past and present requirements, or even details of what their present position is?
Regardless of the party involved an organisation needs to be able to monitor their status and activity. Understanding what the Other Party is doing and what they require grants the organisation the ability to exert control, however subtle, upon that party. It allows the organisation a certain position of strength when dealing with other parties, whoever they might be.
At the end of the day all of the considerations listed above relate, directly or indirectly, to money. In a competitive modern environment an organisation must be cost effective. The flow of money must be controlled.
There is no point investing money in training staff if they are spending their time on mundane tasks or do not have sufficient work to do. Equally money invested on an underused system is wasted. If a company or organisation cannot efficiently control their key elements they will lose money, possibly without even being aware of the fact.
So, how does an organisation gain control, or increase the level of control they have? Let us examine it from the dictionary definition we began with.
“To adjust by rule”; there must be rules laid down by which the elements above are controlled. These might be hard and fast performance benchmarks or more general guidance notes. Regardless of their nature control cannot be enforced if there is no standard or expectation to measure against.
“To verify”; there must be a means of measurement. There is no point in an organisation setting guidelines, rules or standards if it has no means by which to check performance against those standards.
“To hold back”; having laid down what should be done, and measured what is actually done against that level of achievement, an organisation may use that information to curb any excesses and prevent losses. The negative aspects of a process can be spotted, the weak links identified and either modified, improved or removed.
“To aim at, to guide”; the control measures mentioned above will not only highlight failures in performance but they will also draw attention to the positive aspects. Successful areas of the organisation, productive staff and suitable suppliers can all be identified and rewarded. Armed with the knowledge of where success has been achieved the organisation can go on to learn how it has been obtained and apply those lessons elsewhere, making improvements and thereby increasing quality and reducing costs.
The FLOvate solution
LEAP, FLOvate Solutions’ Business Process Management Workflow solution, is designed to provide this sort of increased level of control. With its real time view of work a manager is empowered with the information needed to manage people and systems effectively.
Workflow tools allow for processes and policies to be set up in, and applied to, the working environment, enforcing the standards laid out by the organisation.
The Task and Process management consoles provide simple graphic tools showing current and historic performance of individuals, teams and departments (Task Management) and the spread of data captured on given types of file, filtered or broken down as specified by the user (Process Management).
All of which is controlled and maintained by the organisation giving you control over the software application and, through that, control over your business.