In 1916, Henri Fayol (Figure 1) formulated one of the first definitions of control as it pertains to management: "Control consists of verifying whether everything occurs in conformity with the plan adopted, the instructions issued, and principles established. It['s] object [is] to point out weaknesses and errors in order to rectify [them] and prevent recurrence."
Management control can be defined as a systematic effort by business management to compare performance to predetermined standards, plans, or objectives in order to determine whether performance is in line with these standards. It is also used to determine, presumably, if any remedial action is required to ensure that human and other corporate resources are being used in the most effective and efficient way possible to achieve corporate objectives.
Control can also be defined as "that function of the system that adjusts operations as needed to achieve the plan, or to maintain variations from system objectives within allowable limits." The control subsystem functions in close harmony with the operating system. The degree to which they interact depends on the nature of the operating system and its objectives. Stability concerns a system's ability to maintain a pattern of output without wide fluctuations. Rapidity of response pertains to the speed with which a system can correct variations and return to expected output.
From these definitions, the close link between planning and controlling can be seen. Planning is a process by which an organization's objectives and the methods to achieve the objectives are established, and controlling is a process which measures and directs the actual performance against the planned goals of the organization. Thus, goals and objectives are often referred to as the siamese twins of management: the managerial function of management and the correction of performance in order to ensure that enterprise objectives and the goals devised to attain them are being accomplished.
Characteristics of Control
- Control is a continuous process.
- Control is a management process.
- Control is embedded in each level of organizational hierarchy.
- Control is forward-looking.
- Control is closely linked with planning.
- Control is a tool for achieving organizational activities.
- Control is an end process.
The Elements of Control
The four basic elements in a control system:
- the characteristic or condition to be controlled
- the sensor
- the comparator
- the activator
These occur in the same sequence and maintain a consistent relationship to each other in every system.
The first element is the characteristic or condition of the operating system that is to be measured. We select a specific characteristic because a correlation exists between it and how the system is performing. The characteristic may be the output of the system during any stage of processing or it may be a condition that is the result of the system. For example, it may be the heat energy produced by the furnace or the temperature in the room that has changed because of the heat generated by the furnace. In an elementary school system, the hours a teacher works or the gain in knowledge demonstrated by the students on a national examination are examples of characteristics that may be selected for measurement, or control.
The second element of control, the sensor, is a means for measuring the characteristic or condition. For example, in a home-heating system, this device would be the thermostat; and in a quality-control system, this measurement might be performed by a visual inspection of the product.
The third element of control, the comparator, determines the need for correction by comparing what is occurring with what has been planned. Some deviation from plan is usual and expected, but when variations are beyond those considered acceptable, corrective action is required. It involves a sort of preventative action to indicate that good control is being achieved.
The fourth element of control, the activator, is the corrective action taken to return the system to expected output. The actual person, device, or method used to direct corrective inputs into the operating system may take a variety of forms. It may be a hydraulic controller positioned by a solenoid or electric motor in response to an electronic error signal, an employee directed to rework the parts that failed to pass quality inspection, or a school principal who decides to buy additional books to provide for an increased number of students. As long as a plan is performed within allowable limits, corrective action is not necessary; however, this seldom occurs in practice.