What is the process of monitoring actual performance and taking corrective measures if there are deviations?

The “Controlling Process” is a method that can be used to make sure standards are being met within an organization. It involves the careful collection of information about a system, process, person, or group of people in order to make necessary decisions about each.  The process typically has between 4 and 5 steps see an example below.

Definition: “Controlling” assures that the right things are done in the right manner at the right time. By controlling, a Program Manager checks the progress and compares it to what was planned. If the planned events are not the same, then corrective actions can be taken.

Controlling Process Steps

A five (5) step controlling process example is detailed below.

What is the process of monitoring actual performance and taking corrective measures if there are deviations?
Figure 1: The Control Process [1]
  • Step 1: Establish Clear Standards: Standards are the plans or the targets which have to be achieved in the course of business function. They can also be called the criteria for judging performance. Standards generally are classified into two:
    • Measurable or tangible: Those standards which can be measured and expressed are called measurable standards. They can be in form of cost, output, expenditure, time, profit, etc.
    • Non-measurable or intangible: There are standards that cannot be measured monetarily. For example- performance of a manager, deviation of workers, their attitudes towards a concern. These are called intangible standards.
    • Controlling becomes easy through the establishment of these standards because controlling is exercised on the basis of these standards.
  • Step 2: Monitor and Record Performance: The second major step in controlling is to measure the performance. Finding out deviations becomes easy through measuring the actual performance. Performance levels are sometimes easy to measure and sometimes difficult. Measurement of tangible standards is easy as it can be expressed in units, cost, money terms, etc. Quantitative measurement becomes difficult when the performance of a manager has to be measured. The performance of a manager cannot be measured in quantities. It can be measured only by:
    • The attitude of the workers,
    • Their morale to work,
    • The development in the attitudes regarding the physical environment, and
    • Their communication with the superiors.
  • Step 3: Comparison Results Against Standards: Comparison of actual performance with the planned targets are very important. The deviation can be defined as the gap between actual performance and the planned targets. The manager has to find out two things here- the extent of deviation and cause of deviation. The extent of deviation means that the manager has to find out whether the deviation is positive or negative or whether the actual performance is in conformity with the planned performance. Once the deviation is identified, a manager has to think about various causes which have led to a deviation. The causes can be:
    • Erroneous planning,
    • Co-ordination loosens,
    • Implementation of plans is defective, and
    • Supervision and communication are ineffective, etc.
  • Step 4: Communicate Results: Once the results have been determined, all stakeholder needs to be notified and keep up to date.
  • Step 5: If needed, Take Corrective Action: Once the causes and extent of deviations are known, the manager has to detect those errors and take remedial measures for them. There are two alternatives here:
    • Taking corrective measures for deviations that have occurred; and
    • After taking the corrective measures, if the actual performance is not in conformity with plans, the manager can revise the targets. It is here the controlling process comes to an end. Follow-up is an important step because it is only through taking corrective measures, a manager can exercise control.

AcqLinks and References:

  • [1] Nickels and McHugh, “Understanding Business” McGraw-Hill Irwin 2010

Updated: 6/25/2021

Rank: G1

Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of five steps: (1) set standards, (2) measure performance, (3) compare performance to standards, (4) determine the reasons for deviations and then (5) take corrective action as needed (see Figure 1, below). Corrective action can include changes made to the performance standards—setting them higher or lower or identifying new or additional standards. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.

What is the process of monitoring actual performance and taking corrective measures if there are deviations?
Figure 1. Five-Step Control Process

The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree. The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives. Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization. Controls also come at a cost. It is useful to know that there are trade-offs between having and not having organizational controls. Let’s look at some of the costs and benefits of organizational controls. Financial costs—direct (i.e., paying for an accountant for an audit) and indirect (i.e., people employed by the organization whose primary function is related to control—internal quality control, for instance).

Culture and reputation costs—the intangible costs associated with any form of control. Examples include damaged relationships with employees or tarnished reputation with investors or government.

Responsiveness costs—downtime between a decision and the actions required to implement it due to compliance with controls.

Poorly implemented controls—implementation is botched or the implementation of a new control conflicts with other controls.

Cost and productivity control—ensures that the firm functions effectively and efficiently.

Quality control—contributes to cost control (i.e., fewer defects, less waste), customer satisfaction (i.e., fewer returns), and greater sales (i.e., repeat customers and new customers).

Opportunity recognition—helps managers identify and isolate the source of positive surprises, such as a new growth market. Though opportunities can also be found in internal comparisons of cost control and productivity across units.

Manage uncertainty and complexity—keeps the organization focused on its strategy, and helps managers anticipate and detect negative surprises and respond opportunistically to positive surprises.

Decentralized decision making—allows the organization to be more responsive by moving decision making to those closest to customers and areas of uncertainty.

The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.

The control function can be viewed as a five-step process: (1) Establish standards, (2) Measure performance, (3) Compare actual performance with standards and identify any deviations, (4) Determine the reason for deviations, and (5) Take corrective action, if needed.

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