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Importance of Control Process

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An organizational control process system consists of four basic elements: process, measurement, evaluation, and control. Control process Management means, "A continuous flow of information on company’s projects holds a long range planning on the right track.” It facilitates in taking corrective measures in the future if the performance is not satisfactory. The control process assists organizations in many ways. 

It directs the organization in achieving pre-determined goals by ascertaining the efficiency of various functions. The drawbacks in various areas are also observed for adopting corrective measures.

There is a continuous interest and debate among academics and students on how learning institutions can profit from control process practiced by business organizations. Academics views successful business organizations as learning organizations similar to learning institutes.

Academicians have come to a conclusion that learning institutes can implement some of learning methodologies to create a culture change and the new patterns of thinking for a better future.

1. Importance of Control Process

Organizational control is a systematic approach consisting of assigning, evaluating, and regulating resources for achieving the objectives of the organization. For an effective control, managers should know what performance standards are, and also how to communicate that information with employees. Control is a process through which a manager ensure that performance measures correspond to organization’s plan or in a broad sense as everything that regularize the activity or process of an organization. The following content follows the interpretation by stating managerial control as monitoring performance of a plan then adopting adjustments in the operations or the plan as necessary. 

The five key objectives of controls are as follows:

1. Plans are effective with proper control. Managers need to evaluate progress, offer feedback, and guide their teams if they want to achieve success.

2. Controls ensure that organizational activities are constant. Procedures and policies assure that efforts are incorporated.

3. Control helps in organizations effectively. Organizations need effective control if they want to accomplish their objectives.

4. Controls offer feedback on project development process. Not only they evaluate progress, but also they render feedback to all participants. Feedback affects behavior and is a significant element of control process.  

5. Controls acts as a key tool in decision making. The basic purpose of controls is to assist managers in better decision making. Controls detect the problems and equip them with information that is necessary for decision making. (Gurtner, 2007)

2. The Organizational Control Process

The control process is a systematic process involving carefully and collecting information about a process, system or people in order to make suitable decisions about each. Organizations work with control systems, consisting of four prime steps:

1. Set mandatory standards to measure performance. Within the strategic plan of the organization, managers set goals in specific operational terms that include performance standards for comparing with organizational activity.

2. Measure real value of performance.  Usually organizations draw formal reports on performance measurement that managers consider regularly. These measurements should be connected with the norms established at the first stage of the control process.  For example, if high sales turnover is the target, the organization should possess a means of collecting data and presenting sales data.

3. Comparing performance with the standards. This stage compares the actual activity to performance standards. When managers analyze reports or inspect their plants, they ascertain, whether actual performance satisfy, exceeds or lags behind the standards.  Usually, performance reporting streamline such comparison by positioning the performance standards for the reporting period with the achieved performance in the same period, and this shows the differentiation between the associated standard and the actual amount. 

 4. Initiate corrective steps. When performance differs from standards, managers should define what changes, if those are essential and how to implement them. In productivity and quality-focused conditions, managers and workers have empowerment to assess their work. After the evaluator detects the causes of fluctuation, they can adopt the fourth step of corrective actions.

These steps are essential to be repeated periodically until the organization achieves its goal.( Nevis, 1995)

3. A Control Process Viewpoint: Toward Learning and Continuously Improving System

Can system thinking and control process play a key role for management of organizations, such as universities? We will investigate this topic by paralleling the control process concepts with their counterparts in academic learning. 

Academic Processes

Management of academic affairs in universities displays many similarities to control process in learning organizations.

The fundamental basics and the main academic processes of universities are education and research as shown in Figure 1. Education and research contain their own dynamics and sub processes, and they closely interact with each other. Therefore, one should view at them as a whole system. Often research develops education i.e. the scientific and technical developments influencing professions eventually find the place in a classroom, and the proper education is vital for lasting research.

Universities differ in their education pattern and research missions; thus, they put different accent on various controls of these intervening processes. Nevertheless, sustaining the optimum balance between the outcomes and dynamics of education and scientific research according to mission of the university is one of the key factors of success.

Classification of Process Variables

Next we list the corresponding variables for the process i.e. education and research. The key process outputs are students that university graduates and the new knowledge it generates. These outputs depend upon inputs such as new faculty, quality of incoming students, economic conditions, resources and regulatory bodies such as councils of higher education that may be interacting in accordance with the governing of universities. These variables are mostly outside of direct control; thus they represent as disturbances. Economic crisis can lead to decrease in the number of high quality tuition paying students; amendments in the University entrance exams initiated by educational bodies can affect the incoming of new students where the students get admission through competitive examinations. The faculty can be indirectly affected through talented recruiting, but still uncertainty prevails in their quality, which may negatively influence the academic process and the best way to fight uncertainty is through feedback control.

Learning and Feedback Control

As in any feedback control system it is critical to evaluate performance and product quality correctly. Here, similar issues and challenges collide as in the control process: are there any metrics to judge product quality? How frequently it is possible to take measurements? In a university scenario, it is possible to observe the outputs by implementing different measurements. Typically employability, grades, awards reflect the quality of students. Similarly, patents, awards, impact publications reflect the quality of knowledge produced. Timely measurement i.e. sampling rate is highly crucial for feedback correction and effective learning.

Timely measurements (for example, frequency of digitization) are extremely beneficial for effective for feedback correction and effective learning. For example, university freshman year is extremely significant where students adapt themselves in social and academic environment. As such their development must be monitored. As a part of curriculum, faculty members report the grades on assignments, tests, quizzes, attendance on a continuous basis. These timely measurements applied during the semester knit a close association and supervision and improvement of student performance is possible. 

For the hierarchical organization of the academic management, it is expedient to supplement the regulation layer in the control process (see figure 2) with the colleges shown in figure 1. Colleges act as learning agents in universities. Their main aim is to conserve their outputs (knowledge and students) in terms of both quality and quantity. These colleges gain knowledge from their experiences and implement control actions with the help of faculty. Here, the conventional “control process question” presents a different context: are there any significant control inputs that can be adjusted to influence education and research processes?

Changes in the curriculum, class sizes, establishing new programs, faculty-student ratio, teaching workshops, advising, faculty teaching loads, rewarding faculty and students, research support and increasing resources are some of the possible control inputs that can be controlled at the college level. Colleges function in constrained conditions where available resources restrict these inputs. Colleges derive a solution to these resource limitations by strategic planning and annual budgeting which is a key task of administration. Therefore, choosing the right control input depends on the effect one wants to recognize and its implementation cost.  The similar situation takes place in some of the process control problems where soft or hard constraints restrict output performance in control outputs. (White, 2005)

Is Model Predictive Control feasible or is it a dream

In order to implement the right control action, colleges need to know the impact of control outputs on education and research. As seen in learning organizations, they learn and improve with their continuous learning from the experience since there are no mechanism models for education and research processes. One should possess more qualitative models expressing patterns, trends and order of magnitude relationships learnt from experiences. 

 If historical data are available, cause and effect model can be designed and used in the model of intellectual control environment which can appear useful. (Galbraith, 1999)

For example, close surveillance of past performance grades of students is a useful forecaster of future performance. Such student data and different performance in concerned courses can be useful to foresight, future performance and to assist students in selecting their course accordingly.  Following the tendency in a student progress from the day of enrollment to graduation, setting models from course performances, initiating corrective measures and observing its impacts on a semester can give timely learning data to rectify actions.

In learning institutions, performance monitoring and control is always challenging as it deals with reasoning and human behavior which strongly impact the quality of achievable improvement in performance. Nevertheless by processing a set of cases, certain templates (as in human behavior and performance) and scenarios can be developed; teachers and administrators learn from such experiences, and a purposeful knowledge data base generates for future references. It is essential to possess, update and distribute this valuable knowledge among all stakeholders of learning institution to promote a culture of team learning.

Conclusion

This article is a short attempt to highlight that the control process and system thinking comes close to the recognition of an idealized framework. Academic institutes can be fit into a hierarchical control setting, and many control process concepts offer purposeful insight into the operation management of the academic processes.

Quality controls in education and scientific research have always been one of the most key tasks and essential mission of higher education institutions. Since the demand of quality education is increasing day by day, quality assurance programs have become a prime feature of the quality control. In a retrospective framework, provided by the control process can be meaningful to many universities. They can incorporate their own local models and culture into such a framework to achieve student satisfaction and operate accordingly.

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