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15.3: Organizational Control

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    Learning Objectives

    1. Know what is meant by organizational control.
    2. Recognize that controls have costs.
    3. Understand the benefits of controls.

    Up to this point you have probably become familiar with the planning, organizing, and leading components of the P-O-L-C framework. This section addresses the controlling component, often taking the form of internal systems and process, to complete your understanding of P-O-L-C. As you know, planning comprises all the activities associated with the formulation of your strategy, including the establishment of near- and long-term goals and objectives. Organizing and leading are the choices made about the way people work together and are motivated to achieve individual and group goals and objectives.

    What Is Organizational Control?

    The fourth facet of P-O-L-C, organizational control, refers to the process by which an organization influences its subunits and members to behave in ways that lead to the attainment of organizational goals and objectives. When properly designed, such controls should lead to better performance because an organization is able to execute its strategy better (Kuratko, et. al., 2001). As shown in the the P-O-L-C framework figure, we typically think of or talk about control in a sequential sense, where controls (systems and processes) are put in place to make sure everything is on track and stays on track. Controls can be as simple as a checklist, such as that used by pilots, flight crews, and some doctors (The Health Care Blog, 2008). Increasingly, however, organizations manage the various levels, types, and forms of control through systems called Balanced Scorecards. We will discuss these in detail later in the chapter.

    Organizational control typically involves four steps: (1) establish standards, (2) measure performance, (3) compare performance to standards, and then (4) take corrective action as needed. Corrective action can include changes made to the performance standards—setting them higher or lower or identifying new or additional standards. Sometimes we think of organizational controls only when they seem to be absent, as in the 2008 meltdown of U.S. financial markets, the crisis in the U.S. auto industry, or the much earlier demise of Enron and MCI/Worldcom due to fraud and inadequate controls. However, as shown in the figure, good controls are relevant to a large spectrum of firms beyond Wall Street and big industry.

    The Need for Control in Not-for-Profit Organizations

    We tend to think about controls only in the for-profit organization context. However, controls are relevant to a broad spectrum of organizations, including governments, schools, and charities. Jack Siegel, author of A Desktop Guide for Nonprofit Directors, Officers, and Advisors: Avoiding Trouble While Doing Good, outlines this top 10 list of financial controls that every charity should put in place:

    Control 1—Require two signatures for checks written on bank and investment accounts. This prevents unapproved withdrawals and payments.

    Control 2—The organization’s bank statements should be reconciled on a monthly basis by someone who does not have signature authority over the accounts. This is a further check against unapproved withdrawals and payments.

    Control 3—Since cash is particularly susceptible to theft, organizations should eliminate the use of cash to the extent possible.

    Control 4—Organizations should only purchase goods from an approved list of vendors. This provides protection from phony invoices submitted by insiders.

    Control 5—Many charities have discovered “ghost employees” on their payrolls. To minimize this risk, organizations should tightly control the payroll list by developing a system of reports between payroll/accounting and the human resources department.

    Control 6—Organizations should require all otherwise reimbursable expenses to be preauthorized. Travel and entertainment expenses should be governed by a clearly articulated written policy that is provided to all employees.

    Control 7—Physical inventories should be taken on a regular and periodic basis and then be reconciled against the inventories carried on the books. Besides the possible detection of theft, this control also provides a basis for an insurance claim in the case of a fire, flood, or other disaster.

    Control 8—Every organization should develop an annual budgeting process. The nonprofit’s employees should prepare the budget, but the board should review and approve it.

    Control 9—Organizations should use a competitive bidding process for purchases above a certain threshold. In reviewing bids, organizations should look for evidence of collusion.

    Control 10—Organizations that regularly received grants with specific requirements should have someone who is thoroughly versed in grant administration.

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