Whenever leadership is discussed, emphasis is placed on vision, and rightly so. Vision is essentially a mental model of where an organization is heading in the future. It clarifies direction, sets standards and presents a challenge and opportunity to employees.
However, many organizations that have developed an excellent vision are failing. The cause of the failure is usually a lack of execution. Successful leaders realize that having a well-developed vision statement isn’t enough. Giving clear direction to everyone in the venture must be supported by methods to measure execution of that direction.
Once a compelling vision is formed, communicated, discussed and kept in focus throughout the organization, control must be established. Systems must be put into place that monitor accomplishments (or lack thereof). Without the optimum level of control, leadership fails. I purposefully used the word optimum because my experience has revealed that leaders can exercise too much control. A balance between insufficient control and micromanaging must occur.
Controls are ways to ensure execution and accountability. They’re the means to determine if the vision is being pursued, the mission accomplished, and the values of the organization esteemed and practiced. They also should provoke the establishment and adherence to policies. Controls make it possible to affirm achievers and sanction noncompliance.
The mere establishment of controls communicates priorities. Followers will likely pay attention and work toward those matters they know are being measured. This is especially true if they know those measurements will be used to determine their effectiveness and value to the organization. Example: Conducting random follow-up interviews of crime victims to measure officer courtesy and compassion will focus attention on those attributes.
One of the common errors in establishing controls is to measure the wrong things. The easiest events to measure can be irrelevant. Effort is generally easier to measure than goal achievement. Writing citations, patrolling and making arrests are common activities or efforts measured by police agencies. Although these endeavors involve great effort, they may say little about the desired goal achievement.
For example, officers can write traffic citations for laws easily violated and observed, but not related to the cause of traffic collisions. These enforcement activities are sometimes referred to as cherry picking. Such actions can provoke public hostility and increase dangerous behavior. When looking at efforts, the leader should ask the question, “What is this effort intended to accomplish?” The bottom line: Measure that goal achievement rather than the effort.
Guidelines for Controls
When thinking about controls, start with an organization’s vision and mission statements. Next, look at the details of your three-year strategic plan. Most importantly, the organizations values should be considered. Controls should then be formed to measure accomplishments toward those ideals. They must be:
• Uncomplicated: The purpose of the measurement must be straightforward. The information ought to be easy to interpret and have practical application. Example: Develop a ratio that reveals a simple correlation between an officer’s arrests with those cases deemed worthy to prosecute by the detectives and prosecuting attorney.
• Minimal: Fewer is better. Remember: Controls set priorities and establish values. Therefore, only those that contribute toward the goals, objectives and purpose of the organization should be put in place.
• Practical: They should focus on action. The information should help the leader make decisions, and give feedback and course-correction information to the worker.
• Timely: The information provided by the controls should be available regularly with minimal time delay. This will allow readjustment and appropriate revision of strategy or tactics. Example: Data available only semi-annually won’t give sufficient time to correct deficiencies.
• Relevant: The information provided must relate to the responsibilities of the officer and have some connection with the organization’s vision (e.g., monitoring reported injury traffic collisions on the beat of a specific traffic officer and comparing this data with his actions).
• Fair: Factor(s) measured must be influenced by officers’ actions (or lack of actions).
A powerful way to keep the attention on goal achievement is to establish controls that properly monitor and focus attention on actual accomplishment of those goals.—On Point.