Planning and review in the process of composite decision

There are two administrative techniques that are of key importance in the process of composite decision and in bringing to bear on a single decision a multiplicity of influences. Reference has already been made to them from time to time, but they deserve more systematic discussion as a part of the over-all decisional structure of the organization. The first of these is planning—a technique whereby the skills of a variety of specialists can be brought to bear on a problem before the formal stage of decision-making is reached. The second is review—a technique whereby the individual can be held accountable for the “internal” as well as the “external” premises that determine his decision.

1. The Planning Process

Plans and schedules are perhaps not strictly distinguishable from commands, since they usually derive their authority from an order. None the less, they are of special interest as devices for influencing decisions because of the immense amount of detail which it is possible to include in them, and because of the broad participation that can be secured, when desirable, in their formulation. Let us consider the last point first. An example is given by Sir Oswyn Murray:

There is very little that is haphazard or disconnected about the array of Admiralty Departments. The noteworthy thing about them is not theit number or variety, so much as their close inter-connection and the

illustrate this by describing briefly the procedure followed in the design and production of a new battleship, which always seems to me to be the very romance of cooperation.

We start with the First Sea Lord and his Assistant Chief of Naval Staff laying down in general terms the features that they desire to see embodied in the new design—the speed, the radius of action, the offensive qualities, the armour protection. Thereupon the Director of Naval Construction, acting under and in consultation with the Controller, formulates provisional schemes outlining the kind of ship desired, together with forecasts of the size and cost involved by the different arrangements. To do this he and his officers must have a good general knowledge—in itself only attainable by close relations with those in charge of these matters—of the latest developments and ideas in regard to a great range of subjects—gunnery, torpedo, engineering, armour, fire-control, navigation, signalling, accommodation, and so on—in order to be reasonably sure that the provision included in his schemes is such as is likely to satisfy the experts in all these subjects when the time for active cooperation arrives.

With these alternative schemes before them, the Sea Lords agree on the general lines of the new ship, which done, the actual preparation of the actual designs begins. The dimensions and shape of the ship are drawn out approximately by the naval constructors. Then the Engi- neer-in-Chief and his Department are called in to agree upon the arrangement of the propelling machinery, the positions of shafts, propellers, bunkers, funnels, etc., and at the same time the cooperation of the Director of Naval Ordnance is required to settle the positions of the guns with their barbettes, and magazines and shell rooms and the means of supplying ammunition to the guns in action.

An understanding between these three main departments enables further progress to be made. The cooperation of the Director of Torpedoes and the Director of Electrical Engineering is now called for to settle the arrangements for torpedo armament, electric generating machinery, electric lighting, etc. So the design progresses and is elaborated from the lower portions upwards, and presently the Director of Naval Construction is able to consult the Director of Naval Equipment as to the proposed arrangements in regard to the sizes and stowage of the motor boats, steamboats, rowing and sailing boats to be carried, as well as of the anchors and cables; the Director of the Signal Department as to the wireless telegraphy arrangements; the Director of Navigation as to the arrangements for navigating the ship, and so on. In this way the scheme goes on growing in a tentative manner, its progress always being dependent on the efficiency of different parts, until ultimately a more or less complete whole is arrived at in the shape of drawings and specifications provisionally embodying all the agreements, becomes apparent at this point that requirements overlap, and that the best possible cannot be achieved in regard to numbers of points within the limit set to the contractors. These difficulties are cleared up by discussion at round-table conferences, where the compromises which will least impair the value of the ship are agreed upon, and the completed design is then finally submitted for the Board’s approval. Some fourteen departments are concerned in the settlement of the final detailed arrangements.4

The point which is so clearly illustrated here is that the planning procedure permits expertise of every kind to be drawn into the decision without any difficulties being imposed by the lines of authority in the organization. The final design undoubtedly received authoritative approval; but, during the entire process of formulation, suggestions and recommendations flowed freely from all parts of the organization without raising the problem of “unity of command.” It follows from this that to the extent to which planning procedures are used in reaching decisions, the formal organization has relevance only in the final stages of the whole process. So long as the appropriate experts are consulted, their exact location in the hierarchy of authority need not much affect the decision.

This statement must be qualified by one important reservation. Organizational factors are apt to take on considerable importance if the decision requires a compromise among a number of competing values which are somewhat incompatible with one another. In such a case, the focus of attention and the identification of the person who actually makes the decision are apt to affect the degree to which advice offered him by persons elsewhere in the organization actually influences him. This factor is present in the example of the warship just cited.

This same illustration throws in relief the other aspect of the planning procedure which was mentioned above—that the plan may control, down to minute details, a whole complex pattern of behavior. The completed plan of the battleship will specify the design of the ship down to the last rivet. The task of the construction crew is minutely specified by this design.

2. The Process of Review

Review enables those who are in a position of authority in the administrative hierarchy to determine what actually is being done by their subordinates.

Methods of Review. Review may extend to the results of the subordinates’ activities, measured in terms of their objectives; the tangible products, if there are such, of their activities; or the method of their performance.

When authority is exercised through the specification of the objective of the organizational unit, then a primary method of review is to ascertain the degree to which the organizational objective is attained— its results. A city manager, for instance, may use measurements of results as a principal means of reviewing city departments. He may evaluate the fire department in terms of fire losses, the police department in terms of crime and accident rates, the public works department in terms of the condition of streets and the frequency of refuse collection.

A second very important method of review is one which examines the piece of completed work to see whether it meets the requirements of quantity and quality. This method assumes that the reviewing officer is able to judge the quality and quantity of the completed work with a certain degree of competence. Thus, a superior may review all outgoing letters written by his subordinates, or the work of typists may be checked by a chief clerk, or the work of a street repair crew may be examined by a superintendent.

It has not often enough been recognized that in many cases the review of work can just as well be confined to a randomly selected sample of the work as extended to all that is produced. A highly developed example of such a sampling procedure is found in the personnel administration of the Farm Credit Administration. This organization carries out its personnel functions on an almost completely decentralized basis, except for a small central staff which lays down standards and procedures. As a means of assuring that local practices follow these standards, field supervisors inspect the work of the local agencies, and in the case of certain personnel procedures, such as classification, the setting of compensation scales, and the development of testing materials, assure themselves of the quality of the work by an actual inspection of a sample. The same type of procedure is usually followed by state boards of equalization which review local assessments. Finally, welfare agencies in California, New York, and perhaps other states have developed an auditing procedure on a sampling basis, in order to review the work of local welfare agencies.

The third, and perhaps simplest, method of review is to watch the employee at work, either to see that he puts in the required number of hours, or to see that he is engaging in certain movements which if continued will result in the completion of the work. In this case, the review

Functions of Review. To determine what method of review should be employed in any concrete administrative situation, it is necessary to be quite clear as to what this particular review process is to accomplish. There are at least four different functions that a review process may perform: diagnosis of the quality of decisions being made by subordinates, modification through influence on subsequent decisions, the correction of incorrect decisions that have already been made, and enforcement of sanctions against subordinates so that they will accept authority in making their decisions.95

In the first place, review is the means whereby the administrative hierarchy learns whether decisions are being made correctly or incorrectly, whether work is being done well or badly at the lower levels of the hierarchy. It is a fundamental source of information, then, upon which the higher levels of the hierarchy must rely heavily for their decisions. With the help of this information, improvements can be introduced into the decision-making process.

This leads to the second function of review—to influence subsequent decisions. This is achieved in a variety of ways. Orders may be issued covering particular points on which incorrect decisions have been made, or laying down new policies to govern decisions. Employees may be given training or retraining with regard to those aspects of their work which review has proved faulty. Information may be supplied to them, the lack of which has led to incorrect decisions. In brief, change may be brought about in any of the several ways in which decisions can be influenced.

Third, review may perform an appellate function. If the individual decision has grave consequences, it may be reviewed by a higher authority, to make certain that it is correct. This review may be a matter of course, or it may occur only on appeal by a party at interest. The justifications of such a process of review are that (1) it permits the decision to be weighed twice, and (2) the appellate review requires less time per decision than the original decision, and hence conserves the time of better trained personnel for the more difficult decisions. The appellate review may, to use the language of administrative law, consist in a consideration de novo, or may merely review the original decision for substantial conformity to important rules of policy.

Fourth, review is often essential to the effective exercise of authority. As we have seen in Chapter VII, authority depends, to a certain extent, upon the availability of sanctions to give it force. Sanctions can be applied only if there is some means of ascertaining when authority has been respected, and when it has been disobeyed. Review supplies the person in authority with this information.

When we recall the “rule of anticipated reactions,” we see that the anticipation of review and the invocation of sanctions secures conformity to authority of the decision made prior to review. It is for this reason that review can influence a prior decision.

Source: Simon Herbert A. (1997), Administrative Behavior, Free Press; Subsequent edition.

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