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Organization objectives and managerial control Hedley, Robert Alan

Abstract

The central problem in this thesis is the study of the effect an organization objective has for managerial control. We have hypothesized: l) to the extent that an objective is possible, workable, and operational, that is, feasible, it will more probably be accepted by relevant organization members; and 2) to the extent that an objective is feasible arid accepted by relevant organization members, it is probable that the initiating group will assume control over its direction. The notion of organizational acceptance holds special problems. The initiating group in gaining acceptance from other organizational members usually must sacrifice some of its control over the formulation and/or implementation of its proposed objective. This introduces the concept of bargaining as a goal-setting device. We have attempted to test these propositions using mainly interview data collected in a large and diversified steel tube manufacturing operation. The central management group of this vast concern ten years ago introduced a research project into "getting involved in the use of computers". Development of this imprecise organization objective has progressed to the point where the firm has now committed itself to a third generation "real-time" computer for the purposes of achieving integrated data processing throughout the fourteen companies involved in the manufacturing complex, and the eventual establishment of a centrally administered integrated control system. There are three major groups involved in the computer application - an individually organized computer unit, the central coordinating administrative body, and the companies. We have analysed the data relating to this organizational objective with the help of a cyclic model that we devised. During the development of an objective, various processes occur. These are: 1) search - the process of looking for alternative courses of action, their consequences, and attempting to arrive at a "satisfactory" conclusion; 2) consolidation - the process whereby a proposed objective becomes relatively stabilized and formalized as a result of interest group and subgoal formation; and, 3)conflict/change or change/conflict - the process whereby the balance of costs and benefits is disrupted such that conflict occurs and change is implied, or, the process where internal or external events cause change in the established relationships sufficient to incur conflict. Because we believe these processes to be recurring, we have used this cyclic model as a means to describe and explain the development of the organization objective. The findings of our research tend to corroborate our hypotheses. Following are some of our main conclusions: l)the search process becomes more focused and well defined as the objective develops through successive cycles; 2)the "perceived" workability of an objective presents as great a pressure for acceptance as does its "actual" workability; 3)interest group and subgoal formation caused by specialization of function tend to create difficulties in communication and thus endanger a "successful" implementation of the objective; 4)the process of bargaining increases in conflict and change situations; 5)conflict acts as both a control over and a stimulator of change; and, 6)the tighter the desired control, the more precise must be the objectives.

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