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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 17

Chapter Seventeen - Organizational Characteristics

"Organizational Characteristics" appraises the common characteristics, leadership principles, and behavioral aspects of existing organization structures and how they influence leadership effectiveness. It also addresses in detail the tried-and-true leadership principles or functions that govern or support productive leadership activity within the hierarchical framework.



17.1 The Principles of Administration.  In 1916 French industrialist, Henri Fayol (1841-1925) first promulgated his principles of administration in a treatise titled: Administratim Industrielle et Generale (1916), five years after Frederick W. Taylor's more famous: The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).  But in contrast to Taylor, who was primarily concerned with production efficiency and the analysis of work tasks, Fayol was essentially the first leadership oracle to formally set forth a list of fundamental principles that are inherent to all organization structures regardless of the enterprise undertaken (e.g., business, religious groups, military organizations, or governmental agencies) and to identify the central functions of the manager (Leader).  Fayol also strongly recommended that Leaders direct their efforts toward improving the vital parameters that impact organizational proficiency and morale; and for the most part, his principles have stood the test of time with few amendments.


(A) "Division of work."  The main objective is broken down into a series of more manageable tasks and functions which are then assigned to such groups or individuals as are necessary to ensure their completion.  And as a result of subdividing the primary objective into a series of smaller objectives, an increased degree of efficiency is commonly achieved through such specialization and the elimination of duplicate work tasks.  The "division of work" principle, originally introduced in 1776 by Adam Smith, received extensive attention during the late 1800s and dominated managerial thought throughout most of the twentieth century as a result of the scientific management movement; producing great advances in productivity, but offering far less assistance in the way of maximizing the potential of an organization's human resources.  However, this principle still remains critical to organizing and efficiently achieving any objective of substantial magnitude.


(B) "Authority and responsibility."  Authority is the right or power to control, command, or determine what is to be done that is delegated to an individual or group by another person or representative body in whom such right is somehow legally vested.  Authority also implies the commensurate responsibility to accomplish the delegated task as agreed upon, the Leader's right to demand compliance with his or her directives, and the burden of being held accountable to those who granted him or her the power to act.  Authority and responsibility are subsequently delegated through the same organization structure that the tasks to be accomplished are organized and assigned.


(C) "Discipline."  Organizational discipline is the expectation that all those involved can be depended upon to follow their directives, to diligently perform their duties, and to pursue their assigned objectives to the utmost of their ability.  Discipline also provides for a balanced and equitable system of penalties for individuals who fail to perform their tasks or behave as expected.


(D) "Unity of command."  The unity of command principle requires that each member of the hierarchy receive his or her directives from only one superior, thus keeping conflicting instructions to a minimum and streamlining communication channels.  Dual command structures, which can result from a separation of the administrative or operational functions from the technical expertise associated with the activity, must fully integrate the respective Line Leaders and Staff personnel as to the scope of their authority to prevent confusion, duplication of effort, and management conflicts regarding the supervision of the lower echelons or Line personnel.  This goal is generally facilitated by Staff members or technical experts seeking their authority to act from the operations manager or Line Leader at or above their respective echelon prior to them initiating any new procedures or issuing directives regarding their area of responsibility.
(E) "Unity of direction [purpose]."  Each supervisory unit must be provided with clearly defined objectives of which each individual member must be made fully aware, and which direct or control his or her individual work activities.  Smaller sub-unit objectives must also be harmonious and fully integrated into the objectives of the larger supervisory unit of which it is part.  Consequently, a primary leadership responsibility is to closely coordinate the efforts of all supervisory units and to remain doggedly focused on the organization's goals.  As it is absolutely impossible for an organization or any of its sub-units to follow more than one vision at any one time; requiring that senior management show resolve, foresight, and imagination in defining that vision.


(F) "Subordination of [the] individual to [the] general interest."  While a good faith effort may be made to satisfy the best interests and goals of both the employee and the organization whenever possible, individual self-interests are, as necessary, sacrificed to ensure the long-term survival or health of the organization (e.g., downsizing).  As its overall prosperity and welfare is generally considered to be of a higher priority than that of the individual.  For obviously, if a company shutters its doors instead of downsizing it has no chance of providing employment to anyone when the economy begins to boom once again.


(G) "Remuneration."  Compensation practices must strike a satisfactory balance between the individual's well-being and the economic benefit of his or her services to the company.  Compensation policies must also match or exceed minimum competitive wages, be fairly and universally administered, and "encourage productivity" (Fayol).  So essential is this equitable balance that a compensation policy that fails to achieve these goals seriously undermines worker morale, drives more talented individuals from the organization's ranks, and subsequently jeopardizes it's long-term viability.


(H) "Centralization."  The authority or power to make organizational decisions is granted within well defined parameters (e.g., spending limits, contractual limits, supervisory responsibilities, or work functions) at each level through an ascending structure of supervisory echelons, with each respective Leader having increasingly greater authority to act, the higher his or her rung on the corporate ladder.  The degree of centralization desirable is generally dependent upon the skill-levels of those supervised, the nature of the objective or undertaking, and the administrative or supervisory outlook of the ultimate decision maker.  And because increased centralization proportionately reduces a Subordinates' role in deciding what or how something is to be done and negatively impacts his or her "initiative and commitment to the decisions made" (Fayol) at each echelon, a balance must be struck between the level of control perceived as being absolutely necessary to protect the organization's assets and its corresponding negative impact on worker morale.


(I) "Scalar chain."  The levels of authority necessary for accomplishing the objective are arranged in a descending, ladder-like, hierarchical pattern to facilitate determining who is responsible for what.  Commonly referred to as the "chain-of-command," maintaining the integrity of the command structure (preventing upper-level managers from superseding a lower-level manager's authority by issuing orders directly to his or her Subordinates rather than issuing them indirectly through the respective manager) is generally considered of paramount importance in reducing confusion and holding individuals accountable for their performance.  In the interest of saving time and improved efficiency, routine cross communications (e.g., accounts payable resolutions, payroll reporting, or marketing) between supervisory units or departmental functions at the lower echelons which do not strictly follow the vertical channels of communication are desirable but must be specifically authorized by their respective supervisors.  Subordinates must also be required to keep their supervisors "in-the-loop" as to the status of routine matters as well as informing them of any special situations that might require their input or approval.
(J) "Order" (Organization).  The activities of every enterprise must be structured and organized so as to bring about an efficient integration of its various functions and resources (both material and human).  Order infers that there is a logical sequence of events from one activity to another, and that there is some control mechanism (e.g., operating systems, policies, or procedures) inherent to the organization structure that ensures its continued maintenance or improvement.  Order also addresses issues involving coordination difficulties between various departments and works to reduce conflicting goals among different supervisory units; as well as overseeing the assignment, placement, or utilization of the organization's personnel and physical assets to its maximum advantage.


(K) "Equity."  To stimulate worker productivity, company loyalty, and job commitment; an equitable system of policies and procedures is established and maintained; providing for fair, consistent, and reputable treatment of all individuals by their supervisors.  For equitable treatment dramatically increases an employee's sense of well-being and self-respect, and is essential for creating a highly motivated and productive work group.


(L) "Stability of tenure."  For an organization to produce quality products or services requires a well trained, highly motivated work force without which its long-term economic prospects are substantially downgraded.  Consequently, a stable corporate employment history (i.e., free from periodic layoffs, arbitrary terminations, or excessive turnover) increases morale, improves productivity, reduces supervision requirements, and lowers training costs; thus accruing significant benefit to the company's continual fiscal health.  An ongoing effort to improve the quality and consistency of organization's supervisory ranks also typically results in a substantially more productive and stable work force.


(M) "Initiative."  Encouraging individuals to act on their own initiative at all echelons has a morale boosting effect on the entire organization; and is well worth the additional supervisory time or effort necessary to enable Subordinates to do so.  This advanced level of commitment is achieved by further training and development and by increasing Subordinate authority and responsibility so that they can exercise their prerogative over a broader range of activities.  In addition, individuals who are less reluctant to exercise their own initiative are usually far more willing to test new methods and procedures, make suggestions, or embrace change than those who must consistently wait to receive further instructions.  Similarly, empowered individuals are more apt to take increased pride in their work performance and to feel a higher degree of ownership for their results.


(N) "Esprit de corps."  To maximize results, Leaders are responsible for creating a managerial atmosphere in which workers feel a sense of unity and common purpose with their peers and supervisors in achieving the unit's assigned goals and to take satisfaction in the success and accomplishments of the company as a whole.  Such a work environment stimulates a "united we stand divided we fall" attitude among its members, gives them a greater sense of camaraderie and invincibility, and establishes a more universal spirit of cooperation; as well as stimulating higher productivity levels and efficiency.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook