Obtaining the desired degree of decentralization is very essential for every kind of organization.
Underlying the discussion to this point has been the assumption that managers can obtain the degree of decentralization upon which they have decided.
In other words, the emphasis has been upon how much decentralization to have, rather than on whether the desired degree can be realized and maintained.
Many managers who believe that authority should be pushed down in organizations as far as it will go are faced with the practical problem of how to push it down there. It is a rare top manager who does not find somewhere in the organization an authority hoarder, who simply will not delegate.
Obtaining the desired degree of decentralization
In obtaining the degree of decentralization desired, an understanding of decentralization is essential. This concept is based upon the knowledge that decentralization cannot mean independence, that it requires establishing policies to guide decision-making along the desired course, that it needs careful delegation of authority by managers, who know how and shoe want to delegate, and that, not being a surrender of responsibility, it must be accompanied by controls designed to ensure that delegated authority is used properly.
Although the art of authority delegation lies at the base of proper decentralization, it is apparent that the mere act of delegation is not enough to ensure decentralization.
Decentralization does not imply independence: it must be accompanied by controls.
No manual can indicate how to ensure authority being properly decentralized or appropriately withheld, but several techniques are used with some chance of success. One on the most forceful of these is to ensure that a system of verifiable objectives is established, that each person is held responsible for achieving certain goals, and that each is given the necessary authority for doing so.
Another is merely a technique of organization-the provision of a statement of each manager’s duties and of the responsibility and the degree of authority delegated to that position. Besides being clear and, preferably, written, the statement should be issued in such a way that all employees may know what it contains.
Everybody has to be held responsible for achieving certain goals, and the person concerned must be backed by the necessary authority to do so.
Another important technique is the example and teaching of superior, starting at the top of the organization. The character of top leadership in an enterprise affects everyone in an organization.
There are in every firm of any size those who will reach out for power, intrude upon activities assigned to others, and bully the timid. Rules and job descriptions are often subject to differences in interpretation, which can be conveniently stretched or limited depending upon the policies in an organization.
Their unreliability, despite their obvious usefulness, stands as a warning to executives that the most dependable foundation for achieving a desired degree of decentralization is the education of subordinate managers in the rights of others-teaching them restraint as well as aggressiveness.
One of the means of forcing delegation of authority, particularly in the middle and lower levels of the organization, is to require managers to have a large number of subordinates and at the same time, hold them to a high standard of performance. When the span of management is stretched, there is no alternative but to delegate authority.
When the span of management is big decentralization is essential.
Another technique used to force decentralization has been the policy of promoting managers only when they have subordinates able to take their places. To accomplish this end, managers are forced to delegate authority.
Moreover, this policy removes a major cause of hoarding authority, the desire of managers to become indispensable by making sure that their duties cannot be handled by any of their subordinates.
The policy of promoting managers from within only forces decentralization.
Occasionally the problem concerns how to retain a predetermined degree of authority. Division and branch managers because they are far away from the home office, often wish to build empires, or want to do a complete job-may assume too much authority and resent the outside auditor, sabotage centralized controls and oppose central management.
The answer, of course, to this problem is primarily one of leadership, clear policy determination and authority delegation, and proper training or subordinate managers.
Division or branch managers, far away from the head office, may oppose central management.
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