The top manager of an organization can be fairly certain that power problems do exist when there is a great deal of inter-departmental conflict, when the managers of various departments are at war with each other, when there are character assassinations, or when one or more managers consistently overstep their authority or do not exercise it at all.
There are several techniques for analyzing power problems within an organization. Each focuses on decisions making and results. By analyzing the decisions that should be made, the manager can designate levels of authority, areas in which managers can make decisions on their own, and situations in which they must consult with or receive the approval of others. There two methods of making such designations:
• Critical decision analysis
• Staff-line analysis.
Critical decision analysis identifies the major decisions that need to be made, identifies the role that each involved group should play in the decisions, and resolves any differences that might exist between such groups. If the manager believes that a conflict exists between two groups, he should ask each group separately to identify the key decisions that involve it and its role in the decision – making and also the roles of other groups. The groups confront each other with their role definitions in order to resolve their differences, or the manager brings about a solution.
The role of Line and Staff and their authority are traditional power questions. Many line managers believe that line units are charged with the responsibility of achieving the objectives of the organization and of doing the work for which the business exists, while stall groups are traditionally set up to advice and aid the line. Over time, stall groups have gained considerable power to control and initiate action-they have expert power. Many of their gains have resulted from increased governmental regulation in areas such as safety, personnel, toxic materials, security, financial reporting, and the proliferation of technology.
The desire of many chief executive officers to have coordination and control groups reporting directly to them also has increased the influence of stall groups. A useful technique to help the staff manager analyze line-staff conflict involves identifying
(1) The 20 or 30 major contributions that the staff department is making to the line organization,
(2) Those contributions it could be making but is not now making, and
(3) Those contributions that the line management might prefer not be made by the stall group. The degrees of authority, action, and accountability identified can be put into tabular form showing for each major type of organizational unit:
(I) primary responsibility without notice,
(2) primary responsibility with notice,
(3) consultation before action,
(4) joint responsibility.
Once these contributions, real or potential, have been identified, the stall members and the affected line managers are given the opportunity to indicate the extent to which they now receive the contributions and whether they would prefer more or less effort given to the contribution. Once both groups have indicated their preferences, the group managers can be brought together to resolve any conflicts. The techniques described above work effectively when analyzing an existing organization.
They can also be used by the top manager when considering power allocations in a new organization. Power is allocated to members of an organization in many ways. The location of the manager office grants or withholds power by virtue of its desirability or undesirability. The top manager granting of easy access to his office is an allocation of power. At least, it is so perceived by those who do not have easy access. The higher the position in the hierarchy, the higher up in the building the office is located.
The higher the grade levels of the job, the larger the office or the number of pictures on the wall. When the chrome water pitcher with two glasses appears on the credenza, the manager knows that he has it made. Titles are status symbols. Depending on the organization, and sometimes the industry, the title Manager, Engineering may be above that of Engineering Manager, or vice versa. The subordinate who plays golf with the boss may have more power than others since he is assumed to be on the inside track: Informal allocation of power takes place in all organizations.
Office protocols were instituted initially for economic and planning reasons, but very quickly they became a power issue. Power, to be truly effective, must be allocated to specific positions. Several alternatives are available to the concerned manager.
By Trinity Arthurs