consumer services are provided - there are charge hands and supervisors who must ensure that work is planned and carried out as efficiently as possible. In a factory, for example, a supervisor giving the task of overseeing the production of a particular item needs to know:
. the quantity to be handle
. the completion date
. the availability of plans and machine capacity
. the operations to be performed
. the kinds of labour needed and its availability
. the materials and components required to produce the order.
The kind of information assists the supervisor in planning and controlling he work and it is essential for decision making at an operational level.
Activities at the operational of an organisation produce data that will be processed to provide much of the information required by middle management.
Middle management needs to know how efficiently work at operational level is been carried out and the extend to which any resources under their control are being used to achieve the organisation's objectives. Much of this information relates to the productivity of labour, the utilisation of machine capacity and the rate at which materials and other inputs are being consumed.
Middle management also needs a great deal of financial information about the costs of the resources consumed in relation to output. This financial data can be used to determine and monitor total costs, revenues, profits and the achievement of business objectives for example, it will be possible to identify any fall-off in productivity or rise in labour costs which might contribute to arise in unit labour costs or to detect the excessive use of materials which might suggest an increased in wastage.
So far, I have mainly considered the need for information that is processed and generated from sources within the organisation. At senior level, however, information from internal sources often has to be supported by information derive from external sources to help managers ensure that the resources and their control are used as efficiently as possible in achieving business objectives. Decision making at senior management level has a major influence on the success or failure of the organisation. Any decisions concerned with controlling the organisation, assessing its performance, planning its future and initiating action must be supported by all relevant information.
Decision making at senior level in areas such as business strategy and planning requires information about broad trends rather than detailed information needed to make many routine decisions on day-to-day matters at lower levels of the organisation. Senior management need information about:
. developments in initial costs and sale trends
. overall profitability, and the respective contribution of each part of the business
. capital requirements, and availability of internal funds and the cost and sources of external capital
. manpower and skills requirements
. forecast of demand of the organisation's markets
. the impact on business of any changes in the economic, political, social and legal environment.
Prep Line manager Prep
Figure 1.9: Communication network
Communication channels and methods
The communication channel refers to the means by which information is communicated. The actual choice of communication channel depends upon a combination of:
. the need for an immediate feedback or response
. speed and urgency
. the number and location of the people who need the information
. the degree of confidentiality and security required
. the desired degree of formality
. the complexity and amount of detail to be conveyed
. the type of information to be communicated
. the need to keep a record of the communication.
Business information can be communicated in many ways. Methods include:
. written reports
. instruction manuals
. letters, circulars and memoranda
. material posted on notice board
. in-house magazines and newspapers
. sheets of figures
. information on standard forms
. graphs, charts, drawings and photographed
. video, television and other audio-visual techniques
. meetings and interviews
. public address announcements
. electronic mail
. network messaging
. telephone and voice mail
. pager device
. video conferencing
Whatever communication method is used, the information sent should be relevant and avoid superfluous comments and unnecessary detail. The information communicated to a supervisor on a factory may have to include an exact description of the operations to be carried out. In contrast, much broader information is supplied to middle and senior management. Senior managers may only require general indicators and a broad description of the developments that need to be considered when assessing the organisation's performance, setting objectives and deciding upon strategies.
To ensure tht the information provided to management is relevant, clear and concise and makes effective use of managers' time, some organisations stipulate that managers are only provided with dada relating to exceptional developments. Middle management, for example, may only receive information connected with performance measurements that deviate by more than an agreed percentage from their targets. The information dealing with exceptional performance should also be supported by brief statements of the internal and/or external factors that may have contributed to any exceptional performance. Exception reporting makes more effective use of the time and skills that middle management devotes to decision making and to initiating and controlling actions.
Downward information flows
A downward information flow describes the provision of information by a superior to an immediate subordinate. It is, therefore, concerned with internal communications as part of a formal communications channels. A downward information flow can cover:
. issuing instructions on the tasks that have to be carried out by a subordinate and setting objectives, such as the target data for completing the work
. requesting information concerning the area of work for which subordinates are responsible
. communicating the organisation's procedures, working methods and practices and the rules and regulations
. given feedback on subordinate's performance in relation to his or her objectives and targets
. motivating people and encouraging attitudes that raise productivity and improve quality.
Some information will not come from an employee's immediate superior but from other parts of the organisations. For example, when employees first start work they receive general information about the structure and goals of the organisation from the personnel department. However, for information that relates to work undertaken by the subordinate, the communication channel should be from superior to immediate subordinate.
Upward information flows
An upward information flow along a vertical information channel is from a subordinate to a superior. This might be feedback from a downward flow or the communication may originate directly from subordinates. An upward information flow can cover:
. responding to a superior's request for information on some aspect of work for which the subordinate is responsible
. informing managers about the subordinate's own performance, problems or their personal ambitions in relation, for example, to promotion or opportunities for developing new skills.
. passing on information about other employees in the subordinate's section and relations with sections with which there is a direct link
. submitting ideas on improving working methods and solving work problems.
In the interests of effective working relations. Most organisations expect subordinates to report formally through their immediate supervisor or manager. However, they are likely to communicate in formally with managers higher up the hierarchy and in some situations, such as grievance procedure, may go directly to a more senior manager than their immediate superior.
Horizontal information flow
In addition to upward and downward flows, there are also horizontal information flows between people of the same status. Because many operations within an organisation must work very closely together, there must be formal arrangements for the exchange of information between sections and departments. The production department, for example,