Management Issues: 'The Basics: Organizing, Controlling and Influencing'

Author: Keith R. Dutton, M.S.


Just how well organized are you? Do you spend time the night before work planning your day, or do you take the attitude that whatever happens will happen and you’ll handle it as it comes up? Based on my EMS experience, you probably do both. Hopefully you begin to organize the things you need to accomplish before it’s necessary to use them; thus organizing becomes the process of establishing orderly uses for all resources within a management system.(Certo, 2000)

As a manager, you need to use the organizing function as the primary mechanism to activate plans for using your resources. This leads to:

1. Creating and maintaining relationships between all of the organization’s resources.

2. Defining which resources need to be used for which projects.

3. Determining when, where and how the resources will be used.

4. Minimizing cost overruns, duplication of efforts, and idle organizational resources.

The Process of Organizing

In the overall management system, there are five steps that managers have to continually repeat in order to ensure that organizing is as efficient as possible:

1. Reflecting on plans and objectives

2. Establishing major tasks

3. Dividing major tasks into subtasks

4. Allocating resources and directives for subtasks

5. Evaluating results of organizing strategy

Through repetition of the above five areas, a manager is able to receive feedback about the organizing efforts. The development or upgrading of an EMS system can serve as an illustration of how the organizing process works: the first step the EMS manager would take to initiate the organizing process would be to reflect on the organization’s plans and objectives. Because planning involves determining how the agency will attain its objectives, and organizing involves determining how the agency’s resources will be used to activate plans, the EMS manager must start to organize by understanding planning.

The second and third steps of the organizing process focus on tasks to be performed within the management system. The EMS manager must designate major tasks or jobs to be done within the service. Such tasks may include station location, protocol development, equipment to be carried, and level of staff certification. These tasks must then be divided into subtasks.

The fourth step involves providing enough resources for the staff to accomplish the tasks. And the fifth step is in many ways, the most important – the feedback you gather furnishes information on how well the strategy is accomplishing the goals. And that’s the key element – accomplishing your goals!

Organizing, like planning, can also be viewed as a subsystem of the overall management system that contains three building blocks: input, process and output. Every action and reaction you take as a manager has to work through these areas in order to achieve the organization’s goals.

The input area of the system looks at the organization’s human resources, money, suppliers, and machinery/tools to get the job done. Within the process area, there is an organizing subsystem that repeats the five steps above. The third step is the output, which is the organization as a whole.

Confused? Don’t be…here’s one way to look at it:


Input --> Process --> Output

input --> process --> output

input --> process -->output

As you can see from above, each time you get into the process, you can break out any or all of the five areas into a subsystem whereby you consider input, process and output within that smaller system.

The output section is the looking at the “organization as a whole.” This process is quite simple and primarily involves a review of the strategy used to make the changes through organizing. Again, the key is to keep learning from your mistakes and to continually refine the process.

Organizational Theories

Study and discussion of management practices started in the early 20th century. Many of the early researchers treated organizing as a subset of general management. The traditional Principles of Organization are:

1. A well-defined hierarchy of authority: This ensures a coordinated approach to achieving organizational goals.

2. Unity of command: This ensures that each individual in the organization only reports to one supervisor, thus reducing conflicts in project and/or production management.

3. Authority equal to responsibility: These two issues go hand-in-hand – if you have the responsibility to produce something for the organization, then you need the authority to gather and use the necessary resources. Never accept responsibility without authority.

4. Downward delegation of authority but not responsibility: Ever hear the term “the buck stops here”? It comes from the principle that a superior can pass on the right to get something accomplished to a subordinate, but the obligation to getting it done remains with the supervisor.

Classical theorist Max Weber defined bureaucracy as a management system containing: 1) a division of labor (complex tasks separated into readily mastered jobs); 2) a hierarchy of authority (chain of command); 3) detailed procedures and rules (answers procedural questions); and 4) impersonal relationships among organization members (failure to meet subjective human needs).

Some of you may be surprised not the find the word “government” in the definition! In today’s world, the term bureaucracy has a negative connotation, but when Weber’s ideals are followed to the letter, a bureaucracy can be highly functional as long as special care is taken to reduce the impersonal nature of the theory. A highly functional bureaucracy reduces impersonality by ensuring that hiring, promotions and other personnel decisions are made on the basis of objective merit rather than favoritism, nepotism or prejudice.

Other classical organizational theory focuses on the structure of the organization. In other words, what are the designated relationships among the resources in the management system? Organizational charts can provide us with a graphic representation that reveals authority, responsibility, span of control, and other logical relationships. These relationships can be defined by management (formal) or through relationships developed by coworkers (informal).

Division of labor is one classical area that all EMS managers need to review. Division of labor relates to the assignment of various portions of a particular task among a number of organizational members. We need to divide tasks so that the work is not burdensome. This issue is frequently discussed in our career field by those who believe that dually trained firefighter/paramedics have challenges maintaining a high level of proficiency in their tasks. For such delivery systems, EMS and fire managers need to be clear about the expectations and time commitments necessary to maintain a high skill level. Division of labor also affects all EMS staff who are promoted into management positions. One of the most difficult aspects of the EMS manager’s job is getting enough CEUs and practical experience to maintain their prehospital skills if required to do so.

The final considerations in classical theory are span of management and Scalar Relationships. Span of management assists us in determining how many employees can we adequately supervise. In any EMS system, this is difficult due to the nature of the work. Most systems have their units at locations other than where the manager is located. So you have to ask yourself – how can I best supervise these employees, and what is the maximum number I can supervise? At the other end of the spectrum, we have situations where an incident command system needs to be initiated with perhaps dozens or hundreds of workers on the scene. How do you determine your span of management in that situation? To answer these questions, you need to review the similarity and complexity of functions among the employees, the geographics, and the planning of activities. One of the best reasons for mass casualty exercises is to assist us in determining our span of management.

Scalar Relationships ensures that employees have only one boss at a time – it’s the chain-of-command on the organizational chart.


You may think that to be a “controlling manager” is bad, but you need to have this skill. You need to be able to make something happen the way it’s supposed to happen. Controlling allows you to compare performance to pre-determined standards.

Controlling generally involves three steps:

1. Measure performance. The two central questions here are “How to Measure?” to measure and “What to Measure?”

2. Compare Measured Performance to Standards. Here, you’ll want to measure standards in productivity, quality improvement, product leadership, employee development and attitudes, and social responsibility. You may also want to measure standards that review the balance between short and long-range goals.

3. Take Corrective Action. The two steps here are to recognize the symptoms and recognize the problems. You may have both together, or only one.

There are three types of control you can utilize to make your organization stronger: 1) precontrol, which takes place before a unit of work is performed; 2) concurrent control, which takes place as some unit of work is being performed; and 3) feedback control, which takes place after the work is performed.

When utilizing control, you’ll need to exert some power. In other words, how can you best influence others so that they respond to you? As an EMS manager, you’ll have two types of power: position power and personal power. Add these together and you get the sum known as total power. Before reading further, take a moment to reflect on power. Would you rather be stronger with your position power or personal power?

I hope you answered personal power. Great managers, and all leaders (there’s a difference between the two that we’ll look at in a future column), have strong personal power which is derived from your relationship with others. Position power is that power that simply comes with your position. If you feel weak in personal power, you can improve it by developing the following attitudes in your employees:

1. A sense of obligation and identification with you. In other words, teamwork and esprit-de-corps!

2. A belief that the manager possess a high level of expertise within the organization. You need to know what you are doing! It’s easy to say, but sometimes very hard to do. Your employees want to have confidence in you and your abilities.

3. A sense of identification with you and a sense of perception that they are dependent on you. You are their manager, so you need to manage them! This type of control leads to better organization and accomplish of the goals.

Making control successful through your personal and position power can best be accomplished by focusing on your staff’s activities and how they support the overall organizational goals, recognizing that there are different goals throughout the other parts of the organization, taking timely corrective action, and employing the three C’s: communicate, communicate, communicate.



Influencing is a basic management skill that allows you to guide the activities of your employees in an appropriate direction. Influencing includes motivating, coaching, leading, and communicating.

The strongest link in influencing is the communications aspect, which is the process of sharing information with others. Basic interpersonal communication works through the use of a source/encoder (the person who originates the message), the signal (the message) and the decoder/destination. So, if communication involves only three parts, then why is it so hard to accomplish successfully? B-A-R-R-I-E-R-S is the answer.

A combination of macrobarriers and microbarriers makes communications extremely difficult for today’s managers. Macrobarriers include the increasing need for information; the need for increasingly complex information; languages other than English; and the need to learn new concepts. Microbarriers include the source’s view of the destination; message interference; destination’s view of the source; perception; and multimeaning words. Successful training in intuitive listening or feedback listening can help the manager overcome many of these barriers.

What you don’t say can have more impact than what you do say. The Mehrabian Principle states that our total message impact is influenced by words, vocal tones and facial expressions as follows:

Total Message Impact = 7% words + 38% vocal tones + 55% facial expressions
(Kreitner, 2001)

So your ability to influence depends almost entirely on your ability to communicate in a non-verbal sense. Think about that…do you just listen to the speaker who stands behind the podium and speaks in monotone? Or do you become engrossed in the subject matter of the speaker who is concerned with the presentation and interested in your reactions?

Finally, the ability to influence comes through both formal communications (downward, upward, lateral through the organizational chart) and informal communications (gossip, probability, he-said/she-said). As a strong manager, you can use both to assist you in meeting the goals of your organization. Be prudent, be interested, and make every communication count!


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  1. Samuel C. Certo, Modern Management, Eighth Edition, Prentice Hall, NJ, 2000
  2. Robert Kreitner, Management, Eighth Edition, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2001

About the Author: Keith R. Dutton, M.S., teaches management and business courses at Tallahassee (FL) Community College. He also serves as the organizational development manager for a hi-tech firm that supports Florida’s 65 community college libraries. Keith spent 21 years in EMS in Maine, Virginia, Delaware and Florida, serving as an EMT, paramedic, firefighter, educator, department chief and state EMS director. He possesses a Master of Science degree in human resources management.