The comparison tells us if anything has gone wrong in the process or operations, if there is any deviation, negative or positive and what must be done as a restorative process for correcting such a deviation.
Furthermore, this comparison, not only results in the correction of the divergence, but also ensures the application of the preventive steps which could guide the conduct of operations in the future.
Before a deviation is corrected, a thorough investigation should be undertaken regarding the reasons for such a deviation. The management should look not for symptoms but for the root cause of the problem. Some of the questions to be looked into are:
i. Were these deviations due to unrealistic standards set?
ii. Could the suppliers have shipped faulty materials?
iii. Are the operators less efficient, dishonest about results or misinformed about applicable standards?
iv. Is the equipment in poor condition?
v. Is the quality control department doing an adequate job?
There are many instances where projects went over budget and over time. In such cases, these projects should be examined in their entirety and from all angles in order to determine the root cause of such a discrepancy.
Deviations can be of two types, namely negative and positive.
a) Negative deviations:
Negative deviations are those that have negative repercussions as a result and may be in the form of cost overruns or the project being behind schedule or the quality or quantity of the product being below the expected levels.
This underperformance must be evaluated to determine whether goals should be changed or if any other corrective action is needed. For example, if there has been a delay in completing the project, the reason may be low morale of workers which may be evident by excessive absenteeism or inefficient performance or the persons may not have been well trained for the specific job. A cost overrun could be due to price increases initiated by outside vendors or it could be due to excessive machinery breakdown. These deviations must be detected and properly evaluated.
b) Positive deviations:
Positive deviations indicate that the performance was better than expected and the goals achieved were either sooner than anticipated or less costly than planned. These positive deviations should also be fully investigated as to why underestimations were made so that new revised estimates can be established.
Once the deviations have been detected and presented to management for consideration, the decision must be taken as to what corrective actions are needed to remedy the situation. However, these corrective actions must be taken within the constraints of acceptable tolerance levels, outside environmental constraints such as those imposed by organizational culture or guidelines, labour unions, political and economic considerations and internal constrains of cost and personnel.
Since the actual results do not always conform to the desired results, some deviations may be expected and thus acceptable and hence no corrective action may be needed. However, When deviations are of sufficiently serious nature, the following guidelines may be adopted for taking necessary action.
i. Management must deal with the root causes of the problems and not the symptoms.
ii. Any corrective action should be taken promptly in order to make it most effective.
iii. Whenever and wherever possible, the corrective action should be built into the existing operations and these controls should be self- monitoring and corrective actions should be automatic such as in the case of a thermostat in controlling the heat. (This field is known as “cybernetics”).
iv. It must be understood that the goal itself is not a static phenomenon, but is a function of the dynamics of the environment. Hence a look into the need for altering the target itself caused by shifts in the environment may be necessary.