Explain Special Characteristics Of Professional Organization


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Mar 20, 2007
Toronto, Canada
Explain special characteristics of professional organization which would have a bearing on their control system.
A dominant goal of a manufacturing company is to earn a satisfactory profit, specifically a satisfactory return on assets employed. A professional organization has relatively few tangible assets; its principal asset is the skill of its professional staff, which doesn't appear on its balance sheet. Return on assets employed, therefore, is essentially meaningless in such organizations. Their financial goal is to provide adequate compensation to the professionals.In many organizations, a related goal is to increase their size. In part, this reflects the natural tendency to associate success with large size. In part, it reflects economies of scale in using the efforts of a central personnel staff and units responsible for keeping the organization up to- date. Large public accounting firms need to have enough local offices to enable them to audit clients who have facilities located throughout the world.

Professional organizations are labor intensive, and the labor is of a special type. Many professionals prefer to work independently, rather than as part of a team. Professionals who are also managers tend to work only part time on management activities; senior partners in an accounting firm participate actively in audit engagements;senior partners in law firms have clients. Education for most professions does not include education in management, but quite naturally stresses the skills of the profession, rather than management; for this and other reasons, professionals tend to look down on managers. Professionals tend to give inadequate weight to the financial implications of their decisions; they want to do the best job they can, re- I regardless of its cost. This attitude affects the attitude of support staffs and nonprofessionals in the organization; it leads to inadequate cost control.

Output and Input Measurement:
The output of a professional organization cannot be measured in physical terms, such as units, tons, or gallons. We can measure the number of hours a lawyer spends on a case, but this is a measure of input, not output. Output is the effectiveness of the lawyer's work, and this is not measured by the number of pages in a brief or the number of hours in the courtroom. We can measure the number of patients a physician treats in a day, and even classify these visits by type of complaint; but this is by no means equivalent to measuring the amount or quality of service the physician has provided. At most, what is measured is the physician's efficiency in treating patients, which is of some use in identifying slackers and hard workers. Revenues earned is one measure of output in some professional organizations, but these monetary amounts, at most, relate to the quantity of services rendered, not to their quality (although poor quality is reflected in reduced revenues in the long run).

Furthermore, the work done by many professionals is non repetitive. No two consulting jobs or research and development projects are quite the same. This makes it difficult to plan the time required for a task, to set reasonable standards for task performance, and to judge how satisfactory the performance was. Some tasks are essentially repetitive: the drafting of simple wills, deeds, sales contracts, and similar documents; the taking of a physical inventory by an auditor; and certain medical and surgical procedures. The development of standards for such tasks may be worthwhile, although in using these standards, unusual circumstances that affect a specific job must be taken into account.

Small Size:
With a few exceptions, such as some law firms and accounting firms, professional organizations are relatively small and operate at a single location. Senior management in such organizations can personally observe what is going on and personally motivate employees. Thus, there is less need for a sophisticated management control system, with profit centers and formal performance reports. Nevertheless, even a small organization needs a budget, a regular comparison of performance against budget, and a way of relating compensation to performance.

In a manufacturing company there is a clear dividing line between marketing activities and production activities; only senior management is concerned with both. Such a clean separation does not exist in most professional organizations. In some, such as law, medicine, and accounting, the profession's ethical code limits the amount and character of overt marketing efforts by professionals (although these restrictions have been relaxed in recent years). Marketing is an essential activity in almost all organizations, however. If it can't be conducted openly, it takes the form of personal contacts, speeches, articles, conversations on the golf course, and so on. These marketing activities are conducted by professionals, usually by professionals who spend much of their time in production work-that is, working for clients.

In this situation, it is difficult to assign appropriate credit to the person responsible for "selling" a new customer.In a consulting firm, for example, a new engagement may result from a conversation between a member of the firm and an acquaintance in a company, or from the reputation of one of the firm's professionals as an out growth of speeches or articles.

Moreover, the professional who is responsible for obtaining the engagement may not be personally involved in carrying it out. Until fairly recently, these marketing contributions were rewarded subjectively- that is, they were taken into account in promotion and compensation decisions. Some organizations now give explicit credit, perhaps as a percentage of the project's revenue, if the person who "sold" the project can be identified.