top of page

Strategically Planning for Efficiency

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

There is a lot to say about planning, but sometimes the planning can feel like it takes too much time, and we can question, "why do we plan so much?" I wanted to add a research paper that I had the opportunity to research during Graduate School:

Strategic plans are plans that apply to the entire organization, establishing the organization's goals, and also looking for a position in the organization's environment (Robbins & Coulter, 2007, p. 189). Robbins and Coulter describe different forms of plans, long-term (beyond 3 years), short-term (less than 1 year), and operational plans (specify the details of how an overall goal is to be achieved) (2007, p. 189). They also explain further that this involves training and real goal planning. Planning is vital for any company to survive, both public and private. The United States demographics are changing. By 2050 the majority of the workforce will be entering retirement age. This poses a problem with staffing as the generations have been decreasing in comparison to the “baby boomer” age of the workforce. This decline in able workers it to be projected as a decline from 63 percent able workers to 57 percent able workers (Census Bureau, 2008). The number of minorities will also increase as 2050 approaches. Understanding these changes and how to plan for them to gain a position in an ever-changing environment is vital.

The percentage of able-age workers may seem like a small decrease, but let’s take into account the public sector of work as an example. In the public sector, there is a negative outlook because of the job decline it has been forced to go through. When searching the internet, you will come across multiple negative articles that express how many jobs are cut in the government. states that government employment has decreased by 580,000 jobs since 2009 (Greenstone & Looney, 2012). Greenstone and Looney give further explanation, “A notable aspect of the July employment report is the decline in public-sector employment. In fact, public-sector employment (i.e. federal, state, and local government jobs) declined in 10 of the past 12 months, in sharp contrast to 29 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. Indeed, falling public employment has been among the largest contributors to unemployment in the United States since the end of the Great Recession” (2012). For example, Brookings shows the following table: (

This View of declining employment creates a form of doubt in our public administration.

What is failed to be mentioned is the number of public administrators there are in the United State. According to Free Republic there are 2,518,101 Part-Time - 250,785 Full-Time State - 3,818,577 Part-Time - 1,451,002 Full-Time Local - 11,039,250 Part-Time - 3,383,976 (2010).

This shows how many are employed because of the public sector. The total number is a staggering 19,077,715 employees. This gives us a 17% loss of employees for 3 years. When you look at this number alone, yes, it is difficult to take in. The high rate of job loss looks huge. But we need to take into account how many were employed by the public sector. A private company may only lose 20 to 50 people, but if you take into consideration the size of the companies, the ratios change. A small business may lose 50% of its staff when losing 20 people, but the public sector lost only 17%. This is not to mention the many that lost jobs when companies closed. Some of these companies lost hundreds of employees and were forced to shut down. The public sector, on the other hand, survived a large number of cutbacks, in the realm of raw numbers, because they are able to run efficiently and also do so with a monstrous amount of employees. Now, looking at the percent’s, there is to be a 6% drop in working-age individuals. To some organizations, this may seem like a small decrease in workers, but the matter that needs to be taken into account is the number of people this percentage actually accounts for. The public sector that is talked about earlier is not the entire United States workforce. There were a total of 144,592,000 workers in the United States in 2010 (Census Bureau, 2010). Six percent of 144,592,000 is a staggering 8,675,520. This means that the workforce will have 8,675,520 fewer able workers. This number dwarfs the public sector's loss, showing the public sector as a small percent of this equation. These numbers show the importance of strategic planning for future organizational goals. A best-case scenario in this issue would have the retiring employees assist in choosing their replacement and if possible, training them to perform the job. An acceptable case would be to begin recruiting before the employees leave and cross-training the new employee with 2-3 employees that are leaving. Of course, the worst case would be if the human resource manager did nothing and allowed the positions to go dark. So, that brings up another way to help organizations survive with a substantial amount of lost employees. As mentioned, training is one option, but another is if an organization takes the public sector's model of efficiency.

Public administration is often overlooked by the public as a whole. The level of efficiency that the public sector achieves is the case for many businesses. This is done by modeling businesses after the public sector. Efficiency is vital in any organization, and there are many ways to become efficient. There is departmentalization and span of control, just to name a few from Jonathon Tomkins (2004). A span of control is a principle that explains that there is a limited amount of subordinates that any supervisor can handle. Unfortunately, the number varies from supervisor to supervisor, showing that there is no one correct span of control for all situations (Tompkins, 2004), but if an organization were to overstep that span of control, the organization would suffer from inefficiency. Tompkins (2004) also mentions that there is a need for departmentalization. Departmentalization is carried out by creating work subdivisions. In each subdivision, there would be specific tasks assigned to that department, and that department would report to a supervisor, who would act as a liaison to the other departments. A liaison is vital to departmentalization because, “when organizations are structured to maximize strengths within departments, the result can disrupt the overall optimization of the organization” (Michaelson & Michaelson, 2010). This hierarchal order would help in appeasing the homogeneity principle. The homogeneity principle states that work should be divided

(departmentalization) so that work of a single organizational unit is homogeneous in character (Tompkins, 2004). If any department is not homogeneous in any way, then it will be inefficient.

Tompkins (2004) continues to state that, “Each department…should be organized around a distinct function or task for which government is responsible. To do otherwise invites confusion, duplication of effort, and inefficiency…” It is easy to describe inefficiency and efficiency, but how does an organization measure efficiency? That would depend on the model that the organization follows. If the organization follows the human relations model, then efficiency would be judged by employee development, cohesion, and morale of the employees. The manager would work to remove tension from employees and work to maintain the employees.

On the other hand, there is the rational goal model; which states that efficiency can be measured by goal attainment. This may be one of the better ways to measure efficiency in many organizations. When an organization sets a goal, it is easily measured by asking if the goal was met. The rational goal method is also more controlled, and when an environment is more controlled, then it is easier to measure. This method seems to be the view of public efficiency. Many people measure whether the public sector is an efficient entity if it completes the goals they have set. This may be because of the size of the public sector, but either way, many times, the rational goal method seems to be the preferred method of measuring efficiency. A minor note to add is that in my experience in the private sector, the human relation model has been tried many times and is sometimes successful, but in many cases, the rational goal method is more successful. There are hybrids of varying methods applied to many large and successful companies, but the rational method is more dominant in the hybrid theories.

Creating an efficient plan is a task in itself, but how to carry out the plans are even more difficult at times. One of the better ways to do so is to follow a hierarchal model of leadership. This is because of a few businesses and psychological aspects of organizational behavior. Max Weber studied the most efficient organizations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He discovered that the bureaucratic approach with a hierarchy was to be viewed as an efficient and effective organizational structure. He stated that an organization needed 4 elements to achieve this; division of labor, the delegation of authority, micro-managers, and span of control (Levy, 2010). One of the more key elements is that of delegation of authority. This is important because instead of having supervisors try to accomplish everything, they delegate tasks to be completed by others. If a hierarchy/authoritative environment were not put in place, then this would not be possible. People respond to direction, people have a psychological need for control. This control does not just span the control of their life alone.

As stated by Shapario et al., the need for control is fundamental to all humans (Shapiro, Shwartz, & Astin, 1996). They further explain that an individual is able to pursue a level of mastery only when they are free from anxiety and when they have a level of predictability. This is not to say that all aspects of an individual’s life, is to be controlled and predictable, but there is a need for some form of a mundane routine in an individual’s life. This would lead to peak performance issues that are irrelevant at this current time. What needs to be known is that many organizations have found that some form of authoritative leadership is needed to keep many people driven and even creative.

All psychological behaviors aside, “organizations are structured to maximize strengths within departments; the result can disrupt the overall optimization of the organization” (Michaelson & Michaelson, p. 48). If an organization is not brought together with a form of hierarchy, then the organization will fail to achieve its end goal, productivity. Without having a line of authority that holds each department accountable and also acts as a liaison to each department, the organization as a whole would fail.

Although, there is a constant balance of power, as Long describes in the article, “Power and

Administration,” it is also mentioned that there is a need for a planned government (Long, 1949). In order to have a planned government, we need a hierarchy to tie all of the different ideas and planning of the separate departments, legislative, judicial, and executive. This concept is no different in private corporations. In order to achieve departmental cohesion, many corporations model their structure after the structure of the government. Each department will have a superior who acts as a liaison to other superior figureheads from other departments to achieve a similar cohesive goal as a whole organization. Geno Prussakov displayed a model showing the differences and similarities between management, leadership, and transformational leadership.

The diagram is below:

Figure 1: Diagram of Management, Leadership and Transformational Leadership

Geno Prussakov describes the diagram in the following words, “This model is a viable model, but an organization must have the proper leader(s) to be able to carry it out. This means that the human resource manager must carefully select the leader that is to assume this responsibility.

Management is about the mind. It is the manager’s job to stay focused on the task and goals, and to set action plans, thereby helping followers deal with complexity.

Leadership, on the other hand, is more about the heart or staying focused on the people and their individual characteristics, creating a shared vision that helps followers to participate in a change process. Finally, transformational leadership is about breaking down resistance to change. This is done both through ‘assigning meaning to change’ and through the change within the leader (him)/(her)self” (2013). There are many different types of leadership, but in these changing times, leadership needs to be to have priority of human capital. Numerous perspectives have been used in research on leadership. Some I/O psychologists have taken a trait-based approach to leadership. This approach states that leaders have certain personality attributes that their followers do not. For instance, leaders may be described as assertive, confident, tactful, or persuasive.

Another approach addresses the behaviors of leaders. The two most prominent behavior categories are initiating structure and consideration. Initiating structure refers to task-oriented behaviors such as organizing and structuring work for followers. Consideration refers to the ways leaders show concern for followers.

An alternative approach sees leadership as situation-specific. Situational leadership theory states that the balance of initiating structure vs. consideration behaviors in which a leader must engage depends on the emotional maturity and expertise of the followers.

The general model of leadership perceptions proposes that a leader's behavior is interpreted and labeled by followers; if the behavior matches the follower's leadership prototype, the label of a leader is applied to this person. For instance, an employee may view a leader as someone who takes charge of a situation and defines for the group how work should be done. Someone from the group who takes charge and structures the task at hand is likely to be perceived by this employee as a leader. Subsequent behavior by this emergent leader is likely to reinforce perceptions of leadership. Being seen as a leader is important; influence is granted by followers who perceive another as a leader. This influence should enhance the attainment of outcomes. Attainment of outcomes, in a reciprocal fashion, also affects follower perceptions. Being associated with positive (or negative) outcomes affects how strongly a person is seen as a leader.

The best choice of a leader would be the Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory asserts that leaders develop relationships with each member of their work group. A high-quality relationship is characterized by the member having high levels of responsibility, decision influence, and access to resources. “Members who enjoy a high-quality LMX relationship are said to be in the IN-GROUP. A low-quality LMX relationship is characterized by the leader offering low levels of support to the member, and the member having low levels of responsibility and decision influence. Members who have a low-quality LMX relationship are said to be in the out-group” (Levy, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2010).

The quality of the leader-member exchange relationship is theorized to be related to work and attitudinal outcomes. For example, exchange quality has been demonstrated to predict such outcomes as employee withdrawal or resignation, salary and promotion, productivity, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

In conclusion, there are many choices that can be made by an individual that is in the position of human resource manager to prepare for the oncoming changes. The worst choice is not to do anything. In my personal belief, I feel that selecting good leaders and preparing for change through cross-training and filling the positions before the workers retire would be the smoothest and least confrontational method.


Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2007). Social Psychology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc..

Bureau, C. (2007, 3 8). Free Republic. Retrieved from

Data, C. B. (2010, 3 8). Free Republic. Retrieved from

Greenstone, M., & Looney, A. (2012, August 3). Brookings on Job Numbers. Retrieved from Brookings:

Levy, P. E. (2010). Industrial and Organizational Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Levy, P. E. (2010). Industrial Organizational Psychology (3 ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Long, N. E. (1949, Autumn). Power and Administration. Public Administration Review, pp. 257-264.

Michaelson, G. A., & Michaelson, S. (2010). Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Managers. Avon:

Adams Media.

Prussakov, G. (2013, 2 11). Where Management, Leadership and Transformational Leadership

Overlap. Retrieved from Affiliate Marketing Blog by Geno Prussakov:

Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. (2007). Management. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Shapiro, D., Shwartz, C., & Astin, J. (1996). Controlling ourselves, controlling our world:

Psychology's role in understanding positive and negative consequences of seeking and gaining control. In American Psychologists (Vol. 51, pp. 1213-1230).

Tompkins, J. R. (2004). Organization Theory and Public Management. Belmont: Wadsworth


24 views0 comments


bottom of page