Local   vs Centralized Control

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here is a pendulum operation involved in the control of any medium-to-large scale human endeavor. The extremes are dictatorial centralized control often including invasive micro-management and chaotic, often inefficient, local control.

Each are extremes to be avoided. That is why there can be a pendulum effect. There are two places to be avoided. The "happy" medium is passed at each oscillation without being noticed.

Such oscillatiions are difficult to "damp". One must identify the conflicting parameters then take the appropriate action to institute a push for the opposite end prior to attaining the mean (optimum state).

Such pendular oscillations are the groundwork of Aristotelian balance. He believed that one could achieve the best life by avoiding extremes in most endeavors. And this is true for the most part (there are plenty of exceptions but not enough to overrule the rule).

The cause of the "action"

From the beginning let us assume a centralized system. Then, we know from our own experience that those "at the top" do not know enough about the day to day operation of the endeavor to make blanket rules to cover every aspect. Nor can they possibly know the needs of each branch of the project and thereby optimize the efficiency of that branch. There is too much for any one man or even group of men to know.

When this becomes common knowledge ... that the project is ill managed ... there arises the "push" for de-centralization. Thus, if the people at the bottom (or nearer the bottom) could make their own decisions independently ... with greater autonomy ... the entire thing would move forward with increased efficiency.

Now, those at the top will of course resist this impulse for it represents a loss of "control-power-prestige-importance". So the impulse to de-centralize must have some force behind it ... not just enough to change the method of control but also enough to overcome the resistance of those presently in control ... like pushing an object over friction ... it takes a greater force to get it going than to keep it going.

Now, when we get to the happy medium, what happens? Right, we blow on by it into total de-centralization.

The Anarchy of Democracy

When those lower in the hierarchy function with greater autonomy, they may make decisions which more accurately conform to the requirements immediately upon them. The overall project is then better served. But this de-centralization has been won at the cost of increasing the force put against those higher up in the pecking order.

Therefore, de-centralization does not stop here. It goes down to the point where the lower eschelon has lost site of the overall goals and once again is at cross purposes. Each facet of the structure conforms to its needs but its needs cease to be defined in terms of the overall goal. At the lowest rung ... the individual worker ... we see the extreme effect of de-centralization. You will find him "taking a snooze" for the need he conforms to is less work having completely lost site of the original "team" goal.

Now, there is an overall "push" to get back to "basics", i.e. to regain the original goal as the primary importance. And the individuals tend to release their hold on local control, giving it back up with a sense of "military necessity".

"Local control has failed. We need stronger authority or the overall goal cannot be achieved."

The army is probably the best example of this. If central control is given up, the army ceases to be able to act as a single cohesive unit. Battle plans collapse as individual commanders suit their orders to their own present needs which may be at odds with the overall battle plan. But if they cannot act on thier own at all, their hands are tied by official red tape. The army which achieves the best overall balance between the two extremes will generally take the field even against superior numbers.
This happens in so many endeavors it should be filed in every folder I have on my site.

What to do about it

This pendulum will continue to swing until those involved are able to dispassionately identify what is happening. When this happens, little force is necessary to wrest control away from a central authority ... or from the "mob". One simply and rationally states one's opinion and the "happy" medium is identified with increasing certainty and the oscillation is "damped". It still occurs but the oscillations are smaller and cause little hardship to the overall purpose.

When can we expect to see this happen?

The answer to this question is known to all ...



When Hell Freezes Over



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