July 21, 2016

Supervision - Introduction - Public Administration Point of View

In the hierarchical organizations, each level of the organization supervises the one below it and in turn, supervised by the one above it. Supervision is a compound of two words ‘super’ and ‘vision’ meaning superior power of perceiving. It means overseeing or superintending the work of others. It has been defined as “the direction, accompanied by authority, of the work of others.”

Generally, the term supervision is applied to the lower levels of management and direction is applied forhigher levels.

Techniques of Supervision

Millet identified six techniques of supervision. These are as follows:

a) Prior approval of individual projects: Here, the subordinates have to first obtain the prior approval of the supervisor for their initiatives. This approval process involves detailed assessment and provides the scope for changing the general plan and helps in removing misunderstanding and rectifying errors.

b) Promulgation of service standard: The top management is to lay down targets or standards for the operating units to achieve. Subsequently, the top management audits their performance. Services standard, thus, set up norms of administrative output.

c) Work Budget: It is a plan of work over a specified period and is a powerful instrument of control over administration. As a part of work budget, there is financial budget also. The operating units, thus, work within the budgetary allotments and are not free to spend money as and when they like.

d) Approval of personnel: The superior authority appoints the key personnel and subordinate agency or bureau is not completely free to recruit its staff.

e) Reports: It is a standard practice that the operating units should submit an account of their activities to the central office. Such reports may be periodic – weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual. Report may also be special or ad hoc. A good system of reporting conveys is information to the superiors about what is going on. It enables the supervisors to evaluate the performance of their subordinates, to understand the situation faced by them; and above all, to control the operations within the organization.

f) Inspection: Supervisors carry out inspections periodically. In general, the purposes of inspection are
(i) to see that the existing rules, regulations and procedures are observed;
(ii) instructing and guiding the persons working in the organization;
(iii) a sort of performance audit;
(iv) improvement of efficiency.

Work plans, written procedures or manuals, written and oral instructions, staff meetings and
administrative follow-up are some other techniques used by supervisors.

Phases of Supervision:

There are three aspects of a supervisor’s duties. These are:

a) Institutional aspect: Supervisor should have a knowledge of policies, procedures and
practices of the agency and has to ensure that persons reporting to him have knowledge of them and are functioning according to them.

b) Personal aspect: The supervisors have to create an atmosphere in which the subordinates
are self-motivated to work for the attainment of the objectives of the organization. For this the supervisors needs to be a master of human relations.

c) Substantive or Technical: This aspect deals with the way of working. Millet distinguishes between substantive and technical supervision. The first is concerned with the actual work done by an agency while the second deals with the methods by which the work is done. Therefore, technical capability is improved by education and training. This technical capability in turn improves substantive work.

The personal or human relations aspect becomes very important once the basic level of technical competence is achieved by a supervisor. The success of a supervisor, more often than not, depends on his personal relations with employees, taken as individuals.

Qualities of a Supervisor:

Qualities of a Supervisor: Supervision needs knowledge and skill in using it.

Halsey has listed the following six qualities a supervisor should have. These are:
a) Thoroughness
b) Fairness
c) Initiative
d) Tact
e) Enthusiasm
f) Emotional control

Training of Supervisors

The qualities required for good supervision can be developed by education and training. Thus, training programmes have an important role to play in developing supervisors.

The supervisory training programmes should include:

(i) Job Instruction Training: How to instruct others in job methods
(ii) Job Methods Training: Training in the job method to the supervisor.
(iii) Job Relations Theory: Human relations education and training to help develop the ability to deal personally and effectively with the workers or subordinates)


Millet, John D., Management of Public Service, McGraw Hill, New York, 1954


Public Administration Times

Updated  24 July 2016,  24 November 2011

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