What Is POSDCORB?
Running Your Team in the Most Efficient Way
Imagine that you manage a passionate team, that's creative and known for its innovative ideas. You've no doubt that its members have the skills and energy needed to succeed, but you want to provide them with the structure and direction that will support them in doing so, and help them to work as efficiently as they can.
POSDCORB can help you do this. It was developed in 1937 by Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick – members of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administrative committee – to organize the U.S. government's administrative system.
Based on the work of French industrialist Henri Fayol, Gulick's paper, "Notes on the Theory of Organization," asks, "What is the work of the chief executive? What does he do?" He summarizes the answer in the acronym POSDCORB.
In this article, we'll explain what POSDCORB stands for, how it can help your team or organization to focus on its administrative duties, and its potential pitfalls.
Although POSDCORB is almost 80 years old, its underlying theory can still be useful for today's managers.
POSDCORB is an acronym for what Gulick and Urwick considered to be the main organizing responsibilities within a team or an organization. It stands for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting.
It's one of a number of early management theories, such as Henri Fayol's Principles of Management and Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management. It's formed the basis of management concepts like "span of control," which looks at the number of team members one manager can supervise, and "unity of command," which talks about team members taking direction from just one person.
The 7 Elements of POSDCORB
Here's how you can use each part of the POSDCORB acronym to cover your organizing tasks in the most efficient way.
- Planning – Establish what your objective is and work out what you and your team need to do to achieve it. For example, you might want to ensure that all customer orders are despatched within 24 hours of receipt. Planning involves identifying each task that you need to carry out to do this.
- Organizing – Organize your team so that it can work at its best. Look at its structure, and at how its subdivisions are arranged and coordinated. Think about the reporting lines that you have in place and the number of people in each team or role. Is this the most efficient way of working, or could you improve it?
- Staffing – Capable members of staff are key to a productive organization. It's important to appoint the right people to the right roles, so that they can work effectively. Practice effective recruitment, train and develop your people, and match their skills and expertise to the tasks that they're best suited to.
- Directing – This is the ongoing job of making decisions and incorporating them into the instructions that you give to your team members. Arrange regular team meetings, one-on-ones and performance appraisals, to give them direction and make sure that they're clear about their objectives.
- Coordinating – This is the coordination of your people and of their work. Gulick describes how managers have limited amounts of time and energy, and how this must be considered when deciding how many people they can successfully supervise ("span of control"). He also emphasizes that each team member should take direction from only one manager to avoid confusion ("unity of command"). By coordinating your team in this way, you can make the best use of your resources and provide your team with clear activities and processes.
- Reporting – Keep people in the organization up to date with what's going on. Provide them with news, results and general information in formal reports and regular company updates, to boost their morale, productivity and commitment. This also includes team members reporting in to you with their progress, issues and concerns. (See our article on 5-15 reports for a great way to do this.)
- Budgeting – Balance your expenses with your income by planning, estimating and being disciplined with your finances. Creating a budget allows you to control your organization's income and expenditure, and can determine the success of a project.
You can use this model as a checklist to make sure that all of the key administrative functions are covered within your team or organization.
Administrative duties might not be glamorous, but they are important in the successful running of a team or an organization. POSDCORB is useful for ensuring that you've taken care of the key ones.
According to a paper by Agrawal and Vashitha, some of the advantages that POSDCORB can bring to your team or organization are:
- Division of work – Tasks are delegated evenly across the team or organization.
- Authority and responsibility – Team members know who to take direction from and what their responsibilities are.
- Discipline – People are aware of what they should be doing and when.
- Direction – Everyone's provided with clear objectives.
- Team work – Team members work toward shared objectives.
- Order – There's a clear organizational structure and coherent processes to follow.
Although POSDCORB helped to lay the foundations of public administration in the U.S., it has since been criticized for being too simplistic, and for being incompatible with the way that modern teams and organizations work.
American economist Herbert Simon criticizes the concepts of "span of control" and "unity of command." He believes that limiting the number of people a manager supervises can result in multiple and unnecessary levels of management. He also describes receiving directions from a single source as constraining for team members – restricting the scope of their activity.
In his 1995 book, Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government, Mark Moore suggests that POSDCORB is too inward looking. He says that the most important job of a manager is to understand and direct the organization towards it customers and clients through its product or services.
For newer, more agile and pragmatic management processes read our article, Managing in a VUCA World.
POSDCORB is an acronym for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting. It was created in 1937 by members of President Roosevelt's administrative committee, Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick.
Although it's an early management theory, it can help modern teams and organizations to focus on their administrative duties by providing a checklist of essential administrative responsibilities.
While the model has a number of drawbacks, it can be used as a tool to ensure administrative activities are performed by your team or organization as efficiently as possible.