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Fewer middle managers and a large span of control
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 08/24/2015

Prison tower 1


Some may have noticed how the middle managers and first level supervisors have found a new and more assertive position in corporate thinking and organizational flow charts. What this translates to is more responsibilities and a larger span of control. However, what is also translates to hiring less middle managers and less subordinates to work the same mission as before. It is likely some form of this new management style will be used in corrections somewhere soon, if not already in isolated cases.

Today, the middle manager and first level supervisors have been competing with software that makes technology work smart, not hard and because the technology is multitasking and flexible, changes have been made in staffing patterns and eliminated the need for some positions used prior to the application of such software technologies and computer systems.

Technology advances are taking jobs away but there is still a basic need that requires management to take on more work. What used to take lots of paperwork time, is now replaced with reduced staffing as the need to keep them is not the same any more. In other words, technological advances have already taken their toll on lower-level jobs changing vacancy rates and eliminating post assignments.

The fact is, humans can’t keep up with the latest computer algorithms that do a better job identifying what job skills are needed for a particular position or mission. They can choose or select special skills and talents from databases and begin to find other resources to make the caseloads easier. Data driven analysts are now making what were once human decisions and do so much more accurately.

In corrections, this lean management style translates into software doing your job and somebody else’s cutting back the need for employees on shifts and posts. Unfortunately, these algorithms don’t take into consideration the population mood assessments or threat levels and because the numbers change under such circumstances, it is likely the shift will be assigned fewer workers than is actually needed to handle such emergency responses and jobs usually done by humans to control, contain and secure the count.

One can foresee temporary delays for first responders to apply effective control methods and leaving the shift at risk for excessive injuries or time to retake control. Management is playing the odds these threats won’t appear too often and because they play the odds, it can be expected to shrink the workforce because there will be lesser need for people to be managed. Whether this is the right management concept for corrections is yet to be determined.

The bottom line is technology is eliminating far more jobs than it is creating. Essential jobs are being cut back and because there are fewer employees, there is a lesser need for supervisors and managers. One can see how technology impacts morale, staffing patterns and communication in the workplace. This is slowly becoming a major factor driving middle management in the direction of unconsciousness and unawareness of the environment they work in. safety is compromised like never before and shifts will have to depend on outside first responders to help them get out of a crisis situation.

None of these essential jobs in the start-up world is dependent on middle managers making sure people do what they’re supposed to do. Instead, start-ups embody the notion that you can do more with fewer, pushing each individual contributor harder, to take on greater job responsibility. Relative to such ideology, is the fact that management will expect people in those positions handling an increasing independence to accomplish the missions giving them a little more freedom, but also make them more responsive and agile. This does not mean organizations are replacing middle management, it just means they are redefining their roles and making them do more with less.

This decodes into a larger span of control – the number of people a manager manages will be less depending on the mission. So this trend is two-fold, less middle managers and first level supervisors and less workers equals less employees on shifts. These will be major changes when it is all said and done.

The need for fewer middle managers and less subordinate employees will drive the workload up with more multitasking and likely work-related fatigue and stress. Whether or not this is a compatible situation for prison management is yet to be determined as only time will tell.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:



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