Saturday, December 27, 2008
Firstly, management and leadership are two different and disparate functions. Management is largely based on authority associated with a delegated role whereas leadership is usually based on (working) relationships. Few managers are actually leaders because of the likely conflict between role and relationship. Similarly few leaders are actually managers.
So how do those in charge (those with authority) change organisations? The most common approach is to produce a plan and communicate it to staff. The 'short-cut' version of this approach is simply to use direct force, often in the form of changed policies and structures.
Sometimes this approach seems to work, at least in part. Of course, this implies that the plan was, to a certain extent, well thought out and comprehensive, and hence. The manager is, usually to a greater extent, a heroic and insightful leader.
Closer examination will usually show that the outcome differs significantly from the plan. What has emerged is different from what was initially proposed, due to unforeseen circumstances or the resistance of those who are required to implement the plan.
In reality, it is not possible to predict what will emerge from a change initiative. Afterwards, the difference between intensions and outcomes are often readily explainable through 'retrospective coherence'.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The client as an external role arises from the almost universal production paradigm that has the organisation as 'factory'. A more aggressive form of the production paradigm might be the organisation as 'army'. In either case command and control are frequently in use.
Thus ‘client’ is better understood as a momentary ‘role’ within dynamic working-learning relationships. It is not a fixed personal role, the 'client' is simply the next person,… in the process.
Clients and providers may exchange ‘roles’ from moment to moment as in the doctor-patient example above. This iterative movement occurs in everyday conversations in which knowledge, arrangements and actions are constructed. The collaboration of teachers and learners is another prime example. Rather than 'Student at the Centre' we need to make the success of teachers and learners working and learning together the centre of the Department.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
One of my sad experiences this year came from a conversation I overheard in a school. A parent asked about a minor aspect of the school's future arrangements. The senior staff member replied: "We don't know ... the Department hasn't decided yet."
This informal exchange illustrated the extent to which the Tasmanian education system has become a top down system. In earlier times, such minor matters would have been decided by the school as a matter of course.
Few Tasmanian schools are the purposeful creative places they used to be before the system became the client. This latter development is the inevitable outcome of the recent unchallenged top down approaches.
Despite their rhetoric, top down systems do not support leaders at all well. They may talk 'leadership' but the system constraints reduce leadership to management (implementing the system's decisions) and compliance. But there are still leaders in spite of this. And the leaders are paying a very high price in those schools that are trying so hard to be purposeful and creative. Many school leaders are quite exhausted by the competing demands of the Department and governments and the needs of the staff and students. An indicator and outcome is the low and shrinking number of applicants for Principals' positions.
And then there is the paradoxical phenomenon in top down systems that
- The less well top down interventions work, the more likely they will be applied and increased.