The Two Essential Tasks of Management

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/startupstockphotos-690514/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3267505">StartupStockPhotos</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3267505">Pixabay</a>Many of my administrator colleagues in English language programs began their careers as teachers, and at some point moved into management. Some are solely administrators, others are somehow able to continue balancing teaching and management responsibilities. A move from the classroom to the office continues to be a means of career progression for many in the field. If you are thinking of making this move, you might be asking what management is and whether it is for you. 

You can find many definitions of management, and none is complete or perfect. Here is how I see the job of management. 

Organizations of any kind have goals, the things they want to achieve. In education our goals might include student learning, educational research, advocacy for learners, and (in some institutions) making a profit. Look at the mission statement of your school or program if you want to know its goals. Where I work, our mission includes Improving students’ English language knowledge and skills, deepening their intercultural understanding, and promoting their personal development. 

In order to achieve an organization’s goals, we have resources. Resources include: 

  • People (human resources)
  • Money (financial resources)
  • Physical space
  • Equipment and technology
  • Time

With infinite resources we could do anything, but resources are always limited. We don’t have an infinite supply of teachers, we have to work within budgets, and we only have so many classrooms and offices. We have limited space and budget for equipment, and of course, there is never enough time. As managers, it is our job to utilize our resources effectively and efficiently to meet our goals. 

Effectiveness refers to the extent to which we meet our goals. For example, if students learn what we specified in the curriculum, teaching has been effective. 

Efficiency is the ratio of inputs to outputs. The fewer inputs (resources) we apply in the achievement of our goals, the more efficient we are. 

Managers have to balance the often competing needs for effectiveness with those of efficiency. To see what I mean, look at some questions relating to efficiency and effectiveness in the management of a school or program. 

Resource Efficiency Questions Effectiveness Questions
Money
  • Where can we buy the cheapest supplies?
  • What is the minimum salary we need to offer employees?
  • What are some cheap or free activities we can offer as part of our extracurricular program?
  • Which supplies get the job done best? 
  • What salary and benefits should we offer to hire and retain the best teachers and staff?
  • What activities can we offer to support students in meeting our goals for them?
People
  • How do we limit the number of people on the payroll?
  • How many different tasks can each person do?
  • Is everyone keeping busy? 
  • How do we ensure that all functions are fully staffed? 
  • How do we ensure employees are motivated and satisfied with their work?
  • Do people have time and space to be creative, come up with new ideas, and adapt to changing conditions?
Physical Space
  • How many students can we fit in a classroom?
  • Can staff do desk-sharing or work in a cubicle rather than an office?
  • What spaces can be put to more than one use?
  • Are classrooms able to accommodate multiple configurations for teaching and learning?
  • Which rooms are better for teaching and learning vs. office space?
  • Are our spaces welcoming and comfortable?
Equipment and technology
  • Can we use free or cheap technological applications?
  • Can staff share equipment?
  • What’s the best deal we can get from our internet provider?
  • Does our classroom technology enhance learning?
  • Does everyone have the equipment they need to do their job well?
  • Does our wireless network support the online needs of teachers, staff, and students?
Time
  • How many class periods can we fit into one day?
  • How do we minimize teacher and staff downtime?
  • What is the fastest way to do placement testing?
  • Should class periods be longer or shorter to support learning?
  • How do we ensure teachers and students have sufficient break time to prevent cognitive overload and maximize learning?
  • What placement procedures are needed to ensure that students are placed in the best level to support their learning?

A school or program managed entirely on ‘efficiency’ lines is tough to work in – everyone is asked to do as much as possible with as little as necessary. A school run with purely ‘effectiveness’ considerations without an eye on efficient use of resources might be wonderful but not sustainable. The point of management is to find the right balance between these two sets of questions. If you move into management, you will likely find yourself caught every day in this tension with the need for efficiency while trying to meet your program’s goals effectively. A good manager has a sincere desire to deliver the best possible result while drawing on resources adequately and judiciously. 

Needless to say, handling this tension doesn’t describe the entirety of any manager’s job, but I think it’s one of the most essential roles of school and program administrators. It can create its own variety of stress and so is not for everyone. But all schools and programs need good managers. Is this the right challenge for you?

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