Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Death of the Middle Manager?

Minoan Bull jumping a career that
became redundant
 Minoan bull jumping must have been an activity that people occupied their time doing.  we only know that it took place because somebody thought it was important enough to record.

Having worked in education for a number of years I noticed about five years ago the term middle management start to become very prevalent.  This has latterly also coincided with the removal of single heads of departments and super groups becoming established across many subjects in schools.

The upshot of this was that many people who had previously enjoyed a management remuneration ceased to do so as new posts were conceived.  These new posts  had the much more "beneficial" TLRs which were directly related to childrens' learning but did not actually balance financially the equivalent posts and work load that had been rolled into one.  The creation of further senior management posts of Assistant Heads also seemed to further skew the management structure.  There were more people  monitoring than had previously been there.  Fewer people were in effect Middle managers  creating almost two pyramids, one inverted and resting on the apex of the other.

In my Kindle experiences  of today I came across the article "The End of the Middle Manager" by Lynda Gratton in the Harvard Business Review (28th December Edition).  A number of points struck me in their relevance to my own management of career change or modification in relation to the present economic climate.

The points made in the article of the use of technology for data gathering and analysis is one of the  factors  I have noticed in my ten plus years in education delivery.  We have a way in the UK on predicting where children should be in their achievement levels many years in advance based on certain way points.  These are used by managers to monitor pupil progress via different tools of which SIMS is the prevalent system.

The underlying data is not generated in school but by a national foundation.  Simplistically this is then used to judge pupils' progress across the whole country and ultimately rank schools and measure effectiveness.

The key point is that middle managers within a single organisation are irrelevant to this process.  The unit of delivery is the individual teacher.  A general manager is therefore irrelevant in the responsibility chain as to what is being measured.  The previously remunerated activities of the process of managing resources, drafting policy and reporting information is not needed at middle management level.  What is focused on is the end product.

The technological revolution has in the words of the article, changed the very nature of how people work.  ike the Minoan bull jumper we will have evidence that middle managers existed, mainly in the form of certificates for courses designed for middle managers,  but did not ultimately provide skills that were useful outside that institution.  Technology is the general manager.

The article suggests more of a master manager role of mentor and coaching from someone that is respected and I suggest more to the point trusted.  Which for a lot of teachers in the present climate of monitoring is very difficult to achieve as motives are not trusted.  The pursuit of perfection in house (not satisfactory or good but outstanding) has come at a high price in terms of  disaffected teachers.  Hence the rise of consultants and coaches in the last few years?

So if you are a middle manager what is the prognosis?

Change our perceptions of what work actually is.

Development of signature skills is suggested as one must do task.

Join an institute to increase visibility,  to allow increases in skills and independently accredit skills.  Probably for educationalists in the UK a possibility with the demise of the GTC.  The GTC was supposed to have some sort of role like this but was set up with the premise that all teachers were bad teachers.

Develop new areas of proficiency or moving into adjacencies (might need translation here  or a skills psychometric profiling test) are also must do recommendations.

The areas to look  to develop competency in are suggested as:

advocacy - I suppose we always need lawyers, champions  and  arbitrators

Social and micro entrepreneurship -    This is elements of Big Society  I suppose. There is now an Institute of Entrepreneurs they have a website front door  but the lights do not yet seem to be on.  There is also an Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs   which seems to be a site of enterprising entrepreneurs offering training to entrepreneurs (is this run by former Buinesslink advisors).  Federation of Small Businesses may be a good starting point also.

Life and health sciences -  as physics research projects  gets more expensive and theoretically less applicable to mass market sales, physics of the wheel although is  long running market ..... choose life there are over 6.5 billion potential users of life and health sciences and still growing

Energy conservation -  can this really be done in small enterprises .......... needs investigating.  Public sector (governments) still really dominating with education and legislation issues.  Although I did see that someone related to the Bathstore has had a Eureka moment and come up with a freestanding insulated bath, which links into the next area ....

Creativity and innovation -  the Daedalus factor (he allegedly did his best work on Crete so probably witnessed the bull jumpers)

Coaching - I have already mentioned why this may be a goer for some educationalists, maybe career planning    without it being linked to a recruitment agency cost centre

Lynda Gratton is optimistic that these are areas that will remain needed for the coming decades.  A potential  business plan  spanning a generation rather than a five year plan?

Points to ponder and maybe add to my personal career change strategy.

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