Showing posts with label management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label management. Show all posts

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Deflating enthusiasm and complaints management

It's easy to deflate someones enthusiasm.  As a HOLA you are on the end of every complaint and every perceived inequity in your department.  I don't always deal with them in the moment as well as I could without other things on my mind.  I try and create a shared vision with everyone along for the ride but it's possible to deflate my enthusiasm for the vision and have conflict derail the shared vision when those you are working are fixated on minor resolvable issues and ignoring the big picture of improvement both in conditions and achievement.

Being mindful of the following can give some insight into the issues faced by HOLAs and Administration in complaint management and resolution.

Here are some things to think about before making a complaint.


If someone gets something that you do not, that does not make it unfair.  Believing this makes you sound entitled.  If someone gets more help, it might be because they need it.  If someone gets less help it may be because they are being given an opportunity to show what they can do.  If someone gets more help it may just be because a series of events have lead to this with no ill intent to anyone.  A big goal is not able to be achieved in one step with everyone contributing equally and it may take time to reach everyone or for everyone to see the benefits - for a period you may be required to do more until resources are available for everyone. Waiting for everyone to complete the same amount of work would make the task take infinitely longer where reluctant, incapable, obstructive, lacking experience, with personal issues, or have conflicting/higher priorities are involved.

Is my situation better than it was?

If I look backwards has someone made my situation better overall than it would have been otherwise?  Putting this one incident aside, consistently has an effort been made to improve my situation by them?  How much goodwill will I lose from making this complaint and how much does it have the potential to impact on future opportunities. Is it worth making a scene and what will it accomplish?

Is this my job?

If at the end of the day you are asking to do a basic task of a teacher:

  • plan for a class
  • assess ability of a student
  • teach the class
  • cater to student individual needs
  • identify resources for students

then being resentful for having not having someone to do any of this work for you can lead to inferences of laziness or incompetence.  At the end of the day, others can prepare and assist you by passing on resources to you for you to use in your class, but you will still have to evaluate them and ensure they are suitable.  If you require someone else to do your work for you, you are expecting them to do your duties of teaching your class, a role you are being paid to do. 

What do I want from this?

If you do not realise what you want from a complaint, it's a whinge.  A complaint needs to lead to an outcome that will improve student outcomes.  Have a very clear idea about what you want, and consider the previous point whether it is a desire or something that is actually a part of your regular duties.

What forum can I use to address this issue?

Is this about power and embarrassment or about change for the good of students?  If I make this complaint public (in the staffroom, to the Principal or Deputy, by discussing it with others in the faculty) will it alter the relationship I have with this person and limit future opportunities? How long will it take to rectify it if things go wrong?  Is the timing right for discussing it?  What frame of mind am I in?  Would it be better to send an email or have a private discussion? 

I suggest strongly resisting complaining publicly as is not a good way to make a name for yourself.  People will respond differently if you make a complaint in front of others than if you do it privately and seek a conversation (either through responding to an email or in person).  If you have had ample time to use different means to state your concern and choose to do it in public, it says something about you and the relationship you have within the hierarchy.  Nobody wants public conflict - ensure you have exhausted all other avenues before using this path.

How can I ensure that what I am asking for is reasonable?

Be very careful about issuing demands is my best piece of advice.  A demand infers entitlement - if you are not entitled to the demand, by definition you are behaving in an entitled way and this will be judged by your peers and your HOLA.  When working in a hierarchy (which most schools are), my suggestion is to ask "up", and the times that you can tell "down" to someone below you in the hierarchy is very limited (generally for compliance issues only such as SCSA, Dept Policy or Business Plan objective requirements).  Resist telling "up", it is out of place and shows a lack of respect and understanding of leadership which has the potential to be detrimental to your future self and will take considerable time to repair leading to blaming others for lack of progress that you have had a part in.

Being a negative bystander

If you see someone in a situation that has the potential to end poorly, don't let them self destruct. Point out that what they are doing is not productive and seek ways to remedy the situation.  At a minimum don't inflame it - if you do then you are a part of the problem.  Often a person will calm down and reconsider their position if they are not encouraged by those with an agenda of derailing the vision.  People that seek to undermine a shared vision are noticed and will be overlooked or be counselled if it is overt enough. Those that are seen as being productive, cooperative, capable and willing to contribute will be rewarded first - this is the basis of merit, the ability to contribute towards organisational goals - note that I did not say personal goals (these are irrelevant if they do not align with organisational goals that you are paid to follow!).  It makes sense to promote those seeking to work within the system and makes no sense to reward those that actively seek to disrupt it.

Leaders have to make best efforts to bring everyone with them.  This means that, on occasion, people will not come along, leading to inequity of effort or may have competing priorities that lead to some things not happening.  It's not always personal, it's not necessarily laziness, it may just be circumstance.  We need to be reasonable about what we demand, and work in an adult environment where requests are made and not have a public "tantrum" or play "no speakies" in the hope we will get our own way.  As term progresses and pressures rise, conflict can occur.  The trick is how to deal with it and I am by no means an expert - it is wise to observe those that handle and navigate conflict well and learn from their successes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Change management and the half cohort

When I heard the 'local solutions for local issues' chant last year, a siren went off in my head saying here comes another case of pushing responsibility down the line. The half cohort has been mismanaged thus far and schools now have to find 'innovative solutions' to maintain student levels and thus staffing levels.

Knowledge management is a key aspect in any organisation. If we let an ill thought out decision and implementation (like the half cohort) damage our long term ability to provide a service, this is a very poor management decision. Yet this is what we are faced with. When smaller numbers come in next year, schools face losing FTE. With a loss of FTE comes a loss in capability to deliver and retain content and a loss of knowledge of how to manage our students.

Innovative solutions typically means something experimental cobbled together with a low chance of success, with little forethought. This is because true innovative solutions requires a lot of work prior to implementation - after all, if it was easy everyone would be doing it already and it would not be innovative.

Once we have identified possible solutions we than have to consider how that change will occur. Managing change requires patience, skill and understanding on part of the participants. Change is a technical problem - not a people problem as too often people see it.

Steps in change management are:
a) determining the need for change
b) determining the obstacles to change
c) implementing change
d) evaluating change
(Human Resource Management, R.J. Stone, 2002)

In this case a driver for change is that we need to reduce FTE in 2010 and preserve school capability post the half cohort with fewer staff to share the load. Potentially the reverse issue happens in 2011 as the students held back in 2010 will appear in 2011. Using that knowledge (on face value) change may not be required as although retaining staff is more expensive than letting staff go, schools face the issue in 2011 of trying to restaff. A second driver for change is to re-instate job security. Whilst this issue is over the head of staff, good staff are more likely to consider opportunities elsewhere in case the job axe reaches them.

We then reach the second test, 'how to implement change'. Schools are now looking at where the 'fat' can be trimmed. Timetabling in this aspect is one of the biggest concerns. If a teacher leaves/retires/is let go organically another teacher of similar ability is rarely available on staff that fits the timetable to teach the topic (and if they do, they leave another similar hole elsewhere on the timetable). As restaffing is not an option, the solution here is usually a teacher teaching out of area or an 'innovative solution' to be used such as using leftover capability of various teachers to share a class, multi-age grouping (MAG - eg. grouping yr8/9 classes together) or integrated classrooms (eg. combined English/S&E classes).

The third test is the biggest concern where innovative solutions are bandied about. There is no doubt in my mind that given time and money, any solution can be made to work. My concern is that neither time nor money are available for such. For example, integrated classrooms may take up to five years to get right with dedicated staff committed to the project - one out of the box cannot work as student content and contextual entry points are different at each school. Furthermore staff that can create and plan these engaging projects are few and far between. Leftover capacity is nearly always a poor option. MAG streamed classes require a lot of skill to teach and have issues attached related to differences in work ethic and have the tendency to be taught to the middle (or bottom). MAG unstreamed classes exacerbate developmental, context ual and content issues thus requiring even more from the teacher than streamed classes. If we consider that the main issue resolves itself after 5 years we need to again ask whether these solutions warrant the change requirements for implementation.

The fourth test is the big one. If we are truly contemplating change we need to evaluate current performace before change has occurred, such that we can check later that the change has been positive. It is this step that shows good management from poor management. Pre-defined outcomes need to be set if we are to avoid 'crisis management' and move to structured 'change management'. NAPLAN is not the answer (though it can be one measurable) as it only measures what can be assessed in a snapshot test. It does not take into account staffing issues, affective requirements and behavioural response. More so it does not predict or respond to the potential success or damage to students in upper school (as is seen in some poorly managed middle school programmes). To realise the perils of over reliance on NAPLAN take a look at year 8 NAPLAN results and map them to senior school students. Ask yourself what happened to the block of students that did well in year 8 but were lost by year 10.

Furthermore if we instigate change 'from the hip' it makes it much more difficult to learn from our mistakes. If we know what we have done poorly, we can then do it differently in the future. This need to reflect is the key to success and to my mind, when this occurs, it is true 'change'. Something we need to consider more when defining future success.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Management in schools

Having a management background sometimes makes me have to look twice at those that are in management positions, particularly those that criticise superiors. In my day that was called whiteanting.. a popular (and healthy) pass time of staff, a particularly unhealthy occupation of management. Management that did stupid things like that found themselves being shown the front door.

For similar reasons management that wished to leave were given their severance and shown the door rather than working out their notice. Unhappy management talking about how the "grass is greener" elsewhere rarely have the motivation to do their job to the level required. It tends to be half hearted and based around explaining why leaving is a good idea to other staff. There are exceptions based on circumstance but usually this is true.

A strong administration gives an organisation direction and purpose. In teaching (where promotion is often from within to administration), a strong relationship often exists with staff and the newly promoted that cross the staff/admin boundary; this inexperience ends with the newly appointed siding with staff rather than with school policy set by the senior management group. Pre-policy positions should be open to discussion with staff but dissension with policy (once decided) should stay with the SMG.

This is why in many cases it would be better to gather administrative staff from out of school, rather than promote from within (temporary postings are the exception to this, this is where you get experience for a permanent position). The staff relationships are less fixed and a clear line can be drawn that is needed for a working environment. Good time guys with unprofessional relationships with staff allow schools to be run down as staff run in individual directions and lose direction on teaching outputs. Old boys networks within schools should be discouraged at all costs. Management is about setting the school direction and managing staff - when management and staff are travelling in different directions then this is not a positive outcome.