The end of management – lessons for universities?

Yet another “death of X” article is the spark for this post. This one comes from the Wall Street Journal and is titled The end of management. There’s been a wave of these articles recently, but this one I like because it caters to my prejudice that most of the problems in organisations, especially in universities around learning and teaching, arise from an inappropriate management paradigm. The following has some connections to the oil sheiks thread.

Some choice quotes

Corporations are bureaucracies and managers are bureaucrats. Their fundamental tendency is toward self-perpetuation. They are, almost by definition, resistant to change. They were designed and tasked, not with reinforcing market forces, but with supplanting and even resisting the market.

and

The weakness of managed corporations in dealing with accelerating change is only half the double-flanked attack on traditional notions of corporate management. The other half comes from the erosion of the fundamental justification for corporations in the first place.

And a quote from Gary Hamel which summarises much of the problem with real innovation, including innovation around management

That thing that limits us is that we are extraordinarily familiar with the old model, but the new model, we haven’t even seen yet.

Moving onto the question of resources

In corporations, decisions about allocating resources are made by people with a vested interest in the status quo. “The single biggest reason companies fail,” says Mr. Hamel, “is that they overinvest in what is, as opposed to what might be.”

The challenge that strikes at the heart of improving learning and teaching within universities is capture in this quote

there’s the even bigger challenge of creating structures that motivate and inspire workers. There’s plenty of evidence that most workers in today’s complex organizations are simply not engaged in their work.

Does your university have large numbers of academic staff that are actively engaged in teaching? How does it do it?

I’d like to work for a university that gets this, or at least is trying to.

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