Efficient and effective management in Higher Education: an insider action research perspective
The purpose of this research was to examine the factors that underpin efficient and effective management of the administration services that support academic delivery in an academic school in higher education. It emanated from personal disquiet that my formal management education, with curricula delivered on a discipline basis, had not equipped me to deal with the complex and messy reality of the managerial role. There were six objectives associated with this project: (a) examine effective and efficient management through action research; (b) develop management effectiveness through action research; (c) analyse the factors that underpin, contribute to and affect the manager's efficient and effective delivery of support activities; (d) enhance and develop the researcher's managerial competencies and improve work systems; (e) examine how past managerial experiences affect current practice; and (f) examine the benefits of insider, first person, action research to support managerial activity in a university academic school. An autoethnograhic approach, using reflective narratives, was adopted. The reflective narratives, which form the data for this research, were written over a two year period between spring 2010 and spring 2012, and encompassed the daily activities, both planned and unplanned, mundane and unique of my life as a manager. The findings indicated that effective self-management was a pre-requisite of the successful management of others. Self-management and the management of others requires skills based around four themed areas of emotional management, relationship management, presentation management and the management of roles and tasks. Experience, combined judiciously with formal management education and training (hard skills), ability in the four themed areas (soft skills), and sector and organisational knowledge are required to manage successfully within a university setting. Experiential learning, achieved by structured reflective practice, was found to be an important tool for the improvement of practice through continuing professional development. Action research and reflective practice were useful approaches in the improvement of managerial effectiveness. The manager must be able to apply their professional knowledge according to the situation; this was when tacit knowledge-in-action was required. The findings suggest, therefore, the need to educate managers in the acquistion of structured reflective practice. Formal management education should teach students about the need for and the development of the soft skills pertaining to the management of emotions, relationships, self-presentation and of roles and tasks in themselves and others. This thesis has important implications for management education and for the continuing professional and personal development of practising managers.
- School of Sport and Health Sciences