Managing Educational Institutes

Written by Eli Schragenheim and Dr. Shoshi Reiter

Managing is all about achieving a common goal.  In business the most common goal is to make money now and in the future.  Hospitals strive to make patients healthier. Education is about making people, especially young people, much more knowledgeable and valuable citizens.

Hand drawn cartoon characters on textured background - children

TOC for education (TOCFE) has a lot of implementations around the world in pedagogy, mainly in curriculum and students behavior.

What is the organizational contribution to support and improve pedagogy?

The long-term goal of any school or faculty might be verbalized like this:

Enabling pupils to draw the best from themselves and become valuable and contributing members in the society.

Specific educational systems should declare a more concrete, yet long-term, goal.  The social environment of the specific institution certainly has an impact.  A school in a poor neighborhood has a different emphasis than schools in rich areas. The Engineering Uni. department might have a specific goal different from the Business department.   Certain values and specific areas of knowledge could be seen as of utmost importance and by that differentiate the goal from others.

Managers define many times goals that are actually short-term intermediate objectives. For instance, “Recruiting more students to my faculty”, “Higher academic scores in national test”, “Prevent dropout from school”, “Improve well-being at school”… These objectives are not the ultimate goal; they represent what the managers believe they need to focus right now.

What is the possible contribution of TOC to the management of educational institutions?

Improving the quality of pedagogy is an important element to achieve the goal. Yet, some other aspects of school management are no less challenging. We have an organization with a group of different resources (e.g. human capital, real estate, and budget) stakeholders and community that exert various pressures on the institution. Our assumption is that every manager has several degrees of freedom in managing their organization (school, faculty…). From all of these a critical question is raised:

How to manage the educational organization effectively in order to achieve more and more of the goal?

How do we measure the relative achievement of the goal during the process? How long do we wait till we realize we have lost track?  Maybe our actions are not effective and do not lead us to the goal? When do we learn from mistakes and make the necessary changes? What is the mechanism that helps us correct before it’s late…

The main indicators used today are based on exams and the personal evaluation of the teachers. Question is how much analysis is done to quickly identify emerging problems and fix the educational flow of knowledge, skills and values, to the students.

We like to highlight a key difference in the meaning of ‘flow’ between education and all other organizations. Students go into education system for a fixed period of time.  So, the basic concept of lead-time is meaningless in the educational system.  What becomes even more important is what the student has managed to get and digest in this fix period of time.

Goldratt defined three fears of management: Complexity, Uncertainty and Conflicts. Running a school with many teachers, each is doing a seemingly independent job, but recognizing the fact that eventually every pupil is a holistic mission, calls for the emergence of conflicts. When we take the external stakeholders, especially the parents, into consideration, then quite a lot of the time of the typical school manager is occupied by settling conflicts.  The TOC generic win-win approach and the detailed technique of resolving conflicts (evaporating clouds) should not only lead to better resolutions, but also to faster treatment, freeing the manager to focus on how to improve the flow of knowledge and skills to the students.

The difficult part is to view and measure the effectiveness of the quality of the flow, especially of the overall impact of the education on all the students. This problematic area calls for employing the Thinking Processes (TP), not just for teaching students the TP, but for developing a structured analysis of the various signals, including the grades and their relationships between classes and between years, and identify both the constraint and the core problem of the specific educational system.

Applying the five focusing steps has a lot of potential to guide the managerial focus to deal with how the constraining resource should be exploited. Most educational institutes are part of the public sector and they have to operate based on a budget dictated by either the municipality or the government.

In a given fix budget situation the high-level constraint generates a lower-level constraint!!!

The budget forces limitations on the teachers and class-rooms. When we assume that more teacher-hours per pupil would improve the achievements of the goal, then the limitation imposed by the budget generates the operational constraint of teacher-hours.  The budget can also limit the number of truly excellent teachers out of the total number of teachers.  So, assuming the manager faces X number of excellent teachers and Y number of okay teachers, the exploitation is based on how effective is the distribution of the X excellent teachers between the pupils and how the other teachers are pushed to their capability limits.

New pedagogic methods are frequently introduced into schools. Sometimes the manager has the authority to decide whether to implement a specific new method or not.  In other cases the higher level authority is the decision maker.  Even in the latter case the manager has to lead the actual implementation. The most critical efforts have to focus on early checking whether that method truly produces the expected benefits and if not find the required actions to fix the problems.  How should the signals, for good or bad effects, be analyzed?  The TOC Thinking Processes and the methodology of Learning from One Event could be of huge support in the difficult mission.

On January 30, 2016, Eli Schragenheim and Shoshi Reiter will deliver a free webinar on http://www.TOCICO.org on that topic.

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Eli Schragenheim

My love for challenges makes my life interesting. I'm concerned when I see organizations ignore uncertainty and I cannot understand people blindly following their leader.

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