Friday, December 04, 2009

Confessions of a micromanager

Micromanagement is a bad thing. How on earth did I end up editing a bunch of handbooks and surveys, and answering dozens of emails a day about technical bugs? - Surely NOT because I like to do everything myself, and not because I don't trust my colleagues and staff. Here is my story this semester:

Much of my summer prep work went into grant writing. I found myself late in August scrambling to change the data collection systems for our PTEP programs. Because I was scrambling, I did not really have time to talk to coordinators and staff about what has changed, and how the new processes work. Delegation of responsibilities requires time for discussion, and training people, especially if a new technology is involved. None of that happened. The result of it is that we had many organizational and technological glitches (if you discuss a change a lot, and test extensively, less of this happens). But remember, I did not inform and train other people to help with those glitches, so I ended up doing a lot of trouble shooting myself: no one knew how to help. This creates a vicious cycle: I run around and plug the holes, and therefore have no time to catch up on information and training. The end of the semester came unexpectedly (who knew, right?), and I find myself in the same position again: rewriting the handbooks for the next semester, no time to talk to others. Besides, a couple of unplanned problems came up, some very time consuming, others less so. But again, they always do come up and should be time-budgeted for.

Could this be avoided? I am not so sure. The cost of delaying the changes is also high. I think our new data collection system is a lot better than the old one; it will eventually become much better, when the kinks are worked out. It is almost completely paperless, gives us much better data much faster, and involves significantly less work for students, cooperating teachers, and supervisors. I also learned that if you delay a change for a semester, it ends up being delayed for three years. Why? - Because if you don't do it during Summer, you surely will miss December, and then something may come up in the next Summer. And those are really two windows of opportunity for implementing changes. However, in Summer, very few faculty are around. In December, they all run around looking exhausted, and will shoot without a warning if I call a meeting. The world we live in gives no time to improve things, because we're too busy doing things that need to be improved.

The lesson I've learned is that getting involved in just one too many projects may have a chain-reaction effect on a whole number of other projects. I also learned that one may become an involuntary micromanager. Just need to get a grip and start planning how to get from under this one.

For those of you who do not know, the new system is pretty simple. All PTEP programs (we still need to convert two more) collect the following data:

  1. Work Sample portfolio through http://iwebfolio.com; they all have rubrics that collect evaluation data. We also figured out a way for students to feed data back to iwebfolio, and scan and upload needed documents (mainly, the Diverse Field Experience, and the last lesson observation form).
  2. Standardized lesson observation form: those are short, make sense to us, and incorporate different content knowledge areas.
  3. On-line Final Evaluation modules for cooperating teachers and supervisors, AND Exit Surveys for graduates; both on http://uncsurvey.org.

It is not surprising, given our numbers, that many technical and communication bugs need to be eliminated for this simple scheme to work. That's been my project for almost the entire semester.

1 comment:

  1. Margo Barnhart5:01 PM

    Sasha: The new ideas are wonderful. Perhaps this next semester will be easier. I know that I was here for all of last summer except the last week of the second six weeks. Next summer just tell me what you need from me and I will do my best to deliver! It was quite disconcerting to get the changes at our Supervisor meeting on 9/18/09. I too have had probably more than 300 e-mails throughout the semester related to the changes. I continue to receive them even today--as I told you this morning about the number of on-line final evals that apparently have not gotten through probably due to firewalls on the school district web sites.
    We can never have too much communication!!!

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