A Commonsense Approach to Dealing with People: Managing People Made Easier

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Common Methodologies

To create this favorable future, you must involve your stakeholders i. The key to common sense management is to understand that people communicating and working together will create this future, not words written down on paper. Common sense management does not replace traditional management activities such as budgeting, planning, monitoring, marketing, reporting, and controlling.

Rather, it integrates them into a broader context, taking into account the external environment, internal capabilities, and your overall purpose and direction. Indeed, the emphasis on anticipating the needs of students and other educational stakeholders is a critical component of market research. Certainly colleges and universities that adopt a total quality assurance philosophy will be better prepared to meet the challenge of educating and training a workforce capable of competing in the global economic marketplace.

Common sense management is not really complicated or difficult to implement. A well-planned process will not require an inordinate amount of time. In fact, you can launch a process in a one- or two-day workshop. Our contention is that as long as you are willing to commit to long-term thinking and decision making, you have the skills needed to carry out the process, one that will produce many concrete benefits. In this chapter we present the five-step common sense management model, and in subsequent chapters we elaborate each step.

As you consider the model, keep in mind that common sense management is not just these steps. While the tasks or operations described in these steps are essential to the process, common sense management is, in reality, something more. It is the development of a strategic mind set by faculty and staff to use on a day-to-day basis in every aspect of their work.


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Effective common sense management requires that faculty and staff share a way of thinking, or a "mind-set," described below. Because facts are "snapshots in time," representing a picture of your institution or the environment at one point in time only, you must continually update them, analyzing and synthesizing so that they become part of your information base. Strategic decisions are made on the basis of these facts, and not on the basis of emotional preferences or on what people would like to be true. Because there is so much information available, you must become adept at sorting out the information that is important for your strategic decision making from information that is not important.

Select only that information that indicates changes in the environment that may affect the direction or programs of your institution, or that may affect stakeholders.

Recognize that facts or speculation about the future are especially valuable for common sense management. Note that trends may generate counter-trends, and that both must be considered your analysis. One reason common sense management involves continual scanning of the outside environment is that this environment is always changing. External changes mean new opportunities and new threats.

To be successful, discover and take advantage of new opportunities and ameliorate the implications of new threats. This means that you are flexible, not wedded to a set of strategies or action plans that you cannot change. Common sense management focuses on the future, often in the absence of "facts. You and your colleagues must be imaginative, innovative, and willing to take risks. Insisting on sharing information and ideas is essential.

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You will recognize that any person in your institution may be the first to spot a new threat or opportunity in the environment, or to have an idea that will improve strategy. Others must listen to this person, or else the information or idea will be lost. Common management is a system that helps people to listen.


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  5. Another common sense management essential is that faculty and staff must reach some agreement on and commitment to the institution's strategic direction and strategies. They must generally agree that the mission and vision for the future are worth working toward.

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    They must also agree that if they work together on certain broad steps, or strategies, they are likely to achieve this vision. One way of reaching this agreement is to involve in some way, as far as possible, all those who will be affected by strategic decisions in the decision-making process. Colleges and universities typically have a lot of demands made on them. They can be pulled in dozens of directions.

    For example, community college administrators sometimes complain that their institutions are expected to be "all things to all people. This statement should lay the foundation for an inspirational vision of your institution. Once stakeholders agree on the mission and vision, you can focus on those issues that are the key to success in carrying out the mission and achieving the vision.

    Strategies will be built around these issues. However, recognize that the changing environment can bring new issues. If a new issue is sufficiently important, you may have to respond to it, and this may mean altering a strategy.

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    Common sense management is a very fluid, flexible, on-going process. It is a "people" process.

    It depends on what is going on in the minds of people and on their agreement to work together to execute institutional strategy, and not on what is written down on paper. This is why it is often said that it is the process, and not the plan, that counts.

    Of course, there can be, and usually is, a written plan, which is a vehicle for communication. But in a well-managed institution people understand that the future is not really going to be precisely what the plan proposes when it is originally developed. This is because of the many changes that will occur between the present and the future. Indeed, the future is not predictable because events occur that you do not expect, or do not occur when you do expect.

    For example, the Gulf crisis in early resulted in some faculty, staff, and college students being called to active duty.

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    The crisis was also blamed for pushing the U. The point is, a political event in the mid-East can affect a community college in Iowa. You will learn to recognize such events that can alter those assumptions that drive the plan. As we will discuss later, there are procedures and methods to anticipate such events. To respond to these changes, you must regularly review your plan and modify your strategies and tactics as may be appropriate for continued forward movement toward vision achievement.

    To summarize briefly, common sense management is a powerful process to create a successful future. It is an avenue toward success and toward developing organizational resources you need to be successful. It requires developing and using a strategic mind-set. The strategic mind-set values and uses information, takes advantage of new opportunities, is imaginative and innovative, stresses communication and consensus-building among your stakeholders, and focuses on the issues that are most important for your institution.

    It is a process to manage change rather than be managed by it. Finally, the five-step process we describe in this book is a proven tool for managing strategically. You must address each of these to institute an ongoing common sense management process. If you, your colleagues, and your stakeholders tune into the changing environment and position your institution to take advantage of new opportunities, think creatively about possibilities, share their ideas, and agree on a vision and strategies that will achieve that vision, you are well on your way to having a well managed organization.

    The problem is how to build this organization. This is where our five-step model comes in See Figure The five steps in this model represent building blocks. Keep this in mind: The product you seek at each step is not a written report. It is a strategic mind-set of the senior leadership, indeed the whole organization. Figure Common Sense Management.

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    We present the five common sense management steps in a logical order, one that seems easiest to follow. But the truth is that many times you will not go through these steps in the order we show. You may start in the middle and work backward and then forward again. You may repeat steps. You may do more than one step at one time. Gathering data about the external environment and gathering data about your organization is the first step of common sense management. This first step is in reality, two information gathering activities.