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Is your university lecturer a manager? Understanding Managerial Functions and Roles

Question: Is your university lecturer a manager?  Discuss in terms of managerial functions, managerial roles, and skills.

According to Theodore Levitt, management consist of the rational assessment of a situation and know what is to be done, strategies to achieve the goal, marshalling of resources, control of the activities and finally motivating the resources to do the work.  According to Certo & Certo (2006), management is the process of reaching organisational objectives by working with people and other resources.  Majority of Academics agree that management has the following three main characteristics.

  1. It is a process or series of continuing and related activities (management functions).
  2. It involves and concentrates on reaching organisational goals (goal attainment).
  3. It reaches these goals by working with and through people and other organisational resources.

A discussion and explanations of the above three characteristic follows.

The process of management is easily identified in the four management functions which are planning, organizing, influencing and controlling.

Planning is the process of outlining what is needed to be done, its duration, when to start and end.  This involves short term and long term.  The purpose is to ensure that the activities chosen to be executed will bring the organisation closer to its objectives. A famous proverb put this better than anybody else quoting that “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.   Planning involves detailing the steps required to achieve the objectives and executing it.  There are also a good set of tools and proven theories to assist in better planning.

Planning for lecturer involves preparation, teaching, assessment, implement quality, and manage resources as appropriate.  Lecturer need to prepare and outline their activity for the whole semester.  They need to plan on how many classes that is going to be conducted, and how the subjects are going to be taught.  Dato’ Dr Abdul Kuddus (2009) in preparing for his class discover that the majority of his class student is above thirty and by knowing that he knows that most of the students have left school but however have abundant knowledge and experience in management.  Having had prepared this information will assist him in conducting his classes.

Organizing is the process of assigning the activities to its resources and is a mechanism to put the plan to act.  Everybody will be assigned to a task and is required to ensure that it is executed and will contribute to the organisational goals.  Good organizing skills will come with better understanding of responsibility, authority and delegation roles.  This is also compounded with the need to understand how to manage organisation changes, stress and in some cases also human resources.  Lecturer will need to discharge his duties and the objective is to ensure that his students understand and passes the subject.  This is done via three methods.

All reading materials are available online and all the students can easily access and have the ability to study on their own using the course guide that is prepared by the lecturer.  An online forum is also created where the lecturer and students can communicate every day.  Questions are asked from the books and the students are required to answer it in the forum.  This will also contribute to the final total marks.  In order to answer these questions the student will need to read the book, request guidance from the lecturers and also attend the classes and seminars.  Classes are also held every fortnight where the lecturer will spend at least three hours covering three to four chapters of study.

Influencing is another management functions.  This involves motivating, leading and directing.  This is critical as a better influencer will get a higher productivity level.  There are many characteristics that influence the success of influencing such as leadership, motivation, group, teams and corporate culture, the requirement to understand people and attitudes and also the ability to encourage and be innovative in influencing the students.  Lecturers are responsible for influencing the students and are required to guide the students in the appropriate direction.  Direct involvement in classes creates a human oriented work between the lecturer and the students.  Incentives such as early bird bonus can also appeal to the student and will increase their productivity level and motivates the students.  The way the classes are conducted will have positive effects and lecturers will use this opportunity to show, guide and lead the students for their academic objectives.

Controlling is the continuing process of control and monitoring of the activities that has commenced.  Control is the activity of managing or exerting control over something.  According to Roberto Mockler, controlling is a systematic effort by managers to compare performance to standards or plan and determine the variation and take remedial action required to ensure it will achieve organisational objectives. In order for control to be successful, lecturers is required to measure the performance of the student.

This can be done during each class and also during middle of the semester where the students submit their assignment.  By this time the lecturer will be able to assess the student’s performance and would be able to compare the performance with the current average performance of the university.  If the current performance is under average, the lecturer need to provide solutions such as extra class, or modifying the syllabus and even explaining to the students on where they go wrong. Lecturer or the university can also provide guidance for students on tutor basis.  This is an ongoing process which commence right before the first class and after the end of each semester.

The four basic management functions are all inter-related and cannot be separated.  The lecturer will need to execute all four management functions in order to be successful.

Organisational resources can be categorized in four basic types – human, monetary, raw materials and capital.  According to Certo & Certo (2006) management is defined as course of actions taken in order to accomplish organisational goals by working with and these four basic types of resources.

Lecturer need to utilize these resources in order to achieve organisational’s objectives.  We have dicussed how lecturers and managers are alike in their main characteristics in discharging their duties, but how do lecturers manager effectively or efficiently?

Effective is defined as producing an intended result or having a striking effect.  In managerial terms, effective means how manager use their resources in meeting organisational goals.  The continuum ranges from effective to ineffective.

Lecturer needs to minimize the resources but at the same time getting the same effect.  That is how online academic materials is very helpful.  The same amount of students can have access to the library and will be able to download the same materials over and over again.  If it is hardcopy, only one student can borrow the book at one time.  Online teaching is effective where everybody ubiquitously will have the flexibility to access the materials when they have the time.

Effeciency is defined as being effective without wasting resources.  In managerial terms, efficiency is measured by the level of resources wasted or unused during the production process.  The lower this is the more efficient the manager is.  Lecturer also needs to have good succession plan for academic succession.  Senior lecturers should assist in the academic development of junior lecturers.  Improving the teaching quality and the academic level of the lecturer also will increase the level of efficiency in teaching the subject matters.  With good grooming university will be able to produce more subject matter experts in the field.  Most local university now even made it compulsory for lecturers to outline their 10 years plan and must include completing of their doctor of philosophy degree or Ph.D.

Lecturers have full understanding of what their organisation objectives are and will assist in achieving these objectives.  Understanding of planning, organizing, influencing and controlling will assist in carrying it out appropriately.  As lecturers perform these inter-related functions as managers they will achieve their organisational objectives.

How do we define lecturer’s management skill?  There are two views which are applicable to this, a class view and a contemporary view.

A classic view explains that manager without skills cannot perform while managers with skill will perform well.  These three skills are required for successful manager to perform and are broken down as Technical, Human and Conceptual skills.

Technical skills are skills involving the ability to apply specialized knowledge and expertise to work related.  Lecturer need to have a good strong knowledge of the subject matter, only then will the lecturer be able to give good guidance, support and teaching of the subject.  Without good technical skill the lecturer will have difficulties when presented with something out of the book or an extension of the subject.  A good lecturer must have a good know how of the subject matter indefinitely.

Human skills are skills that are used for working with people.  Lecturer is required to have these skills as they interact highly with students and colleagues.  It is all about human skills.  If the lecturer does not possess these skills it will definitely bring a communication gap between the lecturer and the students.

Conceptual skills are the understanding of seeing the organisation as a whole.  Lecturers need to be able to understand how everything falls into place and understand the various functions of each department.  This will also assist heavily when the lecturer is required to assist to market their university or in getting research or study grant from the government.  By having an in-depth understanding of the organisational’s requirement, the lecturer will be more effective in working in-line with the organisational’s needs.

A contemporary view of management skills refers that there are three basic types of major activities that modern manager performs which are task-related activities, people-related activities and change-related activities.

These are all functions that lecturer and managers are required to perform.

Task-related activities are critical management related duties in organisation which includes short-term planning, building organisational objectives and performance monitoring.  As explained previously, lecturers are required to prepare coursework, organize the teaching methods and monitor the performance of the students.

People-related activities are efforts in managing people in organisations.  This includes support and encouraging.  Lecturers are required to give support and encouragement to students from time to time.  Most university had also created a special department in charge to assist students.  These usually offer guidance and consultation to the students.

Change-related activities are about modifying organisational components such as new strategies and visions and everything about changes to the existing establishments.  Lecturers are always required to give input to help the university in improving their existing syllabus, research grants, infrastructures and also upholding the quality in the university.  From time to time, changes are required to adapt to the changes in the academic world.  There is also competition from other university which calls for changes to be made.

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