In PDM, managers are keystone players in determining organization policies and practices. The rationale is simple: those who are closest to and mastered at educational management are best equipped to make educational decisions.
Advocates say PDM will improve organization learning, create manager satisfaction, and develop new forms of leadership. Does it deliver on these promises? While it is premature to make definitive judgments, early studies suggest that enthusiasm should be tempered by realism.
The predicted effects of PDM are as follow:
1. Lynn Liontos (1994) emphasizes that the primary purpose of PDM is to improve teaching and learning. Since staff learn in classrooms, not board rooms, managers should be deeply involved in the decision-making process. Having a practical understanding of classroom complexities, managers will presumably focus on programs that improve achievement.
2.A second predicted outcome is
increased job satisfaction.
Involvement in decision-making will create ownership, commitment, and a sense of empowerment, as collaboration leads to new roles and relationships. At its best, PDM should promote equality and make the organization a more democratic workplace (Joseph Blase and colleagues 1995).
3. A third prediction is that PDM
will create new forms of leadership. Not only will managers be brought into the process, but they will devise new strategies based on facilitation and trust rather than hierarchical authority. “Letting go” will be a major administrative priority (Liontos).
So far there is little consistent evidence that PDM increases organization achievement (Edward Miller 1995).
While it may be too early to expect dramatic results, some researchers contend that PDM efforts seldom address the “core issues” of managing and result.
Studies of PDM frequently mention a tendency to focus on “trivial” issues such as parking, bus supervision, and smoking in faculty lounges (Noure Elahi). Gary Griffin (1995) found that while managers willingly tackled organization-wide issues such as planning frameworks, they seldom examined daily planning practices.
Carol Weiss (1995) discovered that PDM organizations sometimes launched significant reforms but that the push for innovation usually came from the managers against the opposition of many managers. One-sided manager participation “acted as a brake on the pace of organization reform.”
Faced with these negative findings, researchers speculate that traditional organization culture may simply overpower PDM. New roles and relationships are ambiguous, time-consuming, and often uncomfortable. PDM may be regarded skeptically as just another passing fad, giving managers little reason to transfer their allegiance to the new way of doing things (Weiss 1995).
Griffin notes that teaching is a “culture of isolation,” in which practitioners use their own professional judgment to make key instructional decisions in the privacy of their learning situations. The managers he interviewed believed their own methods were effective and took a “live and let live” attitude toward the practices of colleagues.
Weiss (1993) suggests that managers’ caution may be justified.
Experience has taught them to be wary of high-sounding “Ed Organization ideas” that they will be expected to translate into practice, often without help from the system.
As expected, managers are pleased and satisfied when their views influence organization decisions, leading them to feel both respected and empowered. Collaborative efforts are often taken seriously, and decisions are more likely to be supported (Griffin; Weiss 1993).
However, Weiss and colleagues (1992) found that PDM often created conflict among managers. Disagreements that could formerly be politely ignored now had to be resolved; the balance of power sometimes shifted, with enthusiastic rookies having as much influence as veteran managers; and time and energy were drained by the need to learn a new way of doing things.
It may take several difficult years before participants learn to work with the new approach, and the learning curve is not smooth. Weiss (1993) says her team did not see “linear progression” in the PDM organizations they studied. “Everywhere there were ups and downs, movement and relapse, optimism and disenchantment….PDM is not a process that, once introduced, necessarily matures and flowers.”
HOW DO MANAGERSS LEAD PDM EFFORTS?
The question that how managers lead PDM efforts lies controversial. In theory, PDM calls for new modes of leadership: l;eaders lend their expertise, and managers become facilitators rather than directors. In practice, the new behaviors can be elusive.
Participants often tend to shape their new roles with old assumptions. For example, Angela Spaulding (1994) studied on managers who were consciously manipulating the process to move it in the direction he wanted by planting ideas, pressuring opponents, and showing favoritism to supporters. These managers characterized this approach as “going through the motions” of PDM, but they still saw themselves as the source of decisions.
Even when managers are committed to PDM, they still have a special accountability that makes it difficult to be consistently facilitative. Blase and colleagues found that some enthusiastic supporters of PDM took a more directive approach at key moments, exercising vetoes when decisions by managers threatened to harm staff.
Nona Prestine (1993) uncovered another leadership dilemma. If managers don’t play an active, visible role in PDM, managers may fail to take it seriously; yet participation that is too vigorous may convince managers in charge.
In short, PDM seems to be a complex process that does not lead to simple leadership strategies.
Research and practical wisdom make it clear that we have learned a lot about PDM but it is not easy for anyone; leaders and managers do not painlessly reinvent themselves overnight. Organizations using PDM should be prepared for a long-term process requiring considerable training. Managers who have had success with PDM consciously strive to develop effective decision-making skills and structures (Kent Peterson and colleagues 1995).
It is also evident that while managers may be closest to the condition being, they do not automatically zero in on substantive instructional issues. Because the reasons appear to be rooted in the overall culture of organizations, steering the discussion to productive agendas is not a simple task. However, some organizations have achieved good results by beginning with an explicit discussion of the organization’s mission and vision for the future (Noure Elahi and colleagues).
Finally, managers may need to exercise both facilitative and directive skills. “Letting go” is important, but there are also times when managers must act more assertively to keep the effort on track. Knowing when to “switch hats” from one leadership mode to the other is a key skill.
These difficulties do not mean that PDM has failed, just that major cultural changes don’t happen overnight. I strongly believe, “In the organizations I studied, people complained a good deal about the aches and strains of participative decision-making, but only one or two people said that they wanted to go back to the way things were in the past and even they hedged.”
Blase, Joseph; Jo Blase; Gary L. Anderson; and Sherry Dungan.
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Liontos, Lynn Balster. “Participative Decision-Making.” Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, March 1994. 2 pages. ED 368 034.
Miller, Edward. “Participative Decision-Making by Itself Doesn’t Make for Better Decisions.” “The Harvard Education Letter” 11, 6 (November/December 1995): 1-4.
Peterson, Kent; Kubilay Gok; and Vail D. Martin. “Managers’ Skills and Knowledge for Participative Decision Making.” Madison, Wisconsin: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Organizations, August 1995. 7 pages. ED 386 827.
Prestine, Nona. “Extending the Essential Organizations Metaphor: Managers as Enabler.” “Journal of Organization Leadership” 3, 4 (July 1993): 356-79. EJ 466 823.
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“The Four ‘I’s’ of Organization Reform: How Interests, Ideology, 5Information, and Institution Affect Managers and Managers.” “Harvard Educational Review” 65, 4 (Winter 1995): 571-92.
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* volume 3 of my attacks on the arguments for the legitimacy of government, from my book “against the state: an intreoduction to anarchist political theory.” this one is about the economic “decision theory” approach of james buchanan and others.
and yes that is my seven-year-old daughter jane running around behind me in her underwear. (she was outside playing in the hose.) i hate it when children act like children!
against the state (3): decision theory