Leadership involves understanding organisational culture to create policy that facilitates change. Changing a policy means standardising and articulating a practice that has been identified as needing to change (Colebatch, 2002). The first step towards this is to identify the policy.
ABC Education is a private registered training organisation (RTO) in Brisbane. It operates out of two campuses, one in the central business district (CBD) and the main campus on the Gold Coast. It offers nationally accredited courses in business and English, and all teachers are properly qualified.
All the students are adults aged over eighteen years and most come from overseas. There are some domestic students, but most of these are enrolled online. International students are all required to attend classes to satisfy immigration requirements.
Teachers are rostered on specific days to teach students within their own area of expertise. They have a regular set of students on regular days. If a teacher reports sick, then the class is cancelled for that day. There is no replacement teacher, no refund for the student and no replacement class. All students are automatically credited with the rostered days hours as part of their attendance record, even though they have not attended class.
It is generally considered by staff and students that this existing policy is not satisfactory. Management have therefore decided that a new policy of employing relief teachers should be considered. This discussion will explore why such a policy is needed. It will first analyse the culture of the organisation, then consider the need for policy change, and finally make recommendations for implementation of the new policy.
Before change can be implemented, the culture of the organisation must be understood, as the individuals involved can never be free of that culture (Ehrich & English, 2013). Culture is traditionally symbolic (Bolman & Deal, 1991), meaning that it is interpretative instead of objective. Schein (2000) describes culture as existing at three levels: artefacts; espoused values; and basic underlying assumptions. This definition best suits the characteristics of ABC Education.
Artefacts are the observable aspects of the organisation’s culture (Wood, Chapman & Fromholtz, 2004). The school is small and comprises only four classrooms, a meal room, an office and a meeting room. The school’s logo is displayed in the reception area, on stationary and on study materials. The website is poorly designed, as are the study materials. Teachers and ancillary staff are casually dressed and appear disinterested.
Griseri (1998) questioned the existence of shared values in an organisation, and on the surface, this appears to be true with ABC Education. While the school espouses the values of high quality and standards to satisfy regulatory requirements, the teachers do not necessarily reflect this. Students seem apathetic about the quality of education.
There is no induction for new teachers, no staff meetings, no professional development sessions, and little feedback on the teaching or learning. There is no formalised manual of the schools policies and procedures for teachers. Administration staff from the main campus rarely visit the school, and discourage teachers from communicating with them. A registrar at the school passes along instructions, and the teachers are expected to follow those instructions. In this respect, it is very much a command and control type organisation (Schein, 2000).
However, values have also been described as a small set of general guiding principles (Sullivan, Sullivan and Buffton, 2001). In this school, such a small set exists. The overriding value is that the students must attend for at least 60% of their rostered 20 hours of classes each week, in order to satisfy Australian visa requirements. There is also a shared value of completing assessments properly and in accordance with regulatory requirements, although each of the stakeholders have different reasons for that.
The variance between the espoused values and the observable aspects of the school can best be understood by looking at the culture at its deepest level. These are the underlying assumptions, or truths that are taken for granted (Wood et al, 2004). The school is driven by profit and regulation; the students’ primary concerns are their visas; and the teachers’ main priorities are wages.
There are also assumptions by all three groups that if the students put in the required hours, they will receive the accredited award at the end of the course. An extension of this assumption is that the teachers will ensure that the students are deemed competent in all units, with a provision for a 10% failure rate in extreme cases of student negligence. As long as each group satisfies its own needs, and shows respect for the needs of the other groups; the organisation remains cohesive. Management, in this case, is providing consistency, control and efficiency (Sieben, 1998).
There is a medium degree of conformity in the workforce, in that all stakeholders must abide by government regulations, and there is one loosely defined culture. For that reason, the organisation can be classified as an influential role model (Griseri, 1998). Such organisations also adhere to some level of shared values, according to Griseri (1998), as has already been established.
Within Parker & Bradley’s (2000) framework, the organisation is largely externally focussed and controlled, operating on a Rational Goal Model. Its primary function is to produce accredited awards for international students, and these are also the goals and objectives it pursues. Competency based assessment, by its nature, requires tasks and goals to be achieved, and rewards based on that achievement. However, there are also aspects that are internally focussed, thus secondarily utilising an Internal Process Model.
Having gained insight into the culture of the organisation and identified the policy to be introduced, the next step was to analyse that policy. Policy is generally considered to exist in a political frame (Bolman & Deal, 1991), as conflict and competition exists among different groups for scarce resources Several policy analysis methods were considered including Evidence-Based Policy (Althaus, Bridgman & Davis, 2007, Head , 2008) and Critical Discourse Analysis (Taylor, 2004). The Policy Cycle (Althaus, Bridgman & Davis, 2007) was finally identified as the most appropriate for this policy.
The rationale for the policy was intrinsic and it demanded compliance so it was classified as an imperative or disciplinary policy (Ball, Maguire, Braun and Hoskins, 2011). While the policy also satisfies the needs of the students (Maguire, Ball & Braun, 2010), the primary consideration was the needs of the school.
The sequence for policy analysis using the Policy Cycle is defined by Althaus et al (2007) as occurring in orderly stages. While Howard (2005) put forward proposals by several theorists dismissing the Policy Cycle, he is generally supportive of its relevance as a framework.
The first stage was formulate the problem (Althaus et al, 2007). In this case, the problem is that several of the students have made complaint to the school that they are not receiving the hours of tuition they have paid for if a teacher does not attend for a rostered shift. They have threatened to make complaint to the regulatory body, and are also concerned that they may be violating their immigration requirements. The school’s primary considerations are that they may lose students or may be in breach of Australian laws or regulations.
The second stage, setting out objectives and goals (Althaus et al, 2007), entailed first regarding policy in terms of numbers (Lingard, 2011). The economic cost was high on the list of priorities for the school. While the main objective was to retain students, the school did not want to spend money on a replacement teacher if it was not cost effective. The analysis needed to determine which was best financially for the school.
The third stage was identifying parameters affecting the decision (Althaus et al, 2007). Legislative requirements were identified as a factor, as was availability of relief staff. A time frame of four weeks was set to resolve the problem. The problem was to be given high priority, considering that students were threatening to leave.
The fourth stage required research to identify possible solutions (Althaus et al, 2007). It was recognised that organisational culture needed to be taken into account when making a decision (Considine, 1994), as the school wanted maintain the status quo. The alternatives identified were: not to change the existing policy; to reschedule the class for another day with the regular teacher; or to engage a relief teacher on the day scheduled. The research included interviewing students, interviewing staff, seeking advice from government agencies and exploring options used at other schools. It was also recognised that the school should consider international practices when coming to a decision, to satisfy student expectations (Luke, 2011).
The final stage involved making recommendations to the school on a proposed course of action (Althaus et al, 2007). A briefing paper was prepared which outlined all the steps in the analysis, and compared all the possible solutions. Recommendations were made to the school as to the best possible solutions.
The analysis was done within an economic framework (Althaus et al, 2007), with cost-effective analysis the major tool used. It was recognised that not all benefits can be measured in economic terms, such as student satisfaction. Opportunity costs were also considered, when deciding whether to engage relief teachers, or risk losing students.
Effective managers must be able to operate in multiple frames of leadership style (Bolman & Deal, 1991). For the analysis of culture and policy, we operated within the symbolic and political frames respectively. In developing an action plan for the implementation of the policy, we will operate within the structural frame, where the emphasis is on goals and efficiency. During the change management process, we will operate within the human resource frame, with the focus on human needs and feelings.
The change recommended to the school is to implement a policy of employing relief teachers in all cases where they are required. In the event that a relief teacher cannot be found for that day, then the class will be moved to another day when a teacher is available. Students should not miss out on classes they have paid for, and it should be recognised that they have social and work commitments on days when classes are not rostered.
The implications for adoption of this policy may require management to consider their own position. As can be seen from the cultural analysis, management are not necessarily strong on leadership. Organisations need to integrate both management and leadership in order to be successful (Ropo & Sauer, 2008). If such a “managerial leadership” model were adopted, management would find it easier to deal with both people and issues simultaneously. This approach would make dealing with this particular issue much easier.
One of the first obstacles to overcome is to convince management that the policy is required and that change is desirable, as school leaders tend to want to maintain the status quo (Ehrich & English, 2013). This change would implement a practice that is a basic assumption of school operations across the wider community. It is recommended that management take this into consideration when making their final decision
A major implication the school must recognise is the growing demand of students to be heard (Fielding, 2006). The students are not happy about the current arrangements, and they will leave if change is not implemented. If management implement the change rather than trying to preserve the status quo, the students will see themselves as valued.
Management should also reflect that there is a moral dimension to leadership (Sergiovanni, 1999). They should consider the matter with normative rationality, based on what is considered good, as well as technical rationality, based on what is effective and efficient. We would suggest to management that this policy satisfies both these dimensions.
Finally, and most importantly, management should consider that, while visas are the overriding concern for the students, quality of education is also of vital importance (Dinham, Anderson, Caldwell & Weldon, 2011). Students want long term security in their adopted country of Australia, and they recognise that education will give them that security. The school management must also recognise this, and respect the students concerns.
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