Business Of Education

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 25, 2009

Education is big business. Over sixty million Americans are enrolled in some form of schooling. Direct school expenditures will approach 300 billion dollars. “Back to school” fashions, supplies, and transportation will soon have the cash registers ringing

Our resurgent economy is much the result of the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative management replacing the labor-management strife and burdensome bureaucracies that caused our industries to lose their competitive edge. Our future prosperity depends on the quality of our educational programs. Since education is big business, the adoption of good management practices also belong in the classroom. Education attracts many of our best natural managers.

Time is the most precious resource for any manager. Superior performance is closely tied to the effective use of time. Where and how you spend your time sends an important message to your employees or students. It establishes standards and sets priorities.

When a manager stops and picks up a small part that has fallen on a warehouse floor, a clear message is communicated that every product is important, waste will not be accepted, and good housekeeping is an important responsibility for everybody.

As a teacher or a manger, it’s easy to direct attention to the gifted or talented. To show that everyone is important, distribute your time equally. If it is important to prepare for exams and papers, it’s equally important to grade and return them promptly.

A manger’s job requires marshaling a group of employees to deliver value to a group of customers. Not all employees are equally talented or productive. The job of the manager is to get maximum production from every one. Not all customers are easy to please, but if you want to stay in business, you have to be able to give them their money’s worth.

If students were customers, we wouldn’t let them out of the store until they were satisfied. Any business owner will tell you that it sometimes requires innovative and entrepreneurial thinking to get the job done. The job of the “business” teacher is to give ’em their money’s worth.

Education is not something that somebody does to you, it is something that you acquire from somebody. The job of the teacher consists of motivation, presentation, and support. The manager or teacher must elicit from their pupils knowledge and capabilities that they already have but weren’t able to constructively utilize.

A mission statement communicates the grand strategy of an enterprise and lets everybody know the unifying objectives that justify all of the organization’s activities. A sense of mission is an important starting point for a teacher and a group of pupils. Why are we here and how do the activities that we are engaged in relate to that grand objective.

Look at a classroom as a large arrow full of individuals, small arrows, all pointing in different directions. A mission statement provides the sense of purpose that gets all the arrows pointing in the same direction. It establishes a flow that will exert a corrective force on any individual arrows if they become misdirected.

People like to work in a business that is exciting. In September it’s more fun to be a ball player on a team in a pennant race than to be on a team that is playing out the string. It’s more exciting to be involved with developing a new product than to be tied to the same old routine.

Make learning fun. Do the unexpected. Get excited about the course. Demonstrate how the mastery of the basics are relevant and important to accomplishing great things. There is a difference between informality and the absence of control, between formality and good administration. Let your personality show. Informality is not evidence that control, administration, and good management is lacking.

Employees need and desire the individual attention of their bosses. Students need individual attention from their teachers. “Open door” policies in most businesses usually miss the point. The door may be open but the communication channels are often closed. Teachers and managers must find ways to open those channels.

The test of an open door policy is not that it is announced, but rather if it is used. Do a broad cross section of your students or employees feel confident enough to tell you things that you don’t already know? Do they explain problems that you didn’t previously understand? Are you providing solutions for their concerns?

In any group there are always some who are reticent to speak up and participate. In conducting an effective meeting, a good leader will use “ice-breaking” techniques to make members feel at ease and to encourage participation. Create a non-threatening environment that will give all students a chance to participate without intimidation.

While it may not always seem so, employees go to work and students go to school to succeed. It is the responsibility of the manager and the teacher to enable that success. Establishing short term, objectively measured, and clearly defined goals that are challenging yet obtainable is an indispensable step in creating a success enabling environment.

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