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November 2002 Issue

Hit Counter

Management Strategies & Tips

By Jan Norton

Email: norton@mwsc.edu

Beliefs & Actions

My staff and I are training a new colleague, and that process once again reminds me of the importance of consistency. But the kind of consistency that is important to me isn't just the enforcement of day-to-day operating rules, how we record data, whether we allow water or food, or any number of specific items.  Anyone can learn those rules and abide (or not) by them. What happens when a new situation arises, something for which there are no rules yet? How can we each respond in an appropriate way when we are sometimes supervising someone else's tutors or interacting with a faculty member who is accustomed to working with someone else? What guides our decision-making processes?

I think that one of the most important management functions is to establish a philosophical foundation that provides consistency by guiding individual decisions within the learning center. The decisions you make about your center's policies, environment, tutor training, evaluation processes, and other key functions reflect what you believe. For example, if you fundamentally believe that student tutors are responsible paraprofessionals, then you don't lock up the supply cabinet and expect the tutors to ask for a pencil. If your philosophical foundation includes the belief that learners are unique individuals, you don't create a one-size-fits-all tutorial service. Do you fundamentally believe that students in remedial courses need to be treated as adults and not stigmatized in any way? That belief will guide where they study in your center, what the decor might be, which software and texts you plan to purchase, how you will train your tutors - even what paperwork they fill out.

The first step in looking for consistency in your learning center is to write down what you believe to be true about why you exist and how you want to operate. Then take a look at all of the individual policies and rules that you have established for your center. Are each of those rules and operating procedures reflecting one or more core beliefs? If not, can the rules be adjusted so that your actions and policies are consistent with your philosophy? Or if the actions don't seem to fit the beliefs you've written, then consider acknowledging that you may not believe what you think you do.

These aren't new ideas: I've written them before, first presented them in 1993, and read them elsewhere. Having someone new around just reminds me how important it is that he understands not just what to do but why to do it. If he can understand who we are, he can contribute more appropriately and make all of us more comfortable with his decisions.

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