Published in Education
With reference to educational organisations, comment on the influences affecting the balance to be achieved between structural differentiation and integration.
Until recently, most schools were structured according to tradition. The organisation was divided into academic departments, and the only coordination considered necessary was provided by the head master and his deputy. This traditional structure emphasised the mode of differentiation and implied an assumption that, if the discrete objectives of the school were attended to by the sub-units, the overall objectives of the school would be achieved. This assumption was of course unjustified, although it must be said that in the small schools of the past almost any organisation sufficed to ensure that a minimum level of effectiveness was maintained. In the past decade, however, the organisational landscape of schools has changed considerably. The existence of so-called 'senior management teams' in our schools of today indicates that there is now a strongly perceived need for integration as a significant element in the organisation structuring of schools. This change can be seen to have occurred as a result of the following four factors: the increasing size of schools, the gradual comprehensivisation of secondary schools, the introduction of management techniques and the blurring of the frontiers of subject disciplines. These four factors have contributed to a very fluid situation as far as the organisation of schools is concerned. Innovations abound. No longer can a head master take his school's organisation structure for granted; indeed its design is one of his most pressing responsibilities. Before arriving at the structure he thinks most appropriate for his school, a head master must attempt to answer the following two questions: what are the optimum amounts of differentiation and integration required? and what elements in the organisation should be subject to each mode of operation? These are the central problems of organisation structuring.
In assessing the balance to be achieved between differentiation and integration, many factors and influences have to be taken into account. Peter F. Drucker writes:
"In discussing organisation structure, we have to ask both what kind of structure is needed and how it should be built. Each question is important; and only if we can answer both systematically can we hope to arrive at a sound, effective and durable structure." (Peter F. Drucker, 'The Practice of Management', p.190.)
Drucker was writing about the organisation of commercial enterprises, but the general principles of his theory apply equally well to the organisation of schools. He continues:
" ... the starting point of any analysis of organisation cannot be a discussion of structure. It must be the analysis of the business. The first question in discussing organisation structure must be: What is our business and what should it be? Organisation structure must be designed so as to make possible the attainment of the objectives of the business for for five, ten, fifteen years hence.
"There are three specific ways to find out what kind of a structure is needed to attain the objectives of a specific business: activities analysis, decision analysis, relations analysis." (Peter F. Drucker, ibid. p.190.)
This triple analysis could be profitably undertaken by the head master or principal of an educational organisation as the first stage of an exercise in organisation structuring.
It is natural to expect that the objectives of a school, college or other educational establishment should be manifested in the activities that it encompasses; equally one would expect that the organisational structure would reflect, and be partly determined by, those activities. Until recently, however, an analysis of activities would have been very unusual in a school. The traditional assumption that the functions of a school were fulfilled by its subject departments would have been unquestioned. In fact, the activities could never have been adequately analysed by the departmental structure, as the socialisation and selection functions of the teacher's role have always been with him. Although in the past these functions were carried out informally and with a minimum of institutional support, the size and nature of our modern secondary schools have been instrumental in bringing about an increasing formalisation of many of the teacher's diverse tasks. The following are just some of the areas of activity for which provision has to be made in the school's organisational structure:
1. Curriculum. 8. Vocational guidance.
2. Reports and evaluation. 9. Liaison with other educational institutions.
3. Discipline. 10. Extra-curricular activities.
4. Pastoral care. 11. Safety precautions.
5. Staff development. 12. Financial administration.
6. Examination administration. 13. Maintenance of buildings.
This list makes it abundantly clear that the business of a school is wider than classroom teaching and the preparation of children for examinations, although it is still generally accepted that these are their primary functions. These non-teaching functions can basically be reduced to two areas of activity - pastoral care and administration. Pastoral care involves concern for the individual needs of each pupil, and might include private counselling, liaison with parents, vocational guidance and discipline. The administrative aspects of the school's task centre around the management of all the resources and facilities that support the educational process. It is evident from this activities analysis that considerable differentiation is required in a school's organisational structure to provide the expertise to cope with such a diverse range of tasks. The increasing size of secondary schools has compelled structural recognition of these non-teaching functions: one finds heads of pastoral departments and bursars in many comprehensive schools who attend to the counselling and administrative aspects, respectively. In addition to these diversifications in the traditional structure of schools, an activities analysis into the academic work of the school might suggest that the old breakdown of subject departments requires some modification. The classics department, a traditional feature of the structure of the old grammar school, may be obsolete in a comprehensive. New curricular areas, such as humanities and drama, that combine the work of previous departments, may be worthy of departmental status in a modern secondary school. The dilemma of the senior drama teacher in Nailsea (Comprehensive) School was sensitively portrayed by Elizabeth Richardson in her book, 'The Teacher, the School and the Task of Management'. Although he had the use of the services of six members of staff, the lack of departmental status for his subject weakened its ability to compete for timetable space with other more established subjects. Activities analysis involves calculating not just how many bottles there are, so to speak, but how much liquid goes into them. For only by knowing the size and importance of each sub-unit can the status of these sub-units relative to each other be assessed and the structural components of differentiation be determined. This question directly affects not only the structure of the school's organisation, but also the prestige and salaries of posts. Thus, while an analysis of the various separate areas of activity undertaken by the school is vital to enable the head master to differentiate his structure, an assessment of the importance of sub-units has implications for their integration.
The second analytical tool, mentioned by Drucker, for an investigation of organisational structure is a decision analysis. The kind and subject matter of the vast majority of the problems that arise in a school have a high degree of predictability. The nature of the decisions which these problems entail should determine who in the school's structure should take them. Four characteristics affect the nature of decisions. One of them is the degree of futurity in the decision. For how long is the school committed by it? The decision as to which books to order from the local library for use in pupil assignments can easily be reversed and does not commit anyone, whereas the purchase of an expensive set of textboooks or teaching materials from a small annual grant for books is a decision that is certain to have long-term consequences as regards teaching methods. One would therefore expect the latter decision to be taken at a higher level than the former. What is really significant here is not so much the importance of the decision, but the extent to which it may be reversed. The next characteristic of decisions to be considered is the impact of them on other areas of the school. A decision that affects only one area of activity may be taken at the lowest level, but otherwise it should be taken at a place in the structure that enables a thorough consideration of its consequences on all areas likely to be affected. A question of teaching method, however important, can be appropriately resolved within a subject department, whereas as problems of curriculum development cut across the departmental structure of the school, and decisions in this area must be taken or coordinated at a higher level, either by the top management group or by a staff committee. In matters of pupil; subject options it would be necessary to consult both pastoral and academic authorities, as well as of course parents, and responsibilities in this field must also reside at senior levels within the school. Another important characteristic of a decision is the degree to which ethical and social values enter into it. As the reputation of the school may be at stake where such values are involved, the decision should move to a higher level. Questions of pupil discipline are good examples of situations where decisions are affected by both ethical and social considerations. Decisions on the type of punishment to be used, and appropriate instances where such punishments may be applied, should be taken by the school's top management, although the application of the rules once they have been laid down may be left to junior staff. That some local education authorities have banned the use of corporal punishment is a significant illustration of the tendency for disciplinary questions to be decided high up in the structure of educational organisations. Finally, decisions can be analysed as to whether they are recurrent, rare or unique. The recurrent decision requires the establishment of a rule or decision in principle at the appropriate level, but the routine application of the rule to specific cases can be delegated to lower levels. The rare or unique decision has to be referred to a senior level in order that its full implications may be thoroughly pondered. Futurity, impact, ethical content and frequency are, therefore, the four criteria through which an organisation can determine the nature of a decision. Such an analysis enables the head master of a school to construct a decision-making paradigm, or algorithm, into which incoming problems can be fed, and through which they can be processed. Furthermore, this decision analysis is fundamental to the task of organisation structuring:
"Analysing the foreseeable therefore shows both what structure of top management the enterprise needs and what authority and responsibility different levels of operating management should have." (Peter F. Drucker, ibid, p.195.)
Clearly the main implications of decision analysis for the organisation structuring of the school concern the integration aspects of the task.
The third analysis of use in assessing what kind of structure is required is a relations analysis. Like the decision analysis it furnishes the head master with data of use in determining how much integration the organisation requires. Relations analysis involves a study of how managers interact in an organisation. In schools, the task of a head of subject department, a pastoral head or a head of house relates upwards to the top management group and downwards to the teachers who are his subordinates. But the task also involves sideways relations. Heads of subject departments will be closely drawn together over matters of curriculum development and inter-disciplinary enquiry, and may have a variety of other reasons, such as the progress of individual pupils, to cause them to liaise. The heads of pastoral sections, where the pastoral system is a horizontal one, will need to coordinate their plans, and in a vertical system heads of houses will wish to discuss matters of joint interest. Furthermore, pupil subject option questions will be of joint interest to both subject and pastoral heads, and pupil progress will obviously be of combined concern to both as well. It is vital that all necessary working relationships are catered for in the formal structure of the school. Integration here can be provided by the top management team or by staff committees. Relations analysis helps to clarify how these areas of the structure should be staffed.
The three analyses just described enable the head master to obtain information as to the purposes for which both differentiation and integration in the organisational structure of the school are required. The next question which has to be asked in an organisation structuring exercise is how the structure should be built. This involves a consideration of the operational requirements that the management structure of the school has to fulfil. Chris Argyris in his book, 'Integrating the Individual and the Organization', asserts that all business enterprises have three core activities: 1) Achieving objectives; 2) Maintaining the internal system; and 3) Adapting to the external environment. Argyris goes on to define the effective organisation as one that is able "to accomplish its three core activities at a constant or increasing level of effectiveness with the same or decreasing increments of inputs of energy". Although Argyris was talking about business organisations, this definition can, mutatis mutandis, be applied equally well to schools and other educational organisations. To be successful, the management structure of a school must be able to hold its own in all three of Argyris' core activities. This trilateral approach to management will have implications for the way in which the management structure will be built.
The first requirement of the school's management structure is that it should directly facilitate the achievement of the school's objectives or goals. In schools, it is all too easy to forget the primary tasks of the organisation. Subsidiary tasks have an insidious habit of taking over. For instance, the school management may become so obsessed with the problem of thieving in the bicycle sheds that the educational progress of the pupil is temporarily forgotten. It is also important that the efforts of individual teachers should be channelled into those directions that will ensure the fulfilment of the school's aims. Schools abound, however, with teachers whose efforts are not so directed. There is the teacher whose pedantic attendance to detail in certain areas, such as marking, is often a mechanism of defence against real educational problems. Then there is the teacher, often elderly, whose main energies go towards the preservation of the prerogatives of his subject discipline and of his professional status. There is also the irritating 'robber baron' type of teacher, who changes everything and irritates everyone, and then, having asserted himself at everyone's expense, moves on to another school. Another problem teacher is the type who believes that the teaching of his subject specialism is his only task. He will teach geography to the highest standards possible, but will leave management to others. This type is a most serious problem, as such teachers often include the most able. Their exclusive concentration on one of the sub-goals of the institution, and the consequent deflection of the school's primary aim that such an attitude entails, are some of the main dangers that can stem from structural differentiation, and it is important that the efforts of all sub-units should be synchronised with, and not be destructive of, the common aim of the school. If the sub-units of the school are too sharply differentiated, the consequence will be that the perspective of each department becomes too narrow. Ignorance of, and antipathy towards, the work of another department may follow. It is a clear function of structural integration to ensure that the operations of sub-units do not become dysfunctional to the school as a whole. Denys John, the head master of Nailsea School, has written of the dangers of "a gulf developing between heads of department and pastoral staff". He believes that:
"While large schools need pastoral staff as much as as they need heads of departments, everything possible should be done to unite senior staff members in both roles. There are already influences and expectations which operate all too powerfully to divide them." (Denys John, 'Senior Staff Roles in Secondary Schools", in 'Trends', No ?, p.4)
Elizabeth Richardson explains how such integration was eventually achieved in the middle school of Nailsea:
"Once Clive Vanloo was given authority over the curricular arrangements for the fourth year, it had to be recognised that his role included the coordination of house affairs and therefore placed him on the boundary that enclosed all house boundaries. It was in recognition of that reality that he was officially redesignated as 'head of middle school' in April 1969. Thenceforward the house heads and their tutorial staff had to recognise, as did other members of staff, that his role could no longer be associated only with the curricular side of the school's work, but had to be associated also with the pastoral side". (Elizabeth Richardson, 'The Teacher, the School, and the Task of Management', pp.136-7.)
Integration between the curricular and the pastoral aspects of the school's work was provided by a new post in the management team. However, just as structural differentiation can weaken the 'business performance' of a school by too sharp a focussing on the sub-goals of the institution, so also can it attenuate the school's ability to achieve its goals if it leads to a 'mushrooming' in the hierarchy of the organisation. For it is a cardinal organisation principle that a structure should contain the least possible number of management levels and forge the shortest possible chain of control. Drucker writes:
"Every additional level makes the attainment of common direction and mutual understanding more difficult. Every additional level distorts objectives and misdirects attention. Every link in the chain sets up additional stresses, and creates one more source of inertia, friction and slack." (Peter F. Drucker, ibid, p.200.)
A proliferation of posts in the school is likely to lead to a growth in the specialised nature of the work of most senior staff, a process which will be accompanied by centrifugal strains in the organisation. The specialised nature of a teacher's work may direct his vision and efforts away from the main objectives of staff consultation:
"In any examination of the managerial structure of a school, the first question which must be considered is the role of the head and the manner in which he arranges for consultation with his colleagues and participation by them in the making of policy. Articles of Government in maintained schools place upon the head the ultimate accountability. But this does not imply that he should ignore the need to involve his colleagues in discussion about policy. Only by such discussion can staff members maintain and develop their stature as responsible professional people. However few policies are likely to be implemented successfully without the informed support of all the teachers involved. In the final analysis, this is going to mean that the entire staff group, however large, must participate in discussion." (Denys John. ibid.)
Staff consultation is an important integrating influence in the organisational structure of schools. The manner in which decisions shall be taken in the school can be systematically resolved. R.G.Owens in his book, 'Organizational Behaviour in Schools', suggests a 'Paradigm for Shared Decision Making'. The use of members of staff in setting the School's objectives and in subsequent decisions is an important method of motivating teachers. It is also important however that the senior management team of a school should not appear to be attracting to itself the rights and prerogatives that formerly belonged to the heads of departments or other posts in the organisational structure. Equally, a bureaucratisation that denies the practising teacher some of the freedoms he formerly held is undesirable. Wherever possible decisions should be taken by staff as a team, particularly in matters where previous rights may be affected. The sensitive treatment of personnel is vital to the success of an organisation, and the need to motivate staff in a positive manner is one of the most important influences affecting the balance between structural differentiation and integration. Too much differentiation will discriminate against the organisation, too much integration and direction will weaken the commitment of the staff towards the achievement of the school's aims.
Motivating the staff is one part of maintaining the internal system of the school; concern for staff development and for the progress of the individual teacher is another. Denys John has some interesting views on this need:
"The management of a school must obviously find ways of discharging this responsibility to offer opportunities to its staff to develop and grow. Three aspects of this question may be worth mentioning. First, the consultative procedures must be real. Effective participation which enables teachers to influence decisions also helps to ensure that they are well informed and aware of the issues. Secondly, the head (or a top management colleague) must devote time to the initiation of new members of staff, to discovering and utilising their particular skills and interests and to encouraging them to take advantage of particular courses of study. The same senior staff members may also be responsible for similar work with student teachers. At the same time he may be responsible for advising upon future career needs and perhaps promotion within the school of more experienced teachers. Thirdly, the management structure of a school might well include a trainee level of responsibility. Such a grade of appointment (Burnham Scale 2 perhaps) could at one and the same time offer teachers in their third or fourth year of teaching some insight into the tasks of more experienced teachers as well as relieving those senior staff of the more routine aspects of the roles they discharge." (Denys John, ibid.)
Responsibility for staff development clearly enables structural differentiation if a member of the senior staff is to be designated to it. Such a post could be justified in a large school. However, staff development implies a limit on differentiation as too many specialised posts are likely to prejudice the training and testing of tomorrow's top managers, one of the essential functions of organisational structure. Although experience as a functional specialist may be necessary to a teacher early in his career, too great an exposure to a specialist will narrow him. He must also be put in positions where he can see the whole of the business of a school even if he does not carry much responsibility. The need for the head masters of the future to acquire experience of work involving integration earlier in their careers has important implications too for organisation structuring.
The third and final core activity of an organisation, according to Argyris, is the need to adapt to the external environment. In stable conditions it could be argued that this would present a school with few difficulties. However, in the last decade schools have had to contend with an unparalleled amount of change in almost every aspect of the educational enterprise. The need for an educational structure which is capable of managing innovation, and of responding to environmental instability, must be one of the head master's paramount concerns. It is all too easy for schools to be producer dominated, that is to produce what it is convenient for them to produce, and not to respond to society's changing demands. The continuous state of innovation that such such demands require necessitates changes in the managerial and organisational structure of the school. T.Burns and G.M.Stalker in their book, "The Management of Innovation", juxtapose two different types of management structure, identifiable at either end of a continuum: the 'mechanistic', or hierarchical structure, which is appropriate to stable conditions only, and the 'organic'or network structure, which is appropriate to changing conditions, which give rise constantly to to new and unforeseen problems. One of the weaknesses of mechanistic organisations is that differentiation follows structure: in times of great change such structures can become dysfunctional. The final integration of tasks, and the only comprehensive picture of the organisation, are the prerogative of the top of the hierarchy, while those members of the organisation who are carrying out the sub-tasks will tend to take a narrow view of the organisation and lack interest in its primary objectives. The problem arises that the man at the top of the structure is the only man to be able to initiate change, but he is largely insulated from the organisation's problems, and the specialised manager, while able to see many of the problems, lacks the overall or knowledge to enable him to take the action necessary to resolve them. In addition, the location of authority and control at the top of the hierarchy reduces subordinates' scope for initiative, and therefore their commitment.The characteristics of the organic structure are more suited to unstable conditions, encourage the teamwork approach, and reward individual enterprise. Authority, control and communication form a network, not a hierarchy, and responsibility is to the school as a whole, not to an immediate superior. The tendency in an organic structure for communications to be lateral, rather than vertical, is well illustrated by the system of committees in Denys John's school at Nailsea, which is described by Elizabeth Richardson. Such structures are stratified and the lead in joint decision-making will still fall to seniors. However, this will come not through the authority of office but through expertise, not just in a subject of discipline but through expertise, not just in a subject or discipline, but from ideas in the whole curriculum. Leadership in an organic structure involves looking for the team approach, and is characterised by the ability to work with a group of people. Curriculum development, and the related ideas of team teaching and inter-disciplinary enquiry, all require such an approach. The teamwork approach, characterised by the existence of a committee system within the school, is not only able to implement innovation effectively, but, due to the multi-specialised composition of its committees, is able to recognise and diagnose problems quickly, and to plan those changes that may alleviate them. The network structure is able to provide the necessary element of integration into the structure, while avoiding the crushing effects of a bureaucracy on individual initiative, and it is therefore likely to be more proficient than the mechanistic structure at enabling the school to respond to changes in its environment.
The implications for the organisational structure of the school of the requirement to cater for the three core activities of all organisations have now been considered. The traditional structure of the secondary school, with its emphasis on differentiation, and with integration provided only at the top of the structure, is no longer fitted to cope with the numerous and diverse problems of today's large comprehensive schools. A new management structure is required that will focus on the three core activities of the organisation. In this new structure differentiation will always be necessary, but wherever possible such decentralisation should be federal and not functional. Subject departments will continue to be the basic sub-units of the school's resources (both staff and financial) so long, that is, as learning remains the primary objective. But the departmental structure should be subordinated operationally to sub-units that incorporate most of the school's functions. Upper, middle and lower schools, to which as much autonomy as possible in curricular and pastoral matters should be delegated, would provide a structure capable of fulfilling the necessary characteristics of the modern educational organisation. Only in such a horizontal structure can curricular and pastoral responsibilities be satisfactorily integrated. Although operational responsibility in the school would have been decentralised, the head of a section would have responsibilities across the whole range of the school's activities, and thus would provide him with excellent training for future employment as a head master. His position would enable him to integrate the curricular and pastoral activities of his section, and ensure that neither function could proceed independently of the other, and thereby distort the aims of the school. It is a very real danger today that too much of the teacher's expertise will be dissipated in pastoral or counselling work. The heads of these three horizontal sections would be in an excellent position to integrate the curricular and pastoral work of teachers in their areas of responsibility. They could ensure both that pastoral activity was properly confined to supporting the learning process, and that the curricula provided for their respective sections were suited to the individual needs of pupils. This integrated approach should assist the school to achieve its overall goals. In addition, this federal decentralisation should be instrumental in helping the school to function effectively as regards its othe dnagersher core activities. The autonomy granted to sections and the encouragement of the teamwork approach should motivate teachers to greater efforts, while the horizontal structure of the school with its 'across the board' responsibilities should provide a greater responsiveness to change than is possible in a vertical structure. In addition, this structure would naturally facilitate staff development by involving teachers in a wide range of the school's activities. Such a structure would be complex in that it would necessitate the division of a teachers duties between section and department. For, although tutorial responsibilities could be limited to one section, the interests of most teachers will dictate that most of them will continue to teach throughout the school. The subject department will therefore be required to organise the learning process throughout the school. However, curricular policy should largely be left to the lower, middle and upper school sections. If subject departments were seen as providing a consumer service in support of these sections, rather than as having an independent operational existence of their own, the dangers of structural differentiation might be greatly reduced. Moreover, the diffusion of teaching duties throughout the school will also help to avoid any tendency for staff to ignore the needs of the other sections.
Just as differentiation in the school's structure is vital, so too is integration. Indeed, in the large school, the need for integration becomes more urgent. It is essential, however, that as much of this integration as possible should be provided by the practising teachers themselves rather than by a downbearing senior management team controlling the school on bureaucratic lines. Much of the necessary integration could be provided by a network of committees organised both within and across the boundaries of the horizontal sections. What, then, should be the composition of the senior management team, and what should be its functions? The team itself should be as small as possible, and should involve the minimum of structural levels. It would probably include the head master, the deputy heads, and the heads of the three sections previously discussed. Its main functions would be to ensure that all the task and group maintenance functions of the organisation are fulfilled, and that the work of the sub-units, both sections and departments, should be directly related to the aims of the school. Some key areas of the senior management team's responsibilities might be as follows:
1. Coordinating the activities of sub-units through an appropriate system of committees.
2. Providing an information-seeking and monitoring service for the purposes of evaluation and innovation management.
3. Allocation and management of capitation grants to subject departments.
4. Supply and maintenance of resources and facilities used by the school.
5. Staff welfare and development.
6. Public relations and liaison with other educational establishments.
Once they have ensured that the proper institutional support is provided, the members of the senior management team should interfere as little as possible in the processes by which the three sections seek to achieve their objectives. In short, they should ensure that the school is effectively managed, but not seek to fulfil all management functions themselves. As long, therefore, as structural integration is achieved primarily by teachers themselves working together as a team, rather than imposed upon them from above, it will be entirely beneficial.
A school which is decentralised into federal units, and which operates internally through a network control system that utilises the professional expertise of all members of staff, should be effective in fulfilling its core activities, and should achieve a satisfactory balance between differentiation and integration in its organisational structure.
C. Argyris, 'Integrating the Individual and the Organization', (Wiley)
R.R. Blake and J.S. Moulton, 'The Managerial Grid', (The Gulf Publishing Co.)
T. Burns and G.M. Stalker, 'The Management of Innovation', (Tavistock Publications)
P.F. Drucker, 'The Practice of Management', (Heinemann)
D. John, 'Senior Staff Roles in Secondary Schools', (published in 'Trends')
E. Richardson, 'The Teacher, the School and the Task of Mangement', (Heinemann)
J. Walton (ed.), 'Curriculum organisation and design', (Ward Lock Educational)