Management by Exception

In many educational organizations, the management practices revolve around “management by exception?” When one or a handful of folks, do not abide by the guidelines of the organization, all are subsequently held to task.

Here’s a perfect example. Schooltime for teachers begins at 7:20 am. A small group of teachers is commonly known to arrive late.  A mass communication goes out from leadership, reminding all that contractually, 7:20 am is the arrival time for all teachers.  Hmmm. A communication strategy that may be considered efficient…but hardly effective!  The teachers that arrive daily at 7:00 am are put upon due to a minority of the group.   Does this communication impact those who are often late?  Unlikely. Does this communication have an impact on the collaborative culture of the organization? Probably.

No, it is not a pleasant task to confront those who defy policy.  However, dealing with issues directly with those who are involved is intentional, purposeful, and an appropriate teachable moment by leaders.   Blanket policies and practices that are intended to corral errant behaviors is more likely to cause discontent among those who are not than it is to correct the targeted few.

Similarly, when students are influenced by social media or other sources, and a few respond by damaging property or acting out behaviors, do we resort to management by exception and punish all? Or do we work with those students that need our “teachable moment” and model appropriate steps and strategies to solve the problem?

Do we ever ponder what message our reaction to aberrant behaviors is communicating to others or teaching everyone?

About the Authors: 

Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf was formerly a professional development specialist at Brown University. Bob has 45 years of experience as a superintendent, principal, teacher & special education.  Bob has traveled conducting Brain & Learning Institutes for Greenleaf Learning.

Elaine M. Millen, M.Ed. C.A.G.S., has over 50 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, director of special education, curriculum director assistant superintendent of schools and higher ed instructor.  As an instructional coach, she has worked nationally in areas of leadership, instructional coaching, and student engagement.  She worked with Brown University as a consultant.