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Comparing the Management Models

26 July, 2019 - 10:13
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The six management models discussed in this chapter represent different ways of looking at educational institutions. Each screen offers valuable insights into the nature of management in education but none provides a complete picture. The six approaches are all valid analyses but their relevance varies according to the context. Each event, situation or problem may be understood by using one or more of these models but no organization can be explained by using only a single approach. There is no single perspective capable of presenting a total framework for our understanding of educational institutions. “The search for an all-encompassing model is simplistic, for no one model can delineate the intricacies of decision processes in complex organizations such as universities and colleges” (Baldridge et al, 1978, p. 28).

    The formal models dominated the early stages of theory development in educational management. Formal structure, rational decision-making and “top-down” leadership were regarded as the central concepts of effective management and attention was given to refining these processes to increase efficiency. Since the 1970s, however, there has been a gradual realization that formal models are “at best partial and at worst grossly deficient” (Chapman, 1993, p. 215).

    The other five models featured in this volume all developed in response to the perceived weaknesses of what was then regarded as “conventional theory.” They have demonstrated the limitations of the formal models and put in place alternative conceptualizations of school management. While these more recent models are all valid, they are just as partial as the dominant perspective their advocates seek to replace. There is more theory and, by exploring different dimensions of management, its total explanatory power is greater than that provided by any single model.

    Collegial models are attractive because they advocate teacher participation in decision-making. Many principals aspire to collegiality, a claim that rarely survives rigorous scrutiny. The collegial framework all too often provides the setting for political activity or “top-down” decision-making (Bush, 2003).

    The cultural model's stress on values and beliefs, and the subjective theorists' emphasis on the significance of individual meanings, also appear to be both plausible and ethical. In practice, however, these may lead to manipulation as leaders seek to impose their own values on schools and colleges.

    The increasing complexity of the educational context may appear to lend support to the ambiguity model with its emphasis on turbulence and anarchy. However, this approach provides few guidelines for managerial action and leads to the view that “there has to be a better way.”

    The six models differ along crucial dimensions but taken together they do provide a comprehensive picture of the nature of management in educational institutions. The below figure compares the main features of the six models.

Table 4.2 Main features of the six models

Elements of management







Level at which goals are determined






Institutional or sub-unit

Process by which goals are determined

Set by leaders



Problematic May be imposed by leaders


Based on Collective value

Relationship between goals and decisions

Decisions based on goals

Decisions based on agreed goals

Decisions based on goals of dominant coalition

Individual behavior based on personal goals

Decisions unrelated to goals

Decisions based on the goals of the organisation or its sub-units

Nature of decision process





Garbage can

Rational within a framework of values

Nature of structure

Objective reality hierarchical

Objective reality lateral

Setting for sun-unit activity

Constructed through human interaction


Physical manifestation of culture

Links with environment

May be “closed” or “open” Principal accountable

Accountability blurred by shared decision making

Unstable external bodies portrayed as interest groups

Source of individual meanings

Source of uncertainty

Source of values and beliefs

Style of leadership

Principal establishes goals and initiates policy

Principal seeks to promote consensus

Principal is both participant and mediator


May be perceive as a form of control

Maybe tactical or unobtrusive


Related leadership model