Leading from the middle – (middle-up-down)

One of the key statements which has guided Exc-el is the notion that top-down dependent change rarely has the desired impact. One of Ewan’s recent posts about bottom-up training demonstrates how we are developing an alternative perspective to the change management process.

A number of things came together this week which might complement that approach.

Firstly, in conjunction with our neighbouring authorities in Midlothian and Scottish Borders we have been allocated money from the Scottish Executive to develop leadership capacity in our areas. A strategic decision has been taken to focus attention upon Principal Teachers – as “leaders of learning” and we intend to allocate a budget to support that focus.

Secondly, I’ve been doing some work on
“Knowledge Management” and linking that with following up on IkujiroNonaka’s work – who has influenced my thinking on the multiple metaphor model. Nonaka has argued for a much more positive role for middle managers in what he calls “Middle-up-down”

“We see middle managers playing a key role in facilitating the process of organizational knowledge creation. They serve as the strategic “knot” that binds top management with front-line managers. They work as a “bridge” between visionary ideals of the top and the often chaotic realities of business confronted by front-line workers. In the middle-up-down (MUD) model, top management creates a vision or a dream, while middle management develops more concrete concepts that front-line employees can understand and implement. The MUD model is not an either-or approach; it is an interactive process of both top-down and bottom-up. ”

Thirdly, I met with Professor Richard Kerley, of Queen Margaret Univesrity College, to follow up on our previous conversation. In the course of a very positive meeting we explored how we might work in partnership to develop a series of modules for “Leaders of Learning”. The idea would be to develop a course which could be delivered in a “blended learning” approach using face-to-face delivery and a virtual learning environment. These modules would equate with Masters level modules with each module carrying 15 points (180 points being necessary for a masters degree). The modules would be open to any member of staff who was already at Principal Teacher level or who aspired to PT. The focus would be unashamedly on management and leadership and capitalise on the expertise available in this area at the university.

Fourthly, I received a copy of a presentation given by Andreas Schleicher, OECD (Organisation for Economic and Development Organisation) from Colin Sutherland, currently seconded from his post as HT at North Berwick HS to the Scottish Executive. The powerpoint presentation gave some really strong messages about how we could go about improving attainment – with one of the key conclusions being that we need to need to create a “knowledge-rich” profession (how to improve learning) – with the obvious corrollary being that we need to improve our “knowledge management” – which, I would argue, sets out one of the key roles for middle managers.

All these connections promote the concept of Leading from the middle – I look forward to exploring this area with PT colleagues over the next few weeks when I meet with secondary PTs over a series of seminars.

1 thought on “Leading from the middle – (middle-up-down)

  1. Pingback: Don’s Learning Blog » Developing Principal Teachers

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