What, who, when, why, how much and to what quality?

Bright ideas are fun. New plans engage us. Shiny new job titles and organograms grab us.

But all are doomed to failure if we cannot implement.

Operations/project management/administration– different organisations may use different terms but the principle role is the same. How do we reach our organisational objectives through strong planning that clearly outlines:

  • what needs to be done
  • who is accountable for making sure it is done
  • when should it be done by
  • why are we doing it
  • how much will it cost
  • and what are the quality mechanisms.

On paper these things seem so easy and yet in practice these are the areas that so many not for profit organisations fall down on. Quite often investment in operational management is seen as a nice to have, or – worse – ‘administration’ is used as derogatory term that suggests that those interested in the attention to detail are not as important as those coming up with the big thinking…

We will come back to project management in organisations in future blogs but – recent coverage of our teacher recruitment crisis/hiccup (delete depending on party line) made the team wonder how these questions would be answered at a system level for education.

So we did a little research (not very scientific) and posed the follow three questions to 20 people; 8 teachers, 8 parents and a few other interested parties including 2 local authority leads.

Who is accountable for ensuring we have enough schools to meet needs of country’s under 18 population?

Who is accountable for ensuring we have enough teachers to teach in those schools?

Who is accountable for ensuring that what those schools provide is of sufficient quality?

And – like the good project planners that we are – we asked for one person/role/institution because we all know what happens when there is no clarity on accountability…..

So in our not so rigourous poll of the ‘who’ of  – lets call it – project education we had

Who is accountable for us having enough schools;

  • Local authority 5
  • Don’t know 8
  • Central government 4
  • Church 1
  • Academy chain 2

Who is responsible for ensuring that we have enough teachers?

  • Headteacher 4
  • ITT providers 3 (including SCITTs, Teaching Schools, HEIs)
  • Local authority 2
  • Academy chain 1
  • Central government 10

Who is responsible for ensuring quality of what is provided is fit for purpose?

  • OFSTED 8
  • Headteacher 6
  • Don’t know 4
  • Regional School Commissioners 2

As you would expect most of the don’t knows came from parents (something we are addressing in our new work for Parented - more about that another time!).

And in part the range of answers responds to the fact that in a complex systems lots of people have responsibilities to contribute to getting things done.

But our question was about accountability – who do we go to if things go wrong? Who do we hold to account for our childrens’ future? Who makes sure that public money is wisely spent? And – in our hugely unrepresentative poll – the worry for the project managers amongst us – those who take the big ideas and turn them into what works – is that the answer is far from clear.

As the landscape in education continues to unfold with bright idea following shiny new job description, following creativity; perhaps the application of ‘who, what, when, why, for how much and to what quality’ should be on the table at every big think meeting – because a project without them is doomed to fail.