As Muhammad Ali told the interviewer: “Whatever ‘truculent’ means, if that’s good, I’m that.

It can be much the same with ‘management theory’. The buzz-words sound good even when the meaning isn’t at all clear.

Sometimes it’s little more than the words that’s wanted. Why else, years ago, was the job of writing the college mission statement delegated to me, a new Head of English with no senior management experience? “You’re good with words – write me a mission statement for the college, would you?

But understanding what the management jargon means is vital because although the language can be opaque, what it stands for really matters: it can make the difference between success and failure. We have to be able to talk about the fundamental ideas in leadership and management without the words getting in the way of the point.

So here’s an attempt to pass the Muhammad Ali limpid-simplicity test on three key terms in management theory:

A mission statement says who you are and what you do. It’s as concise as possible a description of the character of your organisation and what it’s purpose is.

It’s important for four reasons.

  • First, it gives everyone in the organisation the confidence that everybody shares the same priorities. They’ll feel happier and more committed.
  • Second, if everyone’s working to the same purpose it’ll be a team, not just a bunch of talented individuals: the organisation will achieve more and faster.
  • Third, change will be easier to implement: demonstrate how the mission requires it and everyone begins, at least, from a position of agreement.
  • Fourth, it makes it easier for anyone outside the organisation to know who you are which inspires their confidence that you know what you’re about.

So the mission matters. A lot. Don’t leave drawing it up to one person, not even the CEO. Engage the whole organisation in getting it right.

Because the mission statement clarifies your purpose it will guide strategic planning, enabling effective change through strategic rather than operational interventions. True, sometimes only an operational action is needed. If the roof’s leaking we replace the missing tile.

But if the roof’s not just leaking but structurally unsound it won’t be fixed by repeated operational interventions – a screw in here, a nail there and a bucket where it’s leaking. It’s a strategic problem because: a) several different things need to happen, some of them quite complex, and b) they have to be planned to happen in the right order.

Don’t mistake fixing a tile for fixing the roof. The important changes needed in an organisation are likely to be strategic, not operational. Understand the issues and plan the actions in the right sequence.

Would Muhammed Ali have felt that passed the test, I wonder…?

“Man, if you even dream that comes close to passing you better wake up at once and apologise!”

Chris Thomson, Education Consultant and former sixth form college principal.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Electrical Installation Lecturer

Protocol are working with one of the largest colleges based in the North West of England and are looking to recruit an exceptional Electrica...

Salary : Up to £28000 per annum

Maths Lecturer

Permanent, Full Time, Maths Lecturer required to work within a fantastic FE College based in Cheshire!

Salary : Up to £25000 per annum

Built Environment/ Surveying Lecturer

Protocol are working with an FE College based in Shropshire and are looking to recruit a specialist Built Environment/Surveying Lecturer to ...

Salary : Up to £20 per hour + Plus Statutory Holiday Pay

Pastoral Support Tutor

We are working with a college of further education based in Stockport that offers qualifications up to degree level as well as bespoke vocat...

Salary : Up to £16 per hour + Plus Statutory Holiday Pay

A level Sociology Lecturer - Long Term, Top Sixth Form College

A fantastic opportunity is available at a top sixth form college based in Leicestershire.

Salary : Up to £20 per hour + Plus Statutory Holiday Pay



FE News gives you the latest breaking news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation.

Providing trustworthy and positive news and views since 2003, we publish exclusive peer to peer articles from our feature writers, as well as publishing user content from our network of over 2000 contributors, offering multiple sources of news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also ‘shoot’ video interviews and news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page