Management is a discipline that huge numbers of people study all around the world. However, despite the fact that many of the principles of management are applicable to the running of various types of organizations, one cannot consider management to be a monolithic body of knowledge and skills that one can apply, in exactly the same way, to the controlling of each and every organization or enterprise. There are variations in the management of different types of organizations because different organizations are established for different purposes and function in different ways. For instance, a school cannot be managed exactly like a shoe factory or an automobile assembly plant.
I am also making the corollary point that leadership, likewise, has to be contextual in nature.
I am going to use examples from school management to show how context sensitive or context dependent management really is. One can extrapolate from this to other fields of management and leadership because they all demonstrate the same similarities.
Although most school principals and administrators receive, more or less, the same professional training, they quickly realize that each school is unique and must be managed according to its own conditions and needs. Principals must possess context sensitivity, which is the ability to understand the peculiar context of their individual schools, and establish context specific policies, systems, structures, goals and objectives. Management will fail if it ignores contextual issues in the individual school.
Contextual issues include, but are not limited to, the number of teaching periods per subject, the intellectual ability of students, the socio-economic status of the students, the resources available to the school, institutional politics, parental involvement, student motivation, subcultures, and the history, culture and ethos of the particular school. We are assuming that teacher quality is constant.
Each principal must know the strengths and weaknesses of his or her school and design relevant programmes and methodologies for the students, within the parameters of the national curriculum, in order to optimize teaching and learning.
Strategies which will work in the context of one school may not work in another school. Management is context sensitive and must be driven by the needs of each individual school. One may reasonably ask whether it is fair to compare unequal schools on the basis of their results in high stakes tests and examinations, since teaching, learning and management contexts vary significantly.