Management by Objectives in Schools

” Management by objective works – if you know the objectives.  Ninety percent of the time you don’t. ”  – Peter Drucker.

A recent post I wrote, Goal-setting for Principals, serves as an introduction to this post which deals with management by objectives ( MBO ) in the school setting. Wikipedia states that the term ” management by objectives ” was first popularized by Peter Drucker in his book ” The Practice of Management ” which was published in 1954.  The MBO concept was further developed by his student George Odiorne.

In management by objectives systems in schools, goals and objectives are collaboratively created by principals and teachers.  There are overall goals, goals for each department, each year level and each teacher.  There are also extra-curricular goals and objectives.  Each teacher knows what the goals are and what he or she has to do to enable the students to achieve them.

The principal involves staff in the formulation of the goals and objectives, to increase engagement levels and enhance staff motivation.  Goals are a potent form of motivation especially when teachers align their own goals with those of the school.  The principal ensures that the goals are SMART.  That means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related.  SMART goals allow the school to use available resources to get the best possible results.

The principal and the other members of the management team must monitor and review performance in every area at intervals in order to keep everyone on track to attain the agreed goals and objectives in a timely manner.  Mid-course corrections to teaching and learning are made as necessary.  Management by objectives also fosters communication and positive relationships between the principal and staff, since they are all working towards a common purpose which is clearly understood. Everyone is focused and this results in increased learning by the students.  I cannot overstate the importance of regular measurement and evaluation of performance.

For management by objectives to work well in schools, principals and staff must carefully select the right goals and objectives or their efforts may go in the wrong direction.  Performance levels should never be misreported since this would distort the system and make it unreliable.  Some people argue that MBO systems can be too time-consuming, and that they focus too heavily on results and at times ignore the necessary process.  In other words, they may sometimes fail to show staff exactly how to improve performance in order to reach the agreed goals.


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