Management of Services and People

There is no simple tool-kit or beginner’s guide to managing any organisation. Instead managers have to be prepared to listen, learn, understand and be part of the dynamic of their organisation. They must find a way in which management adds to the organisation rather than constrains it.’ (Taken from Lawrie, 1998). Lawrie’s comment implies that managing an organisation is a continual process of experiential learning and that there are no set of techniques that would guarantee the successful management of all organisations. His words suggest that managers learn to manage specific organisations whilst ‘on the job’ or ‘as they go along’ and that this will enable them to find the most appropriate method or style of management in any given situation.

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Whilst I believe that a number of newly appointed managers (myself included) find themselves managing an organisation for which they have had little formal training or preparation, there are many theories about what management should achieve and what skills and abilities are needed to achieve them that are common to all organisations. I would also argue that many of these management skills are used on a regular basis in the day to day practice of non-managers since

‘managing people is at the heart both of providing services to users, families and wider communities.’ (Coulshed ; Mullender, 2001:13). This assignment will look at the role of management in general and the tasks of supervision and partnership working in detail, in order to examine these theories by applying them to my own experience of managing Loughborough Nightstop.

Loughborough Nightstop is a non-profit making organisation and is therefore part of what is commonly called the ‘voluntary sector’. Beginning some 7 years ago, Nightstop works with young people who are in some kind of ‘housing need’ and we provide supported housing and resettlement services. It has grown considerably over the past three years as can be demonstrated financially by the fact that it initially had an annual turnover of some 13,000 and now has a turnover of over 250,000 per annum.

I was initially the only employee but as a result of our growth and development we now employ 12 workers, nine of whom work full time. We have a team of directors who are responsible for the project’s work and deal mainly with the legal and financial obligations of the project and a multi agency committee who work alongside our staff team in developing, monitoring and evaluating our working practice. I am the project manager and it would be fair to say that not only do I manage the project and its work including the staff team, I also manage the committee and the team of directors.

In this respect Nightstop has very much a club culture, often visualised as a spider’s web and in this instance, I would be in the middle. This is really the logical outcome of Nightstop’s history and the fact that every piece of work we do is the result of development work that I have undertaken. Our work as an organisation, our values, philosophies and theories about work with young people cannot help but reflect the values, principles and practical theories that I hold. Not least because I wrote the policies that govern our work and put in place the working practices that we employ on a day to day basis. This means that I am an exceedingly visible person within the organisation and an active role model for staff.

As Charles Handy says

‘the organisational idea of a club culture is that the organisation is there to extend the person of the of the head, or often, of the founder. If he or she could do everything personally, he or she would. It is because they can’t that there has to be an organisation at all. So the organisation should be an extension of themselves, acting on their behalf, a club of like minded people.’ (Handy, 1988: 86) Although this seems to be a very egotistical arrangement, it is particularly suited to the kind of work that Nightstop does in responding to the crises that so often affect the lives of young people struggling to live independently. As such it is one of our strengths as an organisation because we can ‘respond immediately and intuitively to opportunities or crises because of (our) very short lines of communication and because of the centralisation of power.’ (Handy, 1988:87)

The benefits and opportunities this brings can be clearly seen in the examples of partnership working that I will be discussing later, but it also has implications for the supervisory relationship I am able to develop with workers. However, club cultures are not without their drawbacks. Replacing me as project manager will be incredibly difficult for the directors since the role or post is closely tied up in the kind of person that I happen to be. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs for any organisation since it relies to a large extent on the premise that I am a good worker, honest and loyal to the project. The dominance of my role could be used to ill effect should they appoint another worker in whom they place the same degree of power.