Implementation of participatory management: a case study at a comprehensive community college

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Community colleges tend to follow an authoritarian type of management, but many educational leaders are attempting to develop and implement a more open and participatory management system in these colleges. This is a study of one college in the process of making the change from an authoritarian system to one that would involve the faculty and staff extensively in the process of goal setting and decision-making.

The purpose of this study was to describe and consider the effects of introducing and implementing participatory management in a rather traditionally governed community college on the work environment, decision-making, teamwork, innovations, and curriculum.

Numerous writers have suggested the use of participatory management as a means of bringing out the best performance of individuals by allowing them to participate as a team in the formulation of objectives and to decide how those may be achieved.

In this case study, which relied heavily on semi-structured interviews to assess the feelings of administrators and faculty toward organizational changes, it was found that the college was more open. Individuals appeared to be more receptive to change and innovations and to have increased willingness to participate in institutional governance. The faculty and administrators expressed the feeling that they had developed a broader view of the organization and a greater sense of trust.

The study supported findings of previous studies that the process of introducing participatory management is difficult and creates frustrations, inasmuch as faculty tend to resist or view with suspicion efforts to increase their responsibilities in decision-making and objective setting. The implementation of participatory management was seen by some faculty as unnecessarily delaying decisions. In the case that was studied, extensive in-service training was used in changing faculty attitudes and teaching them administrative skills. The results of the study suggest that the process might have been assisted by using even more in-service training and by providing a fuller management structure.