Layers of Management at the School

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A couple of impact proposals from the strategic planning process recommended that we review whether there are too many layers of management at the School, including the number of deans and assistant deans.  The management team already had begun to review our administrative structure, which now is being encouraged by the University in response to the Bain Report and recent coverage by the News & Observer.  The Bain Report concluded that the University’s administrative expenses have grown faster than academic expenses and there are too many layers of administration.  Most of the state budget cuts for this campus and other campuses were taken in administration, broadly defined, and Chancellor Thorp has committed to President Bowles that Carolina will cut 20 more senior administrative positions on campus during the current fiscal year.

How does the School look in terms of its management structure, beginning with the management team?

Management Team.  Ten years ago we had 2.8 associate deans.  Today, after Frayda Bluestein’s return to the faculty, that number is 3.9 (Ann Simpson is .80 FTE).  Frayda will continue in a part-time, focused capacity (10% or less) working on faculty development—orientation, advisory committees, and the promotion process.  Is this growth of administration out of proportion to the growth in the rest of the School?  Ten years ago the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTE) in the School was 96.33 FTE.  Today that number has increased by 46% to 140.59 FTE.  During that same period the management team (including me in the count) increased by 29%.

Management Team                   School Total FTE

1999        3.8                                        96.33

2009        4.9                                       140.59

              29% increase                     46% increase

In other words, the size of the management team has decreased from 3.94% to 3.41% of the School’s permanent FTE.

It is worth noting how one of the management team positions—the Associate Dean for Administration—was created.  I talked with Provost Robert Shelton about the need for a senior finance and administration position after we became a school in 2001, and I pointed out that we were the only school at Carolina without a position that could develop critical financial systems and provide long-range budget estimates.  The new position was fully funded by Provost Shelton.

Assistant Deans.  In addition to the management team, the School has three assistant deans in the areas of development, business operations, and information technology.  The second fundraising position for development was created in 2001 and reclassified as an assistant dean later that same year when we became a School—it is held by Faith Thompson.  The business operations position held by Susan Williams is not a new position—it is a reclassification of a position that has existed for many years and was last filled by Karen Bullard.  The information technology position held by Georgia Allen is relatively new.

As one outcome of the Bain Report, folks in South Building are comparing senior administrative structures among the different schools at Carolina.  That is one perspective, though it doesn’t take into account the different operational functions of the schools.  If you combine the management team and the assistant deans, the senior administrative structure for the School is 7.80 FTE, which is 5.55% of our total number of full-time FTE.  Looking at the administrative structures of the five other academic affairs schools, which is the most appropriate comparison group, here are the numbers. 

Law       14.16%
Journalism and Mass Communication 9.59%
School of Government 5.50%
Business     4.88%
Education     4.31%
Information and Library Science 4.26%
Social Work     3.50%

Our senior administrative structure does not seem out of line when compared with other schools at Carolina.  For many years I have argued to different provosts and chancellors that the School’s administrative operations are much more complicated than those of other schools.  In addition to having regular degree-seeking students, our work with North Carolina officials requires us to manage many different kinds of functions, relationships, and complex transactions.  Provost Shelton agreed with that assessment, which is why he funded the Associate Dean for Administration.

The growth in administration at the School has been moderate compared to our overall growth.  Looking at the numbers is one way to evaluate layers of management, and that largely is the approach taken by the Bain Report.  For me the more important question is what the administrators are doing and do they add value.  You can see an organizational chart for the management team and a list of each person’s responsibilities here.  I believe that our associate and assistant deans add value to the School’s work.

The Associate Dean for Operations position held by Todd Nicolet is a good example.  He has responsibility for managing four divisions, including the School’s two largest and most complex divisions (Publications and Operations and Instructional Support).  I believe that those two divisions are making significant improvements because of hard work by Todd, the division managers, and everyone involved in the divisions.  His supervisory skills prompted me to expand his management responsibilities beyond information technology to include the other functions.  If anything, there are too many functions reporting to Todd.  The Assistant Dean for Information Technology position was created to insure that we continue the progress that Todd had made in advancing our information technology support, especially as the demand for help with instructional technology is growing.  Creating the position at the assistant dean level allowed us to recruit Georgia Allen, who is doing a terrific job in continuing to improve our IT support.

I feel like we have created a strong group of senior administrators at the School to support our work.  We continuously are looking at how we can improve, and I am committed to holding ourselves to a high standard.  I also am committed to insuring that we find ways to improve the School’s management without necessarily adding more managers.  I am comfortable with our administrative trajectory so far, but we need to look even harder for efficiencies and consolidations whenever possible—throughout the School.  That always should be true, but it is especially true in the current environment.  I hope that you will take a look at the organizational chart for the management team and also look at the list of responsibilities (special thanks to Ellen Bradley for helping pull this together).  Let me know what you think about our management of the School, which is one of the ways for us to continue improving.

7 thoughts on “Layers of Management at the School

  1. The School’s size and complexity have grown tremendously since I started in 1991, when we had no IT department, no fundraising or marketing arms, virtually no EPA professionals, no web presence, no MPA program, and on and on. If anything, I think we’re actually a little thin on the management and administrative side to deal with the issues and challenges that we now face. I can’t speak for those who expressed concerns about the growth in management, but I wonder whether there are other, underlying issues that we should address. I’m not sure how to draw those out, but it may be worth further inquiry and discussion.

  2. I think the current structure is a vast improvement over what was here 10 years ago, and it is much easier for my to understand the big picture and my role in it, now. I can focus more on my individual role. Kudos to all those involved in terms of looking at us as an organization rather than a bunch of individual specialists housed in the same building. There is still room to improve, but I feel as though there is much more of a team effort to get there –

  3. Mike – how do you, the Management Team, the Bain Report, and University leaders view administrative roles and “load” at the program level?

    For instance, similar to Frayda, there seem to be a variety of other folks with some level of administrative duties, along with “direct client” duties. Clearly, they do not have the Dean/Assoc Dean/Assistant Dean titles, and that distinction may be the only area that really matters in the Bain analysis and the response from South Building.

    The MPA program, Judicial College, CPT, CEC, and EFC come to mind. Moving to some large programs, administering the Municipal and County Administration course might be counted, or it simply could be seen as a more complex level of curriculum development and delivery, a core aspect of many people’s work.

    Should those part-time administrators also be counted in the comparison of “administrative load” compared to FTE numbers?

  4. I agree with John’s and Maureen’s comments. In my opinion, another strong aspect of our current management team is that everyone is personable and approachable. I hope that quality will carry on throughout the School’s future regardless of whether the management structure grows or shrinks.

  5. Our senior administrative structure has grown since I came in 2000, but I’ve always seen it as very logical and effective – of course this is only from a support-person perspective. The changes to your management team in the last 3-4 years seemed to improve the level/balance of support you received from the Associate Deans. Our system makes it fairly easy to know whom to seek out for information/assistance on any issue. I’m pleased to see that our numbers reflect that we’ve had only moderate growth, compared to the other acacdemic affairs schools on campus. If some folks feel there are still too many levels of management, hopefully we can work to find what underlying conflicts can be brought to light and resolved to the satisfaction of all SOG employees involved.

  6. I do not have an opinion as to whether there are too many or too few people in administrative positions. The information about SOG growth, and comparison of administrative positions with other schools and departments, is useful, but may not get at what prompted the question.

    It seems to me that most people perceive there is too much administration (or too much bureaucracy, if you will) when (1) it is hard to figure out who can decide a matter and/or (2) you have to go through more than one person to get a decision. The SOG organizational chart includes “oversee” or “supervise” as part of the responsibilities of several administrators. It might be worthwhile to review what that means in practice and whether a second layer has been created when one decisionmaker might be sufficient. We are a large enough organization that almost certainly that is true is some instances. It does not necessarily mean we need fewer administrators, but it might allow us to streamline some processes.

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