TITLE: Becoming a Manager Changed My Perspective AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 23, 2017 2:50 PM DESC: ----- BODY: My perspective on the way the university works changed after I became department head. This paragraph describes rather well one of the changes:
The other major challenge is coming to terms with all of the constraints within which decisions are made. From the outside, it's often easy to criticize actual decisions when contrasted when imagined ideal outcomes. But when you know why those ideals have to be imaginary, and you have to maneuver within much narrower confines than you might have imagined, you start to understand the "why" behind some patterns. That can be frustrating, but if you treat it as a series of puzzles, it can be fun. Any idiot can get good results with infinite resources and discretion, but how can you improve results with flat funding, contradictory policies, and prickly personalities? That's where the challenge comes in.
Yes, the university could do everything in its power to meet the needs and desires of Computer Science. It turns out, though, that other departments have needs and desires, too. Sometimes, those needs are more critical at this moment than our are. You would think that CS faculty, who identify and measure trade-offs as a part of their academic discipline, would grok the notion of trade-offs inside the institution more easily. It took me a while to really get. Now, a big part of my job is helping other faculty to see it, too, all the while advocating effectively for my department. The paragraph quoted above is by Matt Reed, from How to.... This sentence from the same piece expresses one of the biggest challenges to my peace of mind and daily sense of accomplishment after becoming department head:
The victories in administrative roles tend to be vicarious, rather than personal or direct.
The way I help faculty and students most as department head is by helping to reduce or eliminate friction that slows them down and wastes their energy. My biggest wins are usually when our faculty and students accomplish something big. The other most salient challenge to my professional peace of mind: lack of closure. Almost nothing is ever finished, no battle ever won; it all starts again tomorrow. -----