Running a Business School-Faculty

Faculty Management

I found faculty the easiest to manage, for some reason, in my few years as head of various institutions. According to me, the key is to treat the faculty as an equal unless you have some reason to exert your authority. I am not suggesting that this is the same as abdicating your responsibility or not thinking problems through. For example, assertiveness is required in some situations. For instance, I have had to sack faculty in exceptional circumstances too, but they were exceptional. I was also forced to take a call on performance evaluations at times, in unpleasant ways, but did not shy away from it.

But in the normal course of events, faculty are your biggest assets, and should be respected as such. They will actually go beyond the call of duty, and do, if their basic need- respect- is given to them by the bosses and the management (owner/promoter). This can happen in any level of school, not just in the top ten or fifteen. Sometimes, even the reverse- better in lesser known B schools.

How do you gain the confidence and respect of a faculty member of your team and help them perform better? First, you need to convince them that their development is aligned with the name and fame of the institute. Philip Kotler is an asset to Kellogg’s and not vice-versa. Srikant Datar has brought fame to Harvard with his book on Rethinking the MBA in recent times. Parasuraman of SERVQUAL fame is better known than his university, in fact. So, a faculty member can actually play a major role even in branding his institute. But above all, he/she must contribute more than just good teaching. He could develop his training skills by teaching in Management Development Programs, or publish scholarly work in journals of repute, or write a text book (where would Kotler be without his famous text?).

Value-added Activities
I call these value-added activities, and these are as important as teaching. Of course, your students will remember you if you teach well, but the whole world will salute you if you do more in different forms suggested above. You could also lead a Ph.D. program or at least be a guide to some doctoral students, or start a journal for your institution, or do some more innovative things- for example, consulting. Faculty need to excel in at least two of these besides teaching. And then you will automatically become a much sought-after person in your field of expertise.

Setting Expectations
At PESIT, Bangalore, I first set out my expectations that every non-PhD faculty would get a PhD. To their credit, every single faculty who did not have one, enrolled for one, and we had 100% faculty who either had one or were registered for one- including a 58 year-old! It helps to set out expectations in terms of teaching, research, Ph.D., training, and academic administration.

Let me tackle some of these. Academic administration is the toughest. Most faculty members ask, why should we do this (unpaid labour)? My answer is, I expect you to be a Dean or a Director of a B school in a few years. These are valuable experiences along that path. I was once a placement chair in an institute. Not a very good one, because my selling skills were weak. But I learnt about how to handle students and placement chairs after that stint, which was to prove useful to me later on.  I was also an MDP chairperson at another school, and a research chair at IIMK, in addition to coordinating admissions and the Post Graduate Program at various stages in my career. All of these were useful stints, and helped me grow. I think one of my major successes-appointing the right people for the right job, in some of my later stints as head of an institution-came out of these admin roles I performed.

Load for teaching needs to be defined, and not exceeded beyond a maximum. It is an exhausting process when you include preparation and evaluation (in an autonomous school the faculty does this himself), particularly when class sizes are large. Therefore, to find time to do other things that are important, teaching hours need some control. Unlimited teaching may produce a good teacher incapable of adding value to himself or the B school over a period.

Either empirical research or case study writing/publication is a must to prove that you are pursuing current knowledge. Contribution to the profession is also measured through publications. Accreditation agencies and ranking agencies evaluate a B school on the basis of their faculty’s publications. Therefore, for various reasons, publishing your work is crucial. Training and hand-holding of new faculty may be needed to help them achieve this goal. Journal lists of potential journals to publish in must be generated and updated. You could start an institutional journal. Research seminars by internal faculty can be organised regularly for sharing of work in progress.

Conference papers are more easily accepted than journal papers, but do need effort. They can be co-authored with faculty from other B schools or your own. The presentation of papers is a break from routine, and can expose you to new ideas as well as new peers. I have found a co-author at one conference and it led to a decent international publication.

Industry Interaction
This can take several forms. If the budget allows it, faculty must get industry speakers to come in to their class for a couple of sessions in a course. This builds a network with industry, and exposes the faculty to some industry jargon and events. Also, consulting or training opportunities may come as a result of these interactions.
Industry seminars on a theme that is current or trending, can be organised as a day-long event, with the help of student interest groups. This may create leads for placement or live projects.

Evaluation of faculty
Usually a mix of criteria, that include teaching quantity and quality (measured through student feedback and other criteria such as novelty, etc.), publications, and service to the institution through academic administration are used in evaluating faculty contribution. You can devise a method that suits the goals of the organisation. But this needs to be clarified many times orally and in writing. Goal-setting for the institution also needs repeated discussions with individual faculty and in groups.

International Exposure and Development
You need to handle faculty with care, as an important resource. Their developmental needs can be met through exposure to training, foreign teaching, and networking opportunities. Future leaders can be groomed through such exposure.


Diamond Head said...

Curious to know if the (oft cliched) Mentor-Mentee idea was put to test in any of your assignments. And if so with what success?

Rajendra said...

The mentee usually finds his own mentor in my experience. The formal system has drawbacks..

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