Smith and Ragan, “Management of Instruction”

Smith and Ragan consider the ways in which “management concerns intersect with instructional design” and examine “two primary aspects of management…1) management of instructional design projects, and 2) management concerns related to the instructional process itself, as an instructional strategy element” (313). At one of these sections there seems to be a certain type of person (or a certain set of characteristics) who (or that) seems valuable in both realms (management and instructional design)—the project manager, who must possess a “synthesis of a diverse set of skills” (313). (This profile also struck me, having spent some time working in television production, as similar to characteristics I’d seen of more successful producers. If often had—and still do have—some difficulty describing exactly what it is a producer does. “They do all sorts of stuff” or “They get stuff done” were/are my most common descriptions.) In action, this project manager, Smith and Ragan note, “is concerned with groups of variables represented by four basic constraints: performance, cost, time, and scope… [and the f]ive essential components of the project manager’s role are managing project: integration, scope, time, cost, and human resources” (313).

The authors also spend some time using their critical eyes on (the great number of) “software packages” designed to “assist…project managers in the field” (324), warning that a “danger for the novice project manager in grabbing software tools too soon is to become dependent on the tool rather than refining skills and capacity for advanced management thinking” (325). I’ve seen this happen in the nonprofit world numerous times. It can lead—or add up to—extraordinary inefficiencies.

“Instructional Project Management: Managing Instructional Design Projects on Site and at a Distance,” by Brenda Litchfield

In this chapter, Litchfield offers an analysis of the skills and characteristics needed to be a good, effective manager (and/or leader) of an instructional design project in a contemporary workplace environment. Basic principles include appropriately timed and consistent communication amongst team members and adopting flexible management style (dependent on the team members and/or groups involved).

I found a fair amount of Litchfield’s analysis and advice interesting, if a little quirky. Some of her takes on “types” seem a little too sweeping, and her consideration of technological issues seem to lag behind a bit. (I was surprised to remind myself that the piece was published in 2008. I would have suspected upwards of a decade earlier….) However, I did appreciate considerations of the difference between (the roles of) leadership and managment, of the different skills and characteristics required to be a good manager (and her humanistic belief that missing ones can be practiced/acquired), and her breakdown (even if not universal) of the different members/groups that one may find in managing an instructional design project (something I’ve not had experience with before).