Researchers into Management
A review of the Researcher into Management Programme - University of Manchester 2009

One of the biggest problems facing new academic staff is their ability to manage staff, and to understand the nuances of management protocol, financial management, and communication. Everyone has their own personal style, and some are more successful than others. However, the opportunity to avoid making some of the more common mistakes made by inexperienced managers when placed in a role they desire but are not trained for, is invaluable. Whilst some of these facets are covered by New Academics programmes in Universities, they are by definition unable to cover the scope of management issues which might arise during the course of a career. Additionally, new academics programmes are by definition only for new academics, and usually not offered to PDRA’s.

The Researchers into Management programme attempts to address the shortcomings of researchers in the area of management, and in my opinion fulfilled the objectives by introducing the varied range of subjects necessary to allow researchers to develop as effective managers.

These subjects included financial management (also known as why you don’t have as much money as you think you have), the nuances of communications (how to avoid accidentally upsetting your staff), risk assessment, project design and management (making the most of your teams abilities and identifying areas of weakness). All these are aimed at managing resources, both physical and personal to achieve the optimum goals during a project.

These may all seem like common sense and quite honestly most experienced researchers tend to make the assessments and judgement calls without realising. However, only the foolish assume they know everything, and the opportunity to refresh revise and re-learn our most ingrained behaviours should be welcomed by all researchers. After all what is common sense? Does everyone possess it, to what extent, and can we quantify this?

The Researchers into Management programme offers an excellent opportunity to all research scientists disillusioned at their inability to progress and wishing to expand their career prospects.

I have enjoyed my experiences with the Researchers into Management course; the chance to refresh my knowledge base, expand my horizons and gain additional qualifications has already proved extremely beneficial to my career progression. It has provided me with a number of thought provoking issues, and challenged my beliefs as to the correct ways in which to approach the management of staff, especially those of a technical / scientific background, where management is often a case of herding cats.

As a manager you are often in a position of seeing the bigger picture – and if you are unable to communicate this to your staff they will view your decisions as random and meaningless.

The comprehensive nature of the course, combined with the use of a business simulations model in the away day sessions, illustrated the impact small changes can have to the overall direction of a project, and how if not managed adequately the system rapidly spirals out of control. The butterfly analogy illustrates how simple changes affect systems, but this brought the concept into context.

I would recommend this course to anyone with aspirations beyond the bench. Management is not the “dirty-word” it used to be, and in these changing times where multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary team working is an essential component of day-to-day life, with competition for funding squeezing researchers at every turn, progression and career development are only attained by expanding your horizons.

This article appeared in the University of Manchester Staff Publication - Incite, December 2009

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It relates to the Researchers into Management course run in conjunction with the Institute of Leadership and Management, which concludes with a Level 5 certificate in Leadership and Management.