Throughout most careers, you will have the responsibility to create and manage a team. But how do you “manage” people? Traditional thinking tells us that managers are there to control the means to achieve a specified end. Think of the old boss from your last job micromanaging every move to maximize efficiency. That is scientific management! From the start of the 20th century, this scrupulous “Scientific Management,” was the gold standard for manufacturers and the bureaucracy. However, the 21st century requires a new form of flexible and adaptable management. An MPA degree will give you the tools to rewrite the rules of traditional management.
Under scientific management, the goal was efficiency, referring to the ability to maximize production and minimize waste. New age thinking prioritizes the ability to meet a goal by removing individual obstacles and end micromanagement. Being efficient was and is effective on the assembly line when the tasks are repetitive and do not deviate into “creative tasks.” Contrarily, in the age of the internet and COVID-19, being creative is what allows you to thrive.
The goal then, of a manager, is to motivate individuals and to match their talents to a goal. Their job now is not to conduct evaluations, nor is it to make sure an employee punches in and out on time. Their job is to match talent to a task and let the individuals who possess that talent to do what they do best. People do not need someone to tell them how to do their job unless they ask for input or come across a problem above their current abilities. People need a manager that will smooth the path allowing them to do their jobs, not someone that tells them everything they do is wrong.
In a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, you will learn the skills necessary to recognize issues that stop people from doing what they do best. And in today’s world, what stops people from doing their best is a lack of flexibility, autonomy, and respect. No longer are top-down management structures and controlled work environments effective. A manager today must build flexible teams built on trust with horizontal management structures.
Some ideas that an MPA provides includes creating a flexible and dynamic team. In the private sector, 3M used the idea of 20% time where each week every employee can work on their own creative project. This level of autonomy increased productivity and created the invention we now all know as Post-It notes. In the public sector, Mayor Michal Bloomberg of New York City has an open office policy. He situated his office in a cubicle adjacent to all other city staffers. Anyone could approach him, ask him a question, and there were no closed doors. Bloomberg recognized that the sharing of information was the crucial element to build trust. And it obviously paid off.
The most critical role for any manager, public or private, is to remove any “ability” restriction for employees and to match their talents to tasks. A MPA degree will not only teach you the benefits of flexibility, but it will also teach you how to motivate and build trust through information sharing and open-door policies. There are too many MPA skills to explain here, so I urge you to explore them for yourself. You will be surprised by the number of tools packaged in an MPA degree.