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Master's Comprehensive Examination: Dr. Keller's Question

The primary purpose of this examination is for you to analyze your experience in managing an instructional development project with respect to your application of principles of leadership, planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. To what extent did you apply principles or procedures from the material you have learned, and to what extent did you have to work on the basis of intuition or go to additional sources?

Please provide a brief description of the instructional development situation you will analyze and your management responsibilities with respect to people and processes. Then describe how you used principles of leadership and managing task-oriented meetings, how you used planning principles and procedures, how how managed the organizing and directing (motivating in Hersey and Blanchard's model) processes, and how you dealt with the controlling responsibilities (i.e., were there problems and how did you solve them). In each of these contexts, indicate areas where you were not sufficiently prepared and how you responded in those circumstances.

Given the limitation of your response (8 pages) you will have to be succinct and cover the most salient points.

During the summer of 1991, I engaged in a 200-hour instructional design internship. The preceptor for this experience was Susan Winter, a self-employed instructional systems and human performance consultant. My sole project during this period was the development of a pre-service training program for Parents Anonymous (PA) of Florida group facilitators.

Parents Anonymous or Florida, Inc., is a non-profit agency that provides confidential group support and education to parents who are at high risk for abusive behavior toward their children. Local Parents Anonymous groups are led by volunteer facilitators, most of whom are social work or counseling professionals. New facilitators are required to receive pre-service training. Parents Anonymous headquarters staff felt that the existing pre-service training curriculum lacked standardization and was not comprehensive.

My task was to revise the pre-service training curriculum according to systematic instructional design principles. The project proceeded in four phases: 1) instructional analysis, 2) development of an instructional strategy, 3) development and formative evaluation of instructional materials, and 4) final revision of instructional materials. An eight-hour training program was developed. The final products of this project were an instructor's guide, a participant's guide, printed supplemental instructional materials, and a post-test.

My main subject-matter experts for this project were two staff members of Parent's Anonymous of Florida--Stephanie Farque, the executive director, and Tracey Kennedy, the training coordinator. Ms. Kennedy is subordinate to Ms. Farque, but they tended to interact in a a collegial fashion. I had day-to-day contact Ms. Kennedy and less frequent contact with Ms. Farque. In addition to being a subject-matter expert, Ms. Kennedy was also the anticipated primary instructor for the course. As such, the trial students (all candidate facilitators) were supordinate to her. I interacted with both Ms. Farque and Ms. Kennedy as my peers. I did not have any direct interaction with the trial students.

I had weekly contact with Susan Winter--primarily by telephone. Ms. Winter reviewed reports and products after each phase of the project. She was also available for technical assistance. Ms. Winter was in a superordinate position to me, but our interactions were generally collegial in tone.

I also gained additional subject-matter expertise from a current PA group facilitator, Lisa Dixon, and a PA parent, Shannon. I interacted with both of these individuals as my peers.

Figure 1 illustrates the relationships discussed above in Hon's (1980) terms for organizational hierarchies.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Use of Principles of Leadership

Hersey and Blanchard (1988) define leadership as the attempt to influence the behavior of an organization or group. Management is the exercising of leadership to achieve organizational goals.

Situational Leadership is Hersey and Blanchard's model for effectively leading and managing. According to this model, there is not one best way to influence people. There are four basic styles in which a leader can engage--telling (S1), selling (S2), participating (S3), and delegating (S4). Similarly, there are four readiness level for followers--unable and unwilling (R1) unable but willing (R2), able but unwilling (R3), and able and willing (R4). Which style a leader should use depends on the readiness level of the people that are to being influenced. For example, if followers are able and willing to do a task (R4), the manager can operate by delegating responsibility to the followers (S4).

During most of this project, the staff of Parents Anonymous were willing to help with the design process but were unable to do so without direction (R2). Consequently, it was necessary for me to exercise an S2 style of leadership. This means I had to give direction on what to do and explain why it needed to be done. The followers were encouraged to ask questions and get clarification.

Apart from Situational Leadership, Hersey and Blanchard describe four interrelated managerial functions: planning, organizing, motivating (a.k.a., directing), and controlling. Let us discuss my application of management principles in each of these areas during the project.

Use of Planning Principles and Procedures

Harrison (1986) describes a number of tools for planning projects. The two that I utilized during this internship were the PERT chart and the Gantt chart. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique and was developed in 1958 by the U.S. Navy Special Projects Office. PERT charts represent significant project events as circles (nodes) and project activities as arrows (vectors). PERT charts clearly show the interrelationships between numerous project events and activities. At a glance, a PERT charts reveal the essential sequencing of a project.

Gantt charts were developed by Henry L. Gantt in 1917. They visually display the scheduled start and stop dates for project activities. Each activity is represented as a bar on the y-axis plotted against units of time on the x-axis. The time units can be small (hours) or large (months) depending on the project.

Both PERT and Gantt charts are cumbersome to construct by hand. Fortunately, a number of software packages are commercially available for this purpose. The one I utilized for this project was Microsoft Project for Windows. Working from the start of the project until the end, I entered key activities and the estimated number of days need to complete each activity. I also indicated the sequencing of activities. Microsoft Project automatically calculated the start and stop date of each activity. I was able to modify the length of individual activities until the total allotted project length was achieved. Using a single data table, I was able to switch from Gantt to PERT views with a single command. A hardcopy of the Gantt chart was provided to Parents Anonymous. I retained a hardcopy of the PERT chart for my own use. Use of these charts allowed me to keep the project on track and to finish within the designate time period.

After constructing the initial charts, I failed to use the software to track project progress. Due to the complexity of the software and the inadequate RAM of my hardware, it seemed to be too much trouble to delete tasks, add new tasks, modify time frames, and reprint the charts. However, I did constantly refer to and modify the original hardcopy charts.

Management of the Organizing Process

Hersey and Blanchard describe organizing as the integration of resources. During my internship, it was necessary for me to coordinate my own design activities, those of the subject-matter experts, and those of the internship supervisor. The Gantt and PERT charts assisted greatly with this process. Occasionally there was a delay in task completion from one of these resources. In such cases, gentle reminders were made. Sometimes time constraints made it necessary to proceed with project activities in spite of uncompleted tasks.

Because of my supervisory and health project planning experience, I felt adequately prepared for this function. However, interns who do not have experience in team leading might have difficulty managing the activities of several individuals.

Management of the Motivating (Directing) Process

Hersey and Blanchard describe motives as the "whys" of behavior. They are the needs, wants, and drives within an individual. Maslow classifies needs into five major categories: physiologic, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization. Goals are the "hoped for" rewards toward which motives are directed. Followers are more likely to pursue objectives that are beneficial to an organization when they perceive that their own goals are likely to be met as a result.

All of the individuals with whom I interacted appeared to be highly motivated to participate in this project. This is perhaps due to the social or affiliation needs that are met by the Parents Anonymous organization. Because of the serious problem dealt with by Parents Anonymous, and the caring approach that is taken to deal with the problem, a "family" atmosphere is discernable at both the local and state level. State and volunteers have a genuine concern for the organization and the people served by it. They saw the project as good for the organization, and thus congruent with their personal goals for affiliation.

Since Susan Winter is not involved with Parents Anonymous, esteem needs may have motived her to serve as my internship supervisor. Preceptorship bestows a certain amount of prestige and power. I attempted to reinforce Ms. Winter's prestige by thanking her in public on several occasions.

Since I am a task-oriented individual, I have a tendency to neglect the emotional and relational needs of others in the workplace. Other instructional designers with similar tendencies should be reminded not to forget important human relation skills such as making small-talk and showing appreciation.

Controlling Responsibilities

Hersey and Blanchard describe controlling as the monitoring of a project to compare actual outcomes with expected ones, and then making necessary adjustments to achieve the desired goal.

As discussed earlier, I engaged in overall control of this project by using the PERT and Gantt charts. Since most tasks in the instructional design process tended to take longer than planned, it sometimes become necessary to collapse or delete less important tasks. I consulted Ms. Winters for advice on which activities this could be done. Using her advice and my own intuition, I was able complete the project within the allotted time period.

Managing Task-Oriented Meetings

Another vital managerial activity not addressed by Hersey and Blanchard is leading meetings. According to Hon (1980), task-oriented meetings (TOMs) are designed to use a group process to solve problems in a minimum amount of time. During this internship, I engaged in a number of task-oriented meetings--usually with a one person at a time. Most of the meetings were with peers. Hon's general guidelines for peer TOMs include a perceived mandate from superiors, the right people at the meeting, a working agenda, and time allotments. I had a perceived mandate from the executive director of Parents Anonymous, which translated into enthusiastic cooperation from important subject-matter experts. When scheduling a meeting with an individual, I stated the primary purpose of the meeting. Often, questionnaires, reports or draft materials were distributed to the individual in advance of the meeting so that they could be reviewed. I approached each meeting with an unwritten agenda, which I usually shared with the other person at the start of the meeting. A time allotment was made for each meeting, but not generally for each item on the agenda.

Hon also recommends six activities through which all task-oriented meetings should proceed: goal setting, information gathering, problem solving, decision making, action pathing, and coordinating. How these steps are conducted depends on the meeting leader's relationship to the meeting participants (superordinate, peer, or subordinate). As stated above, I came to each meeting with a specific goal in mind. I shared information with the other individual and solicited information from them. When a problem presented itself, potential solutions were discussed and a decision made regarding the best solution. A verbal plan was developed for implementing the solution. After the meeting I ensured that the actions steps were completed.

I should point out that I was not consciously following Hon's principles when conducting these meetings. However, the basic concepts seem to have become part of my operating style.

A problem that arose from task-oriented meetings was difficulty in clearly communicating pre-meeting instructions and decisions made during meetings. There were several occasions when I thought Ms. Kennedy and I left a meeting with a mutual understanding of what I needed from her--only later to discover that she had a completely different understanding of the conversation. I attempted to solve this problem by using more written communication. However, this did not seem to alleviate the miscommunication. In the future, perhaps I should engage in more paraphrasing and feedback with meeting participants in order to verify understanding.


Harrison (1986). Project management principles.

Hersey, P., and Blanchard, K.H. (1988). Management of organizational behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hon, D. (1980). Meetings that matter. John Wiley & Sons.