This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
In small organizations with voluntary membership the executive is usually all that there is to government. Here is a piece of work to be done, too large for one person. To get it done efficiently the whole must be thought out beforehand with reference to the population and location at hand. It must be analyzed into its various portions, simultaneous and successive, with the requirements of each in time, money, materials, equipment, and personal ability. The persons must be found and instructed. When the work is actually started it must be supervised so that unforeseen contingencies may be provided for. There are always the idiosyncrasies of the persons; human nature cannot be surveyed like a piece of ground; no one can know beforehand who will be absent or tardy, who will misunderstand, who will be dilatory, who will be incapable of doing the work assigned. Weather, materials, equipment may force a readjustment. From beginning to end, from the first formulation of the plan to the clearing away of the last bit of rubbish and the closing of the accounts, someone must be on the watch for deficiencies, ready to push where needed.
1 Macy, The English Constitution, p. 6.
Prearrangement and supervision tend to vary inversely to each other. The administrator shifts the emphasis from one to the other to suit himself. If he has the imagination to see the whole operation, if he works the best alone, if he is fond of figures and paper plans, if he is slow, he' will arrange beforehand as far as possible and leave no more than necessary to contingencies. But if his mind requires the stimulus of the actual situation to do its best, if he is a good observer, if no hurly-burly can confuse him, if he enjoys mixing with people and makes them feel honored to receive his instructions, then he will develop the plans as the work progresses and will waste no time preparing for contingencies which never arise.
Another inverse ratio is between memory and records. The executive whose memory is weak or treacherous must have complete records, carefully systematized and always up to date. But a good memory allows efficiency with simple arrangements.
Here's a man who remembers 1243 teachers. He has their names, positions, and qualifications at his fingers' tips. Asked how he manages to remember the names and locations of teachers so well, he replied that he never attempted to memorize the list. His memory picture which serves him in such good stead was created through his visits to school buildings. He sees each teacher as she looks in her room at school, and her name is a part of the picture.
President A. was never known to forget a person's name. Until the normal school grew to over four hundred students he had only one office assistant, and she was the librarian besides. Aside from the treasurer and the supervisor of the practice department, the members of the faculty had no administrative work except what was involved in managing their respective classes.
In recent years institutions of all kinds have become larger and more complex. There is more centralized control of small institutions. Methods of doing business have changed. Fuller records have to be kept; more reports have to be made. To accomplish a given result, such as getting a pupil enrolled in a school, more letters have to be read and written, more telephone calls answered, more blanks filled out. The superintendent and the president mentioned above belonged to an order of things which has now passed away. It might be impossible to find their like to-day. With the mechanical arrangements for keeping records now in use, such as typewriters, mimeographs, card catalogues, loose-leaf books, and filing cases, the executive officer is not expected to remember so much. In fact the man with a good memory may be less reliable because he will trust to it and so fail to make the records complete; he will make it less easy for another to step into his place and carry on his work.
The high executive of to-day needs other qualities more than memory. He must be able to work the system; to spend long hours at his desk; to keep an unruffled temper in meeting all sorts of provoking people; to settle weighty matters with dispatch and wisdom. In conference or debate he needs to unravel complicated problems quickly and express himself clearly so as to compel assent to his views.
. . . One university officer some years ago misread the figures for the grading of the campus and as a result misspent $50,000 for teams and men. . . .
"Fully three-fourths of my daily mail," testifies one, "has nothing to do with my institution, the I suppose it is all more or less connected with education, if you will make your definition broad enough." - The Independent, Vol. 74, pp. 500, 501, C. W. Williams, "The College President."
. . . To be a "good man of business," a man must be able to interpret written or printed documents as easily as concrete persons and things, to think intensely on a series of unconnected and superficially presented problems, not because they interest him, but because they must be immediately dealt with; and to inhibit his thinking on each point the instant that it is time to deal with some other point. Some men will do such work for four or five hours every day with a sense of mastery and delight, even although they find it necessary to work another three or four hours daily against the grain. To others even the shortest spell of it is an agony. This is often the case with the men of artistic temperament and training, who are accustomed to get their results by waiting, in the attitude of creative effort, upon their subconscious intellectual processes. . . .
I have read that in some parts of India the natives call this type of Thought "bunderbust," and, being themselves incapable of it, are amazed that the sahibs can endure so much of it without suicide. ... - Wallas, The Great Society, pp. 365, 366.