Managing practice


Who is a first-line manager?

This guide is aimed at those of you with responsibility for managing the collective practice and service delivery in any social care setting. This will give you a different job title and a different place on the organisational chart in different organisations. The guide supposes that this responsibility means that you may have more in common with some colleagues than titles and position suggests: the information and knowledge you are looking for may be in some unexpected places. For example, a Child Protection team manager interested in managing the collective practice of your team, may find the literature about, say, managing day care services for adults with learning difficulties extremely pertinent. This guide aims to introduce first-line managers to literature and thinking outside their own professional setting, as well as within it.

The role of the first-line manager

First-line managers are the keystone of any social services organisation. Their quality and competence make a significant difference to its performance. They need to take a balanced approach to their work. Without this they can add to the separation that can occur within an organisation and the poor or non-existent collaboration with others.

First line managers are in a special position:

First-line manager tasks

A first-line manager has to:

First-line manager skills

This lists the main areas of skill and knowledge identified through NISW's research and development work on the management of practice ( download the Management of Practice Expertise project report - PDF file), our observations and confirmed through discussions with first-line managers and their managers. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of first-line manager competencies. It focuses on areas that managers need to develop, maintain and be supported in, in order to develop and sustain good practice in social work and social services delivery.

Clarifying the task. Expanding and maintaining knowledge of methods of practice and service delivery includes:

Use of management information on workload and deployment of resources, for example:

Supervision skills and strategies including:

Managing change and innovation including:

Managing collaboration and partnerships including:

Developing courage and integrity through:

Managers and practitioners have to engage with problems involving confusion, anxiety and personal pain. This engagement is crucial for sustaining the effectiveness of the team. Team members are expected to work with people who have complex problems; who are in major crisis and suffering loss or deprivation, and at a time when they are experiencing, or trying to produce major changes in their lives. It means the first-line manager has to be able to deal with the day to day problems involved in the normal stresses and strains of being part of the organisation