Management Attention Units

Higher education is full of metrics.

Enrollment leaders track funnel yield rates, marketing leaders track Google analytics, fundraisers track $1,000 donors, retention leaders track pre-registration for the next term, and CFOs track margin and budgets . . . but what about tracking how leaders at all levels spend their time through something like Management Attention Units? This term was introduced to me during a strategic planning project by a pastor-turned-college president as we talked about the choices a small leadership team must make about focal points for their time and energy.

By the way, a quick Google search on the term doesn’t yield much. This quick blog post from 2009 captured the essence of the term in four short paragraphs. Other posts promised scholarly articles on the subject, focusing on the word “management” only.

This attempt to quantify the often unquantifiable is critical since management time is finite and it is important to ensure focus on the most impactful priorities.

Combining Management Attention Units with Quantifiable Data

Here’s an example of how combining Management Attention Units with quantifiable data can be helpful.

A few months ago I was invited to spend a few hours with a group of enrollment leaders to talk about trends and best practices. As we went around the room, all of them expressed urgency around finding and keeping good admission counselors, hinting at the impact of the so-called Great Resignation on hiring and retention of people for this critical role. Data from a recent survey I conducted with chief enrollment officers reinforced the urgency of this challenge.

From the research I’ve done with admission counselors on behalf of NACCAP,  most colleges are still hiring recent graduates for this important role, paying them modestly, and often not investing heavily in initial training or ongoing professional development. The job is demanding, with travel and late nights, and many admission counselors do not persist beyond a second year.

So what does this have to do with MAUs?

Think of the amount of time enrollment leaders spend hiring and training new admission counselors, then think about repeating this Management Attention Unit investment year after year. What is the opportunity cost of spending precious MAUs on this task versus other priorities which might be much more impactful like building stronger partnerships with faculty, developing a robust church relations connection with pastors and youth pastors, digging into research about Gen Z and Gen Alpha, going deeper into data analytics to maximize ROI on strategic initiatives, or living out a strategic enrollment plan productively?

What is the opportunity cost of spending precious MAUs on [a particular] task versus other priorities which might be much more impactful?

This raises an important question; should colleges change their hiring patterns and focus on people with more life experience for the front-line recruiter roles? Doing so would require higher pay, but would this investment pay off, both by a different allocation of leadership Management Attention Units and by more effective recruiting over a longer tenure? One bright enrollment leader projects admission counselor output from a territory with a different multiplier depending on experience. For new counselors, he takes the expected yield and assumes 80% of it will happen. For a more experienced counselor, he assumes 120% of the historical yield. This further illustrates the value of finding and keeping good people.

Here’s another example, the “let’s have a meeting” culture so prevalent in higher education. While working on one campus a few years ago a bright young marketing VP told me she had to end our meeting so she could get to another meeting. When I asked her about the purpose of the next meeting, she said “I’m not sure. I meet with this group of 15-18 people every month for a few hours and I haven’t yet figured out why we meet.” I joked with her that Patrick Lencioni might have been inspired to write Death by Meeting after hanging around a university campus for a few months.

Meetings can be a good thing but consider the cost, both in dollars and MAUs, of each meeting.  Imagine a 12-person committee that meets weekly for three hours for an entire semester, then calculate the cost of each meeting and the semester total. Then imagine what each of the participants could have been doing with their time if they weren’t in this meeting and compare that to the outcomes of their combined deliberations. How many of these leaders were sitting in this meeting getting more work to do while not having time to do the work they already had?

In a time of tight budgets, effective higher education leaders will focus on MAUs and dollars, recognizing that both involve deliberate choices about priorities.

if you need help recognizing patterns like this in your Christian college or university and ways to become more efficient and effective in your enrollment, reach out to us today!