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Today is my research day. It’s 10:37 and I’ve been doing my paid work for the last three hours. No research yet!

The reason is because I have three weeks leave (sweet freedom) at the end of today and all the things I didn’t get done that I needed to get done are getting done this morning instead of research. That’s okay. I have three weeks for driving and thinking about research so this should work out.

What is interesting is when I left yesterday not one, but five people said “don’t think about us at all while you’re gone”. It’s interesting because that’s never happened to me in a workplace before. Admittedly I’ve not had a holiday exceeding one week since 2002, so maybe this is what people say. Or maybe, it’s because I became frazzled this week. Everything started to get to me and I became awful to work with. (I know I did!) So maybe they are saying “please have a nice break away from everything that makes you frazzled and return inspired and rejuvenated ready for more”. I’d like to think that’s what they’re saying because I really love working with these incredible people.

An example of how amazing these people are happened yesterday, my last day in the office. People came together in a room and shared who they were and how we can all work together for a better outcome. This group wasn’t told to come together. It’s not a structured event. It started with people saying “we should share what we’re saying with others” so they did. We now have marketing and teaching and learning coming together towards a common goal. We’re still shaping that goal, but it’s coming. We’re doing it without management saying we should. We’re doing it without a designated leader (although the ‘facilitator’ yesterday was great). We’re doing because we all know it will work best for us all and for students. I got so excited I actually bounced up and down in my chair when I was talking……yes, that happened…..

So, while I am frazzled and have never looked forward to freedom more than I do today, I am in awe of the people coming together. I am in awe that people want to try despite the constant obstacles and road blocks. I am in awe that in one hour we built a nice bridge we all want to cross. More importantly, I’m in awe that it all started with two people thinking they should share with others. Change will not happen through decree or policy or rules, it will happen through people sharing. Thank you Lauren and Suzette for sharing.

Talking to an academic this week he remarked it’s been a while since I blogged. I thought that was weird until I realised I’d been blogging on my PhD site and not this one. Funny how my brain just assumed I’d blogged therefore I’d shared, but I’d been sharing in a different place. So I’ve been cheating on this blog with another. Sorry about that.

It’s been a busy time with my new job. In fact I now have three new jobs. Turns out that the senior project officer role has sufficient cross over with other positions it means I can do three jobs in the time I have for one. Needless to say – interesting times.

What does amaze me, as always, is the people I work with. They are amazing. The willingness to go above and beyond, the generosity to share ideas and debate concepts to find the best solution, the desire to come together as a team to identify goals and ways to work towards them, and then faculty members who are keen to be supported in new ways even if it does encroach on their already precious time. Seriously incredible and inspiring place to work.

There are some down sides. The first is still the lack of operational technology. I think I’ve thrashed this horse past death so I’m not going into it again here, I’m just going to say – we can’t utilise more technology in the learning space without having technology that works. Simple enough I think and yet epic fail after epic fail. Sigh……

The other aspect is how a few people in the workplace can have a massive impact, and not in a useful way. The only way I will succeed in any three of the jobs I have is through open, transparent service delivery. As such I share information constantly, seek input into all aspects of my work, liaise with central staff and academics and regularly check with senior management I’m still on the right path. I’m finding some resistance in some quarters to this approach of work. While it wouldn’t normally be an issue their actions are now impacting on the goodwill I’m trying to establish. I assume they don’t share the service delivery focus management is seeking and/or have a focus on something else – perhaps their next promotion or perhaps a sideline project they prefer, I”m not sure and perhaps I should ask. This is leading to an outcome where our service delivery team has the appearance to outside of being inconsistent. This is not a good outcome for the University.

If we can’t come together on a shared direction in relation to how we support academics and faculties, we aren’t actually working in the way our customers expect. Academics are the lifeblood of the University. They service the students who decide whether to stay or go, whether to recommend us as a place of study, they can vote with their feet. The front line for these students are the academics. In central, our job is to support these academics to do the best they can to attract and retain students so we can all continue to get paid. For my way of thinking, this is an easy equation. Why is it so hard to achieve?

I’ve frequently blogged about the stresses and strains of academics. How much they are asked to do and how little time they have. This reference was sent to me and it highlights the changes in academia that have been and what can possible be. My question is, who is to support this structural adjustment and how?

The job I’m currently in I believe I can support academics in the structural adjustment. Not just as individuals but through strong, transparent governance structures. It’s early days so I may be completely wrong, but I do know they are amazing people and I have skills and knowledge that might help. Of course, I could be deluded, but I’m going to give it a very good go.

And thank you to all the people who send me links and articles. I don’t always get a chance to say thank you so here it is. Please keep them coming. All pieces of information help me understand more and find different and more useful solutions to what I think we can all agree is a very complicated problem.

I’ve now racked up about three hours trying to fix an issue on campus. I initially tried about six months ago where I gave up after about half an hour because of funding. The issue has come back as a student has suggested a brick might work just as well. Yes, it’s an issue that could be solved with a brick.

There are two display cabinets with locked glass fronts in a corridor of a heavily used learning space on campus. They are a great opportunity to promote what units are available, possible internships, and generally support for graduation. In fact, that is what they contain. It’s just from Semester 2, 2007.

Turns out, as Jenny has pointed out to me, if no one owns the problem, no one will fix it. These cabinets used to belong to one faculty who has since moved out of the building (and lost the key). The building is now a shared space and no one can tell me who ‘owns’ the cabinets. All I can say, is after another two or so hours, I have found someone to pay for the locksmith to come out and I have filled in the hard copy form that I then had to scan to attach to the electronic form which is how I log the request. I eagerly wait to see how many more hours I will spend trying to fix a problem no one wanted to own but a student was willing to fix with a brick. See, the old information really annoys them. It annoys me too, but I don’t have to look at it so I wasn’t owning the problem. This time, I owned it because, well, someone should.

This was a big week. Not just in events or workload (although it was) but also ideas. Quality is not black and white, it is full of subtleties and nuances all depending on your world perspective. This was my realisation this week (bit slow on the uptake sometimes).

I have created an email list of more than 100 people to help implementation. I did this because I believe that success in quality will come from the ground up. I have this belief because my world view is based on the assumption of perverse incentives. Currently the incentives for the university are not on quality courses but on research and financial aspects. This doesn’t mean the university is not interested in course quality, it just has incentives schemes encouraging different business needs. So, my chances of improving course quality comes from two possible positions:

  1. Change the incentives (yes, well, Buckley’s and none there I’m afraid)
  2. Provide intrinsic incentives for academics to come together on course quality

Number two is possible as academics already want to provide quality education (on the whole). The question is how to create an environment where this is possible for them to do and they are not coming up against barriers all the time.

All this leads me to my email list. Today it is an email list, I’m hoping tomorrow it will be a network of motivated, supported individuals working towards quality course outcomes for students. I want to understand the world through their eyes and enable them to meet their objectives. Now, if only I could change the extrinsic incentives I might be onto something!

 

Recently I attended a session with a very clever person on blogging. He explained how he had started, and now maintains his blog. It was in relation to research rather than work (although for him they are one and the same) but the principles are the same for me and this blog.

He said “You have to blog regularly. It doesn’t matter how frequently but it has to be regularly.” I have not abided by this instruction and upon reflection I think it’s a policy I should adopt.

This blog was to help me think through and manage a change management process. Blogs are helpful for remembering things you’ve done, achievements, set backs and generally reflecting. Turns out that the change management process I was tasked with changed me more than the organisation. Something for which I am very thankful as it has enabled me to begin a new change management process with a different mind set. I am clearer in my understanding of context and ensuring I plan out for myself how I see I can achieve a good outcome and not expecting substantial ‘buy in’. I am thinking more carefully about networking, and leveraging supportive mind sets. I am seeking the ‘levers’ that can influence change, rather than assuming I know.

In light of this new approach to change management, I am going to attempt to follow the advice of the Master (thanks Michael) and blog more regularly. Time does have a habit of getting away from me, but that’s what reminders in the calendar are for, so hopefully this is new practice that will actually get in place!

The same mistakes are repeated over and over because we don’t learn. We refuse to sit back, review, reflect, correct, implement improvements and then move forward once more. The caravan continues while a small few stand at the back, waving hands in the air asking for someone to help fix the axel before the whole wheel comes off because we have seen the rats gnawing the wood and we know it isn’t long for this world. (it’s possible I’m taking this analogy too far).

The people at the back are calling for procedures/protocols (not a new axel, although…). Anything to provide guidance to help them not do what has been done before because it doesn’t work. And yet there is never time to create these documents. There is only time to rush forward.

I’m guessing I need to wait for the axel to break well and truly. Maybe then I can pull my documents from the bottom drawer and suggest we all have a chat about how to get the caravan running again.

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