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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.

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.

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.

The answer to this question is a lot. It’s been a long year and it’s only the end of January. The academics have had major system reforms, major changes to generic skills for students (theoretically requiring major reforms of educational objectives in units), minor alterations to what units are being delivered when and where (including overseas) and of course being told they should be on leave because the leave balance for the university is too big. All in all, less than ideal.

Most interestingly is the insanity of the gap that exists between central services and education providers. I suggested a while ago that people who work in central should come and teach sometime and that people who teach should go and work in central. Seriously. We need to do something. The chasm that currently exists much be bridged in some way otherwise we will not exist in years to come.

Students are about to receive a substantially lower quality product than they did last semester for their unit outline. In the days where they can easily go elsewhere and possibly for cheaper, we can’t make anything bad in relation to the student experience. I printed one that I’d written today and couldn’t read the assessment clearly to explain it to someone else. I wrote it and yet I still couldn’t read it! (Yes, there is a line in here about my bad writing, but it was more to do with the small font, poor formatting, inability to retain dot point as a format and clutter text that pre-populates and has little to do with the detail of the assessment item.)

Now for something to go so wrong takes a lot of effort by a lot of people. It is fundamentally a good idea that is trying to be introduced but poor planning, execution, lack of consultation, lack of consideration of end users, lack of willingness of end users for yet more change and general change fatigue has led to the situation we have. And what is that exactly? A bunch of hard working academics trying to do the best they can for their students in an environment that seems to want them to fail. On the other hand we have a bunch of hard working central people doing the best they can to meet the expectations that have been made of them by management in a context vacuum.

How do we fix this? Fill the context vacuum. Get everyone to realise that change takes time, communication, consultation, patience and understanding. Making a decision once and waving your hand in the air to ‘make it so’ does not ‘make it so’. It makes people disenfranchised and in the end it makes your good people leave. Please, can we have the conversation about how to make sure this never happens again?

Solutions are sometimes so simple. Today my boss and I solved what can only be described as five months of pain, hurt disillusionment and despair with a simple analogy of an ice cream shop. I described to him what was going on felt like I was the kid with the parent being told “we are going to the ice cream shop”, “we’re really going this time”, “okay – this time we’re going to the ice cream shop”. Instead, I would prefer if I was told that we weren’t going to the ice cream shop at all rather than be told we were, only to never arrive. The next words out of his mouth made me feel the happiest in the workplace I have in the last five months! He said:

Mel, we are never going to the ice cream shop

With those words went all my stress, worry and concerns. I let go of what I’d been holding onto and I was then able to engage in a positive way to move forward. The most amazing thing of all this of course is that this afternoon in a completely different meeting, with a wonderful group of academics, we were talking about issues and solutions. I was then able to discuss solutions with them with the mind set of no ice cream shop. That meant I could see options like the candy, pie, and chocolate shop instead (or even the fruit shop at a push). Now I know there is no ice cream, I don’t want it. I just want everything else!

Throughout my working life I have changed jobs on average every 18 months. My dad is concerned by this as he comes from the generation of having a job for life. I’m concerned about it because it makes me reflect on my attributes in the workplace. Why do I change jobs? What motivates me? Well, sometimes I change because I get tapped on the shoulder for a really cool job. Happened a bit in the public service but not so much now. Mostly though I change jobs because I get tired of banging my head against the wall. But what if I worked with the wall instead?

What if I could assess the wall, consider it, identify points of weakness and then slowly chip away. What if over time I could coax, coerce, convince that wall to go away? Now, that would be very cool.

So what attributes in the workplace do I need to make that happen? The greatest is probably patience I’m thinking. For those of you who know me, you know that’s a big ask. But I have been on a path of self improvement lately, maybe I could have another a go at attacking this wall. Alternatively maybe I should just go.

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