change organisation

Quick thoughts on: 10 Principles of Organization Design, Sethi et al

With the new month, I’ve moved into the project plans that I’ve designed for my research and some new ways of working. One of these is writing and reading more quickly with a focus on a particular theme.

This month the theme is the university as an organisation. It seems valuable to begin by thinking about the space that TELT happens in and how it works at a macro level, with a particular focus on change.

So I’ve started in a not particularly academic space with a blogpost about 10 principles of organization design from – looking at things to consider in a restructure. (One of the authors is a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, so, not small fry in this field)

The first question to mind is how relevant this is to higher education, given that it is more about large corporations and there are variations in cultures and motivations. We’re still talking about large, complex organisations though so I feel there are a few valuable ideas and at least one contradicts my current views, which is always a healthy place to start.

Getting caught up in previous practice is often a trap in a renewal process, so the authors’ first point is to “declare amnesty for the past“. Accept that what was done, was done and refocus on what is needed and the best ways to do it. This dovetails nicely into a point that I struggle with but am considering, which is to “benchmark sparingly, if at all“. Their point is that competitors might have radically different strategies and it is hard to say whether it is even a good one. This may not apply to Higher Ed but up until this point I’ve been concerned that universities tend to be too introspective and having a greater understanding of the environment could only be healthy. Definitely food for thought either way.

Promote accountability” – without micromanaging people seems fairly obvious but is worth emphasising and they make an interesting final point about “accentuate the informal“. This refers more to the fact that “norms, commitments, mind-set and networks are essential in getting things done” and these are rarely formalised in the same way that org-charts are. Finding ways to support these elements that tend to be generated from the bottom-up in response to immediate needs can help to support formal structures.

So, as I say, this is probably tangential in some ways to my research question – how to support TELT practices in Higher Ed – and it is probably also more about looking for solutions than fleshing out the questions and issues but the ideas are interesting all the same.