Blog and opinion
The discussions I’ve held with employees have given me not only food for thought. More than that: they’ve recharged my batteries. What involvement and perseverance these meetings have revealed – and what good ideas they have generated. It’s like a magic formula: gather together ten of you coming from various places in the school and the result is a lively, open discussion. In recent months, I held these meetings with employees of service departments and faculty offices on the average of once every two weeks.
This doesn’t mean that all I heard were downright positive stories. But that’s to be expected when the question was, ‘What could be improved?’ That’s when the frustration emerges and the sore points are brought up. There’s a great need for stability, explicit agreements and focus. The message I’m often hearing (loosely translated) is: ‘Yes, I’m willing. Assign me to make this improvement, give me the hours to do it, and trust me to be successful.’ What often follows is: ‘Let’s not lose a lot of time making big sweeping plans. Let’s just get started and play things by ear.’
There are many nice grass-roots initiatives that are successfully generating improvements. A number of executive secretaries for the Examination Board, for example, have initiated holding monthly meetings together at which they learn from each other and are gradually improving their methods. I heartily support setting up these kinds of networks, and I’ll be asking managers to do the same. After all, when you support these kinds of initiatives, agree on their objectives, and give people a sense of ownership, you’re encouraging the learning capacity of the organisation.
Another good idea mentioned more than once was to make more use of the expertise of your employees. In other words, let’s have flexible experts. Instead of limiting the use of their expertise to just one part of their faculty, make it available to other parts of the school. If someone has successfully dealt with process X for Faculty Y, have this person help out Faculty Z. Why try to re-invent the wheel? This is often hindered because an employee still has other tasks and a faculty doesn’t want to lose this person. I say, let’s see how we could arrange this in the expectation that we’d get a lot out of making experts more freely available.
But how do we discover what our colleagues elsewhere in the school are capable of? And the person we should contact with a certain question? Although colleagues get rather stumped by these questions, the solution is fairly simple. If we’d all complete the who-what-where on our intranet by providing a list of our tasks and capabilities, each of us is only a simple search query away from finding the right expert. This way, your good ideas, involvement and efforts could lead to even better results.
Would you like to know what else I learn from these discussions? Then come to the Speakers’ Corner on 16 January from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.