8 April 2019 • Arie Verhoef
Leadership conference: the story of the flipchart pages
The Hague University of Applied Sciences is working hard to pass the institutional audit for quality assurance this year. It’s an important accreditation that validates the quality we offer. We offer quality and want to guarantee this. Accreditation is not just an agenda item for the board. Every staff member plays a role in obtaining it, every manager of every service or faculty. That is why the theme of the leadership conference on March 28 and 29 was quality assurance.
Everyone buys their coffee in the Lighthouse Café. But when it comes to doing the work, wouldn’t you rather manage your own affairs? Do you allow others to critically examine how you manage your service or faculty? Or the way you shape quality assurance together with your staff members? During this two day conference we see some wonderful results. We meet in an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability to ask each other critical questions. How do you do it? How do you implement the Plan-Do-Check-Act-cycle? Together we think about ways to further improve the quality assurance at THUAS.
The two rounds of peer audits on day 1 of the conference have a well-defined structure. Everyone is prepped beforehand about the nature and the quality of the questions that everyone will ask. This ensures that the peer audits have a comparable quality. On day 2 the participants acquire best practices from external presenters in a series of workshops. How do they provide optimal quality assurance? The goal is that the faculties and services will use these outcomes to further improve their processes. The Executive Board will also work on the results of the conference.
Staying the course
Everything that we learned and evaluated in recent months and during the conference, must be included in a self evaluation. Without the self evaluation, there will be no coveted accreditation. At the end of 2019, an external panel will assess the THUAS quality assurance based on that document, among other things. Metten Knüppe, project leader for the Institutional Audit on Quality Insurance and Quality agreements, emphasises that obtaining the ITK is not a finish line. “We have to continue working on quality together. The peer audits prove to be a great tool for this. It allows us to provide each other with guidelines to continue improving our quality assurance once we leave the conference room.”
In practice we still have quite a few challenges to overcome. We have to close the gap between the abstract policy language of the annual plan and the way lecturers, staff members and managers discuss this. A number of attendees indicated that they felt restrained by what they perceive to be restrictive frameworks. Others stated that it isn’t very constructive to point the finger at the Executive Board, ‘that service’ or ‘that faculty’. “Then you will be left at the mercy of external factors. It’s much better to see the current development as a transition process, with a number of challenges to overcome. But at the same time we know we will resolve this together.”
At the conference the key learning points were captured on flipcharts. “We really must improve the C for ‘check’ in our PDCA cycle.” “If there are any issues, we must create respectful responsiveness.” Another person wrote: “What we are doing here is an example of lean work. You would wish that for every management team.”
When we reviewed the outcome of the conference, we noted many encouraging words under headers such as ‘Proud of’ and ‘Best practices’. When we combine all these, we can be very confident about the institutional audit on quality assurance: “We are proud of how we are approaching quality culture. Scrum style: small steps, result-oriented. Creating space. Leading by example. Transparant and considerate.”