The Pursuit of Academic Distinctiveness
Well, it is week two of my blog and we are in the process of arranging a couple of meetings before the deliverables are finalized.
The first meeting is with various senior administrators from the advisory group to finalize the expected deliverables and outcomes of the initiative. The second meeting is with the Research Subcommittee to discuss the research methods, various target populations, sample sizes, approach, etc.
This two-step process is critical prior to officially implementing the search phase (Phase 1) of the Academic Distinctiveness Project, as it will ensure a shared goal, clear expectations, and a university-wide perspective – a critical milestone prior to implementation.
This will also allow us a more definitive and comprehensive timeline and project outline for when all are back in the fall. As with many summer schedules, this has been a bit of challenge to schedule, but worth the wait before the implementation of the research phase.
Why the above is critical, according to Fisher (1998), In the Industrial Age, a work characterized by hierarchical organizations that relied on management direction and organizational departmentalization to provide order and consistency.
“Unlike rational organizational structures of the past, organizations now need to rely on employee empowerment rather than management control and direction. Team organizations have created work structures that are more democratic and flexible with a common mission of sharing responsibility for results and decisions between management and workers. The ideal team is characterized by a global rather than departmental focus. Problems are controlled at the source rather than by a separate policy function. Continuous improvement is highly valued. Self-managing teams are said to be the key to leaner and more flexible organizations capable of adjusting rapidly to changes in the environment and technology.”
I believe that when working within a team environment, we need not only to look at the structural perspective, as I mentioned above, but also the cultural and the political perspectives as well. The structural perspective is the easiest, the cultural gets into the aspects of symbols and norms, which motivate the company.
However, the political perspective tends to elude inexperienced managers greatly! Gatekeepers, information bottleneck, entrenched employees, shadow management styles, etc. I believe that in order for an individual to really impact teamwork, he/she should focus on all three perspectives, or he/she will find it more difficult than expected.
As for a team supporting team work, you need to find the motivation of each person, which are not always universal. Furthermore, it could be the last thing you expect. So take the time, find out and you will be amazed how much you see if you look through all three of the lenses.
During this process, I have been discussing with our Dean of Faculty about the dynamics of the teams that we are bringing together for this project. I wanted to support my claim that it is important to remember that every time a team is put together, even though teams go through the following stages: 1. Forming – team members are introduced; 2. Storming – the team transitions from “as is” to “to be”; 3. Norming – the team reaches consensus on the “to be” process; 4. Performing – the team has settled its relationships and expectations; and 5. Adjourning – the team shares the improved processes with others—that without “Adjourning” the first four stages do not matter, as it will be work in a vacuum.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the
right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if
we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would
continue to open their wallets.”
- Steve Jobs
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
What advice would you like the Advisory Team to consider?
The Pursuit of Academic Distinctiveness
If you are reading this blog, I will assume that you have already viewed the project’s webpage and would like to be engaged. As such, this weekly blog hopes to address key factors that would be primarily beneficial to UIU in the Pursuit of Academic Distinctiveness Project.
“With a genuine vision, people are galvanized to action,
not because they have to, but because they want to.”
– Tee Ng
Based on Ng’s quote, the idea for a shared vision through this process becomes imperative, as shared vision brings the question of whether each individual in the organization must share the rest of the organization’s vision? Also, how can someone start to share with the rest of the organization’s vision? For a shared vision to develop, members of the organization must enroll in the vision. So I sincerely hope you will get involved.
In this project’s very essence, another question that often arises is how the UIU’s values will be considered; and more importantly, how the university plans to maintain the essence of its mission and history while compensating for the rapid demographic changes to maintain long-term financial sustainability.
Consequently, simply to survive is not good enough. An organization’s goal is to achieve better impact, or in other words: position in the market through perceived value. Organizations, even universities will increase their market value by increasing their perceived value and strategically position themselves. As such, clarifying our position in the marketplace, and elaborating on the systems dynamics that affect UIU’s perceived value is necessary to get a more complete perspective of the entire process.
To wrap our heads around this project, the following questions need to be addressed:
- How is UIU perceived by various Stakeholders (internal and external)?
- How do they value UIU?
According to Kauffman, understanding the meaning of perceived value requires a holistic view of the organization within its environment. Perceived value is created by fundamental building blocks such as: 1) satisfying customers needs, 2) maintaining a satisfactory level of customer support, 3) providing a challenging work environment for employees, 4) creating a supportive organizational culture, 5) financial growth, 6) support wider community interests, and 7) support wider employee needs.
Kauffman also stresses that the organization’s perceived value is more than the value of its products or services. One must also understand that perceptions are dynamic. Perceptions can change because of many external factors, both cultural and political. Understanding the dynamic factors that could influence the organizations perceived value requires profound systemic analysis of the organization’s relationships with its stakeholders.
Organizations occupy niches afforded by what others do, and their ability to create value depends on the needs and wants of others and the strength of their connections to these factors. This notion makes the issue of perceived value very complex, especially for UIU with its diversity in geography, modality and demography. In order to understand ourselves, we need to identify all stakeholders and understand each of the stakeholders’ interests, which is what we hope to achieve in Phase I .
As demographics change, many colleges and universities also are changing to accommodate the impact of the demographic shifts. Many colleges have not planned for increasing competition for the dwindling graduates to fill their classes. Competition comes not only from other private, liberal arts colleges but also from expansion of state schools, community colleges, and for-profit universities, which have garnered more of the market than anticipated as the reputation of these for-profit schools improves and prospective students and employers find for-profit programs to be more credible. We at UIU, unlike many of our competitors, are experiencing record growth. As such, I believe that there is no better time to embark on this journey to clearly identify, position, and distinguish ourselves in the 21st century world of higher education.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
If you only give people what they already want,
someone else will give them what they never dreamed possible.
– Saatchi & Saatchi
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
Upon reading the materials about the project, how would you define success?