Still iPaddling (but up to my knees, now)

By Simon Inger, University of Bath

My daughter started secondary school this year. They all get iPads, at her gleamingly new, large comprehensive. Parents pay for them, on some scale of affordability so that everyone in a not-very-affluent catchment can join in, but basically everyone has one, and they use them in every subject, home and away. This has significantly changed the IT dynamic in a home that has been slow to build up its collection of devices, has parents that don’t do popular culture, and has very poor internet access.  Despite rural broadband, Minecraft has arrived.

I’ve also watched a change in the ODHE group since those days of Bex and the digital literacy project. For newer members, this was a project in which an expert came to our meetings for a couple of years and tried to help us understand and adopt digital ways of working. Small steps, little at a time, to get with the century. I still remember the debate at Storrs Hall in 2012; a very few members were using mobile devices, mostly laptops, and there was a strong majority feeling that paying attention to screens was disrespectful, that it signalled a lack of attention and involvement.  Doing your emails in a conference session was considered rudest, but there were even scowls of disapproval when a group looked up something that had been mentioned in the discussion, found something amusing and were stifling guffaws. One member was playing chess against a distant Bulgarian. But even then, people were starting to compare such behaviour with more traditional forms of disengagement like doodling and reading, or gazing out over the lake. Who were we, they said, to moralise about e-doodling?

Now we know, of course, that students are arriving in lectures with screens on the go, accessing multiple channels, and it’s normal, it’s the way life is and it’s our academics who have to deal with it.

So fast forward – no, you don’t need to fast forward any more, you can just swipe the slider – to an ODHE meeting in the Midlands somewhere. I walked in before the SIG to find a smattering of colleagues sitting around, mostly separated by several metres, mostly interacting with a screen. Oh, I thought, so we’ve all travelled from around the land for an opportunity to talk to people we rarely meet, for stimulation and enrichment, and actually the screen is more tempting. How far we’ve travelled indeed. I confess to being a bit depressed, but mostly because I didn’t have the techie know-how to send a mischievous message to them all saying “Hi, I’m the one standing by the door in the blue jumper.”

Douglas Adams said this about technology:

1) Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.  2) Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.  3) Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.

For me it’s social networks that count under (3). Everything else is evolution (video games, the internet itself, music technology).  I still don’t really get it, why “likes” and “friends” are considered a better measure of status than actually having a bank account, for example.

But remember what Cliff Oswick was saying at the Glasgow meeting; organisations of the future will be more like networks than hierarchies.  People who aspire to lead, manage and transform organisations (that’s us) need to understand and work with that. It struck me only yesterday that even as we put more structure onto our academic endeavour, with management systems, QA frameworks and performance reviews, the world is moving towards what the most traditional academic would recognise and call “collegiate.”  People who talk to each other making things up as they go along to fit the needs of the moment. Sorry, I mean whole-system co-created emergent strategy. With agility.

Buzzword bingo aside, this is what has crept up on me as we’ve changed our digital practice in the OD community.  We work with connections, it’s axiomatic to the OD philosophy, but do we understand well enough how to do that when many of the connections are down a cable? What, in a nutshell, does a University fit for the 21st century look like, and what are we doing to build one?

Kids of today, eh? What are they going to expect of us when they become staff in HE?

Answers on a postcard…


You can read a bit more about my daughter’s school in the first part of this article; she does the orchids too (“Cool Asia” section; which catches the zeitgeist on the back of a hoodie better than “Cool Britannia”.)

On-boarding coaching: the positive difference

By Karen Carter, University of Gloucestershire, Organisational Change and People Development Manager

We piloted on-boarding coaching earlier this year, with four members of staff who had been newly appointed or newly promoted to senior management roles. We started to consider this following feedback from some participants on our senior development programme (that was initiated and rolled out last Autumn), that they would have found coaching at the entry point to their roles particularly helpful.

We know that joining organisations at a management or executive level is a demanding experience, both for the individual & the organisation. This is all the more so when the organisation is also undergoing rapid change. Further exploration reveals that the failure rate of executives in UK organisations is rarely a failing in the hiring process, but more commonly a failure to recognise the difficulty of joining and leading in a new organisation.

Our pilot participants included a Head of School, a Head of Institute, a Dean of Quality and Standards and a Subject Group Leader. The intervention consists of a one and a half hour coaching session with an external coach within the first four to six weeks of starting, that helps with orientation, includes a health check on how the person is getting on, and sets a plan for the coming months. Some participants chose to have one or two further coaching sessions.

The evaluation showed that the most helpful aspects included: feeling valued and having confidence in the University, because it had invested in them from the start; putting ‘new person’ fears into perspective; and receiving reassurance that their experience was ‘normal’, given the organisational context, rate of change, and culture. Outcomes included: setting expectations around developing a face to face communication culture; changing behaviour to be consistent with positive intentions; committing to mindfulness practice; and snapping into a broader focus congruent with operating at a higher level.

As a result of this positive feedback we have incorporated on-boarding coaching into the induction programme for all new senior managers.

After six months in post all senior managers go on to participate in the senior management development programme, which consist of 360 feedback and a coaching session. This gives them the opportunity for coaching support at the point when they are challenging the status quo, as well as assessing their connection with colleagues, hearing observations around how they lead and feeding development actions into the continuous Staff Review and Development process.

Employee voice – speak to the wind or make a difference?

I had the privilege of providing a case study about the University of Kent’s Change Academy at the Universities Human Resources conference last month. The topic of the session was the power of employee voice and it discussed similar themes to those shared at an earlier plenary session featuring Nita Clarke of the Engage for Success movement who spoke about the power of staff engagement.

A few gems stuck in my mind from Anita’s talk:

“Engage for Success surveys have revealed that of the 30 million employees working in the UK, only one third feel fully engaged with their work with a resultant impact on productivity, innovation and organisational results. Of those surveyed, 64% feel they have more to give.”


By way of comparison, a parallel example was given: “What if we said our IT systems only worked one third of the time? Would that be seen as acceptable?” I won’t go into the details of why that particular example resonates for me personally at the moment but these results could be extrapolated across a whole range of other parallel scenarios. There is no question that fulfilling work is a key factor for human happiness as well as positive organisational results so why do we do so little in our organisations to get the best from everyone?

We live in an environment of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. There is no ‘normal’ any longer and we find ourselves struggling to keep up with the pace of change and the speed of technology. Many organisations are having to make tough decisions about how to deal with issues of staffing and workload and the fine skill of prioritisation is becoming ever more important. However, there will be no return to the easier days of yesteryear, if, in fact, that time ever really existed.

Effective prioritisation requires the ability to hold in our minds the vision and purpose of what is important to our organisation and what we want to achieve. We can then return to this vision when we need to make tough decisions on how we spend our time.

Given the challenges we face, we will only succeed if we work in partnership with staff across the whole organisation and listen to their voices. An average of thirty percent of engaged staff is simply not enough. We must articulate what we value within our organisation and have the courage to have honest conversations.

It is the responsibility of managers to get to know their staff as individuals, to coach them and help them to develop, to not allow bad behaviours and to show appreciation that is both authentic and specific. Similarly, all staff must take personal responsibility to know what drives and motivates them as individuals and to get to where they they need to in order to work in roles and organisations that they care about. This is where people will make a difference for themselves and for their organisations. This is where staff will find their true voice and this is where real engagement will occur.

By Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent, Twitter @cdvallance


What’s Stonewall got to do with OD? Dosey Doe your OD partner!

By Meriel Box, Head of Staff Development, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)

In 2003, three gay staff (including me) had an ambition to establish an LGBT Equality Network to support our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff – to drive positive cultural change as part of our HR Rewarding and Developing Staff Strategy. Adopting the Stonewall mantra ‘People perform better when they can be themselves’ we wanted more colleagues to be themselves, to celebrate their diversity, reducing personal stress, challenge homophobic behaviour, and fulfil their potential; in essence to feel safe in a ‘gay friendly’ work environment and to be ‘out and proud’ role models for both current and potential LGBT students and staff. For LJMU, we wanted to be a destination of choice to study or work, where LGBT people would have an excellent student and staff experience.

This year we celebrated our network’s 10th Birthday, during LGBT History Month. From increasing understanding of sexual orientation equality amongst staff to improving our University’s external reputation, our network group is a vital instrument which supports our strategic business objectives. As Chair of the network I’m proud of our achievements attributed through the commitment, passion and ‘discretionary effort’ of many academic and professional services staff. Network members include straight staff, alumni as well as LGBT staff and students and external partners who we collaborate with on OD projects across sector organisations and the wider LGBT community.

Each and every member of our network is an equality and diversity champion contributing to our University’s OD profile, recognised by our Board of Governors, VC and Senior Management Team. This is endorsed by and strengthened through our partnership with Stonewall since 2006 when LJMU joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme. As a University we annually submit to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index to evidence and benchmark our LGBT equality practice at an international level with a growing number of other public and private sector organisations. This year LJMU achieved 28th position in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list, full marks in the ‘Gay By Degree’ HE sector benchmarking exercise for specific services supporting LGBT students and we were awarded Network Group of the Year in the North West.

Stonewall as a key partner has enabled us to realise OD potential, recognising and valuing the difference LGBT people bring to our organisation. I encourage you to dosey doe your OD partner!

stonewallphoto LJMU 

September 2013 LJMU hosts the North West launch of the Stonewall Workplace Guide: ‘Maintaining Network Group Momentum’

LJMU’s LGBT Equality Network webpage

Guidance on LGB workplace equality Stonewall

LinkedIn – Reflections of an Occasional User

By @cdvallance

I have previously written about my use of twitter and blogs.linkedin

The third social media tool that I use to a limited degree is LinkedIn. I know I don’t use LinkedIn as much as I could. I don’t regularly update my status to share information to the same degree that I use Twitter, for instance, where I’ve begun to develop valued acquaintances.

I primarily use LinkedIn as my professional digital Rolodex. It is particularly useful as a way to stay in touch with people external to my own University. When I moved to the UK from Canada five years ago, I left behind respected colleagues and professional associates. Linking in with them has enabled me to maintain contact from thousands of miles away. I have done the same since being here in the UK and still maintain contacts from my early days here.

Rather than relying on my email contact list which becomes out of date the moment someone moves organisations unless they specifically notify me, since they maintain their own profile I don’t need to update their information myself. Similarly, I didn’t need to tell my connections individually when I moved roles. We simply maintain contact with each other directly through LinkedIn.

I also use LinkedIn as a way to ensure that anyone who wants to know a little about me – positions I have held, organisations where I have worked, my education, etc. has this information easily to hand. I don’t include a complete and detailed CV but if someone wants to know something about my professional profile, it provides a way in. For instance, I have signed up to be a mentor at Kent as a way to actively demonstrate my support for this initiative led by our Learning and Development team and have also had the privilege to take part in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) new Aurora women’s leadership programme as a role model. Providing connections with my LinkedIn profile ensures that those who are interested can see something about my experience and background before deciding if a mentor/mentee relationship or further contact might be worth exploring further.

I use LinkedIn to learn about other professionals as well. For instance, I have looked at profiles of speakers who come to our University as well as learning about potential contractors and services suppliers. However, while I am a member of a number of LinkedIn groups (including the ODHE LinkedIn group), I have yet to engage with these very actively. With groups, I believe at least one person needs to take the lead in experimenting with and helping to moderate discussion topics and at least a small group need to commit to actively engaging in discussions. This could be a longer term goal. In the meantime, I will continue to check in on LinkedIn semi-regularly and see where the tool might lead over time.

Have you found an effective way to engage with LinkedIn – particularly through the use of discussion groups? If so, do share your insights with all of us so we can continue to learn together.

Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent

Joining the dots – learning about OD

By Helen Jones

When I signed up to do the OD practitioners programme at Roffey Park, I knew that I ought to know all this stuff, having been in post for six years! However, the shift from learning and development to OD is a step change, although a very natural one. My mantra at UCLan is to make it ‘a great place to work’, which of course encompasses the development of individuals, teams and the whole organisation, but OD for me, joins all that together and to quote Simon Inger ‘it’s the spaces in between’ which count. No one activity is independent of another, there are always consequences and cultural/human influences which affect the work being undertaken, in that ‘not written down’ space, where things really happen. This is where OD can be most effective.

PhotoA couple of things to share about my learning at mid-point on the programme;

1. The concept of self-as instrument is fundamental to OD. A simple quote attributed to Jane Austen that one can never merely observe a conversation, by the fact that you are there with the people talking, you influence what is happening, made me think. Being aware of how I am seen in the organisation, how I interact with people, the impact I want to make by being present will affect the work I am able to carry out. I came across this concept when I joined the ODHE group six years ago, and continue to learn about it’s importance each day in my role.

2. The OD value base really resonated with me. If you consider the values set out by Bennis, Beckhard, Tannenbaum include ‘people are essentially good’, ‘collaboration rather than competition’, ‘feelings are legitimate’, ‘acceptance of individual differences’ and so on. These make complete sense to underpin my work, as well as my everyday life.  I wondered if I do this job because these are my values, or is it a happy coincidence? There is definitely a strong correlation which affirms my desire to work in this field.

I was familiar with lots of the principles, skills, theory, but lacking the behavioural science foundation which OD requires. This is the area of learning I now need to pursue, as the different models of human behaviour and ways of looking at the world are the filters through which we work, so probably the missing layer for me in terms of my understanding of OD.

That is my development sorted for the next ten years!

Helen Jones, Leadership and Development Manager, University of Central Lancashire

Association of University Administrators – 2013 Conference Reflections

While I have been a member of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) for a couple of years, I attended and presented at their annual conference for the first time in March 2013.

Why the AUA? There are certainly many HE professional associations/networks to choose to get involved in. The ODHE group itself is one, of course. Add to that the many other specialist organisations that include ARC, ARMA, ASET, AUCC, AGCAS, AURIL, AHUA, AISA, AMOSSHE, AUCSO, AUDE, SDF, UHR, and the lists and acronyms go on…

Firstly, the AUA has a substantial membership base of nearly 5,000 in the UK and a significant international presence, including strong connections with similar organisations in other countries. Its annual conference is the largest professional services development conference in the UK HE calendar and typically brings together over 700 delegates.

Secondly, our local University of Kent branch is very active and was thrilled to receive three AUA awards in 2012 including one recognising Branch Good Practice. The enthusiasm of our local membership was instrumental in my decision to also contribute more actively. I also like the idea of being involved with an organisation that is so much at the forefront in encouraging professional services staff to work in partnership with academic staff and students to encourage positive change and innovation in the core business of our institutions.

Thirdly, the AUA is making very good use good use of social media. They had great mobile apps at their conference, they make good use of Twitter (@THE_AUA) and Twitter hash tags (#AUA13) at their events and they use LinkedIn groups (Association of University Administrators more than many other associations I have come across.

The topic I presented at the AUA13 conference with University of Kent colleague Chloé Gallien was: Collaboration as a Catalyst for Change (see materials for session 200). As I mentioned in that AUA conference presentation, social media is just one way we can find new ways to collaborate and build relationships in a more social era.  And as one of my favourite authors, Nilofer Merchant, states: “Relationships are to the social era, what efficiency was to the industrial era.”

The call is now live for AUA14 conference proposals on the topic of Revolution and Reinvention. Why not join in by getting involved?

Twitter – Two Ears to Listen, One Mouth to Speak

I so enjoyed Simon Inger’s blog about iPads, I thought it might be of some interest to share thinking about one way I use my own iPad.

twitter-bird-blue-on-whitestock-illustration-3365311-classic-car-1959-chevy-impalaI was quite skeptical about Twitter when I first decided to try it out but I saw that it was increasingly being used, particularly by students. When I was still in my 20’s I decided I never wanted to end up like an older friend. He simply refused to listen to any music later than 1960. He even drove a car from the 50’s – beautiful but certainly not the only choice around. I may not be on the leading edge of technology but choice for me continues to be important.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” (Epictetus, Greek philosopher, AD 55-c.135 by way of Tim le Lean). This quote epitomises the value I find in Twitter. To me, Twitter is:

1. A newspaper – I can use it to catch headlines and current activities from news organisations like the Guardian, THE, etc. as well as “headlines” from people and organisations within and outside the University of Kent that I have chosen to “follow.” I can dig deeper by clicking on the links attached to the tweets.

2. A source of continuous professional development – Following organisations and thinkers that I respect (I call them my virtual mentors) who write about leadership, innovation, diversity, strategy, and change as well as other areas of interest provide me with a steady stream of current, often internationally acclaimed thinking, on topics I care about. I can take five minutes to scan a few practical presentation skills tips or read an inspirational article to kickstart my own motivation when I am having a difficult day.

3. An event tracker – Twitter is a terrific way to keep an eye open for upcoming events and to have another method at your fingertips to tell others about events you are involved in or that you want to draw attention to. When it comes to events, Twitter is just one of a host of methods to get the word out.

4. A way to share thinking and research with others – This can happen either by typing 140 characters as a single message or by directing the reader to a blog or a website. Connecting people and ideas is easy when I see some resonance or possible common interests or goals. It’s also not as intrusive as an email; the broadcast approach of Twitter means people choose to engage with a tweet or not. The receiver of tweets can control and manage their own information, sharing or responding as they choose.

5. A way to build a positive community – Twitter makes it easier to communicate appreciation for others – for individuals or for organisational initiatives. It’s possible to send an expression of praise not just to one person in an email but to everyone who has chosen to follow you and is, therefore, by default, a part of your digital community. Of course, the reverse also holds true; criticism and negativity is just as easy to spread on Twitter. I consciously choose to use Twitter as a positive force. If I have an issue to deal with or a problem with a person or something that has happened, Twitter will not be my communication method. I only have control over my own tweets but I can choose to try and exemplify what I appreciate in others – particularly a sense of collaboration and a focus on continuous learning.

6. A way to be yourself – I do make conscious choices; I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my professional communication social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram are saved for my friends and family where I share a range of silly and serious topics, personno-foodal politics and family photos. But I also see something very positive in allowing who you are as a person shine through on Twitter – I have been known to post a picture from a great local festival or a Canadian winter driving scene; a link to a news story that has affected me deeply or a mention that I am finally heading off on a long anticipated holiday. However, I try not to share certain details – I’m not a chef and I know you don’t care what I made for lunch!

The best way to know if you will like Twitter is to try it. Read (listen) more than you tweet (talk) and there is much to be gained.

By Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent
Twitter @cdvallance