Why can we ‘plan and do’ but not review?

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It intrigues me that most organisations have formal systematic processes in place for planning and building budgets, but fewer have similarly systematic processes which enable them to review their plans, assess the impact of their work and re-shape budgets accordingly.

It appears that we all find it easier to plan and put new things in place than we do to review how our plans have turned out and, if required, consider how we can dismantle and re-build things. Perhaps most leaders are by nature innovators – delivering new plans and ideas – and less likely to be focused on assessment and review. I certainly fall into this trap and can be magpie-like – distracted by shiny new toys. Yet I have learnt over time that sometimes you have to radically review your approach and re-shape your teams. Even if you are the one that built them up and your plans were sound, unless you are open to changing them you will have less impact.

Often departments build up over time incrementally. A post here, a post there, each one individually justified. The postholders work hard and justify their keep. They deliver results and they plan how they can grow their work. Reviews of these departments and their work tend to only happen when something has gone wrong, results are disappointing, a Director leaves or budget constraints are so severe there is no other way.

And yet the power of effective review shouldn’t just be used when things have gone wrong or when external forces align against us. We should constantly review our plans and consider how we can redeploy our resources in response to the needs of our institution and changes in the market. Locking resources into areas which were a priority and are no longer a priority is wasteful and distracting. It’s a luxury we can’t afford anymore, and ultimately it’s frustrating to those working in that area too – most people are fully aware of the impact they are having and whether their work is seen as a priority by their institution.

The Halpin team have become known for our work on Reviews. Our team approach reviews in a systematic way. We establish the scope and agree objectives. We listen, learn and understand the context. We explore institutional strategy and priorities. We assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative. We offer observations, recommendations and options. And we peer-review our work to ensure we are drawing in the right insight from a variety of experience bases. Our work aims to take our clients towards best practice in their sector and form an actionable plan to bring about the desired change. This kind of review should be empowering to the client, enabling them to achieve their goals more quickly.

Bringing in an external review team can enable you to consider how you tackle change objectively, dispassionately. It can open up honest, productive discussion on areas which felt impossible to change. It can empower your team to bring about the changes they have been pushing for but unable to secure. It can help you to bring about a culture of regular review by modelling how it can be done in any part of your institution.

The Halpin team are not career consultants; we are people who have delivered change at senior levels in a variety of institutions. We have walked in your shoes and know what it took to bring about change. We work with care and discretion. We value the work you do and want to enable you to do it better.

Whether you work with Halpin to undertake a review or drive the review process yourself internally, building a systematic review process will be essential if you are to be able to respond to the changing marketplace. The key steps are simple:

  1. Establish the scope
  2. Agree objectives
  3. Understand the context
  4. Focus on institutional strategy and priorities
  5. Assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative
  6. Make clear observations and recommendations
  7. Test findings through peer review
  8. Define options
  9. Establish action plan

Halpin delivers reviews across the higher education sector. Two recently completed projects include a Review of Council Effectiveness at University of Bath, and a Race Equality Review at Central School of Speech and Drama.

 To discuss the particular needs of your institution, get in touch.

 

Brexit + Trump = Time for Turbo-Charged Alumni Relations

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Back in November 2016, Halpin Joint CEO Susie Hills wrote this piece, and it remains as relevant now as it was then. The smartest institutions are connecting and engaging with their international community in a meaningful and long-term way as an insurance policy against Brexit.

The winds of political and economic change are creating stormy weather for higher education institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Brexit and the election of Trump have exposed deep divisions within our societies: our higher education institutions are seen to be part of the ‘privileged establishment’ for which many in our society are expressing their discontent. In both cases university staff and graduates were predominantly on the losing side of the vote, yet in the face of this divide, our universities must play their part in helping to bring communities together and tackling disadvantage.

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Value for money in HE – denial is not an option

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The recent report by the House of Commons Education Committee ‘Value for money in higher education’ offers vital insight into the prevailing winds in HE, and how the concept of value for money for students is going to shape universities over the coming years.

So what is the report signalling, and what should universities be doing right now?

Here are some of the key messages in the report, and some suggestions as to how you might act now to reshape your plans for 2018/19 and beyond.

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There’s too much to do, to review.

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This autumn, university governing bodies will be meeting with a long list of concerns. From the Office for Students (OfS) to student numbers to the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Read more

A new recipe for higher education governance.

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A dash of ‘business’ and a dollop of ‘charity’ – the recipe for Vice-Chancellor pay?

 

The governance of our universities has focused inwards and concentrated on compliance rather than focusing outwards and on culture. This lack of focus on culture is very risky.

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