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The power of a review – a digest

by Susie Hills | Nov 26, 2019 | Fundraising, Governance & Policy, News, Strategy & Transformation

Throughout November on our social media channels, we’ve been shining a light on the power of a review. We’ve shared content from Halpin staff and fellows, and we’ve also shared articles and resources that we’ve found online.

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 rebuild things.

But if an institution wants to futureproof itself against inevitable turbulence, then regular and intelligent review across all areas of its structure is crucial. Reviewing a particular service area allows senior leaders to take and step back and appraise the results of their efforts. Sometimes all it takes is a small tweak in your approach here and there to make big differences.

Halpin Joint CEO Susie Hills suggests that seeking an external review should not come from a fear of failure and noncompliance (most institutions will be compliant); it should be about aiming for best practice and governance that supports your institution to thrive in uncertain times.

It all starts with a review. Whether it’s your governance, your fundraising, your marketing or your strategic direction, we have put together this digest of useful links from both Halpin experts and other sector experts – we hope it’s helpful.

Planning vs Strategy…

Strategy is not planning, and it’s said that a strategy without a plan underpinning it may simply be a wish. Read more on separating out the two in your mind at Inside Higher Ed.

Are you in a ‘comfort trap’ when it comes to strategic planning? Avoiding making difficult decisions through habit? Harvard Business Review presents the case for breaking out of your strategic planning habits.

Building institutional resilience

A mid-year strategic review can easily turn into a paper exercise, just to tick the box. Here are some simple tips for optimising the results of your review.

The old adage ‘work smarter, not harder’ has never been truer. Here are some tips from Harvard Business Review on how to sharpen up the processes behind your operations.

When things go wrong…

Are you thinking about failure in the wrong way? Harvard Business Review offers a different perspective in their article ‘Strategies for Learning from Failure’.

This article from Forbes sets out a clear strategy for turning a business around without any knee-jerk reactions. It focuses on a simple three-step process: 1. Frame the problem, 2. Create a clear vision, and 3. Empower the team you have.

Problems crop up all the time. Effective problem-solving is a rare and beautiful skill. Rather than jump straight in with the ‘fix’, step back and let your team help. This blog on problem-solving was first published over two years ago and remains one of Halpin’s most visited pages to date.

A spotlight on service reviews

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Reviews: Halpin worked with Central School of Speech, Music and Drama to look at race equality on campus. Read more about the project here.

Governance Reviews: Halpin’s team of governance experts worked with University of Bath at a time when their governance came under public scrutiny. More info, and a link to the final report can be found here.

Is it the right time to review an area of your institution? Here’s a digest with plenty of further reading on governance that may help.

Portfolio reviews: The size, shape and substance of the courses on offer is at the heart of a university’s purpose, and it is neglected at your peril. Here’s a blog on portfolio reviews from Marketing specialist Rachel Killian.

Family policies: Do your institution’s family policies offer the right sort of support for your staff? Or are they reinforcing tired stereotypes? Could it be time for a refresh? Here’s Halpin Consulting Fellow Ailsa McGregor with more.

Performance Reviews: Universities are being managed as though they are businesses. This article from Times Higher Education suggests that the misapplication of private sector HR techniques harms individuals without raising performance.

Inc. makes the case that ‘the dreaded annual performance review is a relic of the industrial age’. Here’s their take on a new approach to performance review.

Could it be time to conduct your own performance review? Avoid getting stuck in a rut by taking an objective look at your career. Rachel Killian makes the case for a regular personal/career review, allowing you to reassess where you are and whether it’s still right for you or not.

The difference a review makes:

Here’s how London Met University was turned around by ‘getting a grip’; taking both ownership of its past and responsibility for its future.’, transforming the University from a struggling institution to one with improving scores in all key performance areas.

And finally, here’s Joint CEO Susie Hills on how bringing in an external review team can help you to bring about a culture of regular review by modelling how it can be done in any part of your institution.

In the face of unprecedented change and uncertainty, there is a clear need for universities to undertake reviews to ensure their operations are efficient, effective and resilient. Over the past two years Halpin has undertaken more than fifty reviews assessing areas including governance, health and safety provision, the student experience, facilities, and equality on campus.

If there is an area of your institution that is ripe for a review, get in touch for a conversation.