Are we there yet?
I’m sitting at my PC on what is the eve of the first anniversary of the launch of Crossing the Horizon and thinking – wow, what just happened to the last year? It’s a familiar state of mind to us all whenever we pause to reflect, but it really jumps out for me as I look back on the past twelve months in the context of our strategic action plan and all that has come to pass since we rolled it out last August.
The first big choice I had to make today was blog or email – so with apologies to all those who view notes from the VC as spam – I decided to do both – email it out and post the mail as my blog too.
A first order question in considering Crossing the Horizon would have to be – are we there yet? CTH is a journey for our university. A journey towards positioning ourselves as a university of enterprise. An enterprising university. A differentiated institution – for students, for end users, for benefit.
In just 12 months since embarking on this journey, we have seen a change of federal government, proposals to deregulate the sector and the re-election of the State government. And that is only the external policy environment.
In the same period we have opened the Jeffrey Smart building and a presence on Orchard Road Singapore. We have reviewed our curriculum, started developing new digital learning strategies, introduced new programs in partnership with Hills and Hewlett-Packard, established our alliance with the Centre for Cancer Biology and also the Institute for Choice, launched a new centre of business growth, released our reconciliation action plan, expanded our orientation program, and introduced campus connector, campus murals, a smoke free campus…and sold more than a few hoodies. Even now as we approach the anniversary, the design plans for our health innovation building, a Great Hall and SciCEd are progressing apace, and we continue to develop plans for the education precinct at Magill. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg.
There is a LOT going on. I feel that our standing in the community is higher than at any point since I joined the organisation. There is a palpable sense of energy and possibility across our campuses. And we are only one year into a five year action plan.
Two of the big actions in train relate to end to end service provision and the reduction of red tape. As I mentioned in my most recent blog a series of new enterprise support plans were brought forward from the human resource, finance, marketing, IT and research functional areas. The intent of these plans, aligned to our Crossing the Horizon (action set seven, for those with a copy to hand) is to better integrate our services across the institution, deliver effectively to end users, and ensure our academic teaching and research staff are best supported to achieve our ambitions. The Senior Management Group has now approved those plans and in essence we are now moving to full functional alignment across these support areas in the university. Implementing the plans does involve a change in reporting lines for division functional areas and the integration of their operations and service, aligned to meeting the objectives set for the support areas (the support plans have established a very clear set of priorities and actions for service provision which themselves align to meeting our CTH ambitions – we are actively joining up the dots). This reporting line change will occur from 1 October this year. Put simply, finance functions will report through the line up to the Director of Finance, HR functions to the Director of HR,… and so on across the five areas. This move integrates our activities and provides for coordination of service and support at a whole of institution level. It makes managers accountable for the service they provide and it empowers them to manage. It also strategically repurposes the role of division directors, and they have been intimately involved in the creation of these plans. If you’re an end user, over time you’ll see even greater levels of service and reduced complexity in our systems. It is my expectation that the university will see a steady improvement in service over the months and years to come while also recognising there will be periods of adjustment and refinement to the way in which we better support our core mission. The division directors and the functional area directors are now working with their teams to both socialise the plans and individually and progressively implement them.
One thing I will foreshadow is the intent to carry out a detailed cultural survey in the coming weeks. To succeed in our ambitions we will need a strong organisational culture built on a clear set of values, commitments and a shared sense of purpose. To help us better understand our current culture, and what we can do to strengthen and develop it, on September 15 I will be inviting staff to contribute to the Denison Organisational Culture Survey. The survey is widely used and will allow us to track developments in our culture over time and to benchmark these with others from across the globe. It’s one year on from the start of CTH and it’d be great to know where exactly we are (where we perceive ourselves to be) so that we can reference that across the years to come to assess how things are improving.
What else is on the go? Well, yesterday the good universities guide confirmed something that we know – that UniSA is a well-rounded, outcome focused institution, with high levels of student satisfaction (highest in the state :) ) and providing great future opportunities for its graduates. But it’s nice to hear someone else say it. We also announced our ‘power partnership’ with a certain local AFL team. Another indicator of our connectivity, but also a program that links internationally as we work with Port Adelaide Football Club to engage in Asia too. I also signed a memorandum of understanding with Seeley International, joining up with Flinders University and TAFE SA to create critical mass and expertise in a new engineering venture that we hope will grow in leaps and bounds in the years to come.
A bit like us, really.
Before I sign off, don’t forget – its Open Day on Sunday. In keeping with improving things across the delivery of CTH - this year we open both city west and city east for the first time. I think the energy we experience on that day, and the commitment and dedication shown by so many staff to make it happen and showcase their work to future students, is a timely mirror of our progress.
Looking back now over a year’s activity, I think we can see the extent of significant achievement and change that we have made. I believe we should be proud of that.
I’m just as confident that when we look back again in a year, or two years’ time - we’ll again have much to celebrate.
Through The Big Picture, I hope that our whole community gains a greater and current appreciation of what is going on, how it fits together and how our activities connect and reinforce each other at a whole of enterprise level.