Saturday, April 28, 2007

OurLeader Comes Clean On The Management
System Behind BigU's So-Called Transformation

Mr. Bonzo had an "aha" moment today when on BigU's website he came upon a powerpoint presentation that OurLeader gave to the BoRe (Board of Regents) last month. He found it enlightening and helpful in understanding what is currently happening with respect to transforming BigU, which is management speak for the process formerly known as reengineering.

BigU seems not to be able to function without expensive advertising campaigns such as Driven to Discover. BigU's administration also seems to be incapable of action without borrowing some flavor of the month management scheme from the business world, regardless of whether it is appropriate for an academic institution. If some great man at the Harvard Business School has a pet theory, however could we fault OurLeader for trying it out?

Apparently the BoRe eats this up. No surprise given that at least one of them - OurLeader's strongest and most vocal champion - is in the consulting business and for $2000-$5000 will give
inspirational talks on such subjects as: Leaders are Learners, Change or Die, Building a Learning Organization, How Great Boards Work, It’s All About People, You Can’t Win Without Teamwork, Inspiring and Motivating Your Staff, Barriers to Change, Moving out of your Comfort Zone. Mr. B. has previously commented that this BoRe member refuses to move out of his own comfort zone and currently does not reside in the Congressional District he supposedly represents. I guess ethical standards are not very high at BigU given MedSchoolDean's Pepsi association, BigU's Coca-cola partnership, and the little matter of inappropriate manipulation of images in papers and a patent.

So the flavor of the month is? The secret we've all been waiting for?

"Welcome back, Kotter!"

That would be Harvard Business School professor emeritus, John P. Kotter, and his marvelous and apparently foolproof "Eight Step Process of Creating Major Change."

Now it has always seemed to Mr. Bonzo that the transformation program at BigU was inauthentic, top-down with no real faculty input, unrealistic in its goals and expectations, and inappropriate for a university. But it is difficult to argue with someone when you don't know the intellectual underpinnings for their activities, especially when it appears from their actions that they don't have any. Now, properly implemented, it might be possible to transform the BigU using the Kotter system, but clearly anyone with even a primitive knowledge of the system will be aware that BigU has made a major botch of its implementation. Mr. Bonzo is also greatly disturbed by the lack of transparency and the manipulation of opinion that is antithetical to the idea of a university. Where, exactly, did the idea come from that BigU should become GreatBigU? Who, exactly, decided that we are Driven to Discover? An advertising agency, a consultant ? These decisions were certainly not made by the faculty, students, and staff at BigU. Nor does it appear that these stakeholders have bought into the program.

[As an aside, Mr. B. loves the use of the word stakeholder. It brings to mind a vision of Dracula at a crossroad in Transylvania at high noon with a golden stake through his heart. Now there is a stakeholder. ]

Kotter and other beer of the month management types (Covey, anyone) have not been particularly successful at causing meaningful change in the business world, let alone in education. They have, admittedly, made a great deal of money for themselves from the gullibility of managers both in real business and the business that education has become. Mr. B. is a great fan of Chris Argyris, also at Harvard, who dares to criticize both Covey and Kotter. He has written insightfully about the disconnect between theory and practice in change management systems embodied by the cliche "failure to walk the talk" oft used by the late Paul Wellstone.

Mr. B. has more to say on these matters, but not tonight and probably not for a while. A hellish month is ahead including about eight hours of lecturing on nanotechnology for a general audience in BigU's Compleat Scholar program. This will be fun, but a lot of work. The topic, however, has legs. I'll post the stuff somewhere and put a link on the PT. He will also be going to New Orleans in mid-May for a graduation. This will no doubt be a hard trip, because he has not been in NO since well before the hurricane.

Auf wiedersehen,



Philip said...

When I was asked to contribute an answer to a 'Driven to Discover' question, the person I dealt with quite openly called it a 'campaign' -- that is, a markting campaign.

Mr. B. said...

And an expensive one...

Four million dollars and growing.

Of course when it comes to retaining faculty, we apparently do not have the money.

Some pigs are more equal than others - I guess.

Mr. B.