Even Though I Say So Myself (Or Hubris Comes Before a Fall)

Follow-up to Warwick’s Future: Get Involved from Casey’s Blog

From Shadow to LightWe
are nearing the end of the University’s first ideas generation and
staff and student engagement process – and, even though I say so
myself, I am ridiculously proud of the effects.

I have held off writing this entry for a couple of weeks now (hubris comes before a fall) – but dammit I’m ready…

The team was small (two people), the budget was small (no special
funds have been alotted), the process was simple – but the effect has
been big.

There is a palpable buzz around campus and a sense of interest and
anticipation. Over 350 ideas were put forward, over 400 people were
invited to the discussion event and almost half of the University’s
departments put forward an official response to the Vice-Chancellor’s

Of course, a large part of this is owing to the presence of a new
vice-chancellor – but I hope that this process has really capitalised
on the goodwill towards him…. the first 100 days…

The challenge now is getting back to people with feedback, giving
them the response to their idea. We are currently collating all the
various feedback on the ideas submitted and will begin telephoning
everyone shortly.

Consultation Process on University’s Future Strategy

Chronology of Events to Date
University Steering Committee approves process for consultation on the development of the University’s future strategy

  • Vice-Chancellor publishes a consultation document outlining
    institutional challenges, which has been prepared in consultation with
    the Senior Management Team and subject specialists from around the
  • Consultation document disseminated via the institutional newsletter, Intranet and staff email list
  • Copy
    of institutional newsletter received by all staff, Staff-Student
    Liaison Representatives (students) and Students’ Union Society and
    Sports Club Presidents
  • Consultation process also advertised on WarwickBlogs and Facebook
  • All
    Heads of Department (academic and non-academic) requested to discuss
    the aims and generate ideas by holding departmental meetings
  • University members asked to submit ideas via a variety of
    means, including on-campus suggestion boxes; an online form; a
    hard-copy form in the newsletter to put in the internal post; a
    dedicated voicemail box or through their line manager or Head of
    Department at a Team or Departmental meeting.
  • Over 350 individual submissions made from staff and students across the University
  • Departmental responses provided by 17 departments
  • Large externally-facilitated discussion event held on the afternoon of Wed 17 January (a traditionally non-teaching slot)
  1. Over 400 staff and students invited, drawn equally from
    those who had made submissions; subject specialists; and the Personnel
    database at random
  2. Over 250 attendees; split into seven
    groups which discussed all the submissions by topic (size & shape;
    research, education; internationalisation; campus community; region;
    income generation) highlighting recurrent themes and voting for their
    top three exemplar ideas
  • A Primary Panel (composed of ten middle-ranking academics
    and administrators) has now received comprehensive notes from the
    discussions to inform their review of all the submissions against a set
    of pre-approved criteria
  • Each submission has been sent to two members of the Panel along with the departmental responses
  1. Each Panel member will review his or her responses and the
    Panel will meet once on Wednesday 24 January to discuss and resolve any
    areas of disagreement
  2. At this stage people who have submitted ideas will receive feedback on the progress of their idea
  • The Senior Panel has reviewed those ideas referred to them
    by the Primary Panel. They reviewed these ideas afresh, against the
    same pre-approved set of criteria and using the same process.
  1. Each submission referred by the Primary Panel will be sent
    to two members of the Senior Panel along with the departmental
    responses and the notes from the breakout groups from the discussion
    event on 17 January.
  2. Each Senior Panel member will review
    his or her submissions and the Senior Panel will meet once, on a date
    to be determined, to discuss and resolve any areas of disagreement.
    This meeting will be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and will determine
    which ideas will be included in the University’s draft strategy.
  • A presentation of the Warwick’s Future headlines was given
    for discussion at the Heads’ Forum on Tuesday 13 February and will be
    given at the extraordinary meeting of Senate on Wednesday 14 February.
  • A
    subsequent presentation will be given to the University community by
    the Vice-Chancellor at an Open Meeting (potentially 28 February 1pm –
  • The Warwick’s Future document will be discussed at
    Senate on Wednesday 14 March and updated for consideration and approval
    at Council on Wednesday 21 March.
  • The Vice-Chancellor will attend Summer Term Faculty lunches in order to discuss further the finalised strategy.
  • A
    high-level external-facing document will be prepared and presented to
    the Senate and the Council at their meetings in the Summer term.

Issues for Consideration

  • The possibility of continuing a modified, scaled-down, ideas generation process
    The need to consider appropriate integration with the University’s financial planning process
    The creation of routes for acting on smaller good ideas not suitable for inclusion in the strategy

2 Responses to “Even Though I Say So Myself (Or Hubris Comes Before a Fall)”
  1. The possibility of continuing a modified, scaled-down, ideas generation process

    Yes. People are constantly coming to me with great ideas, but
    usually I can’t do anything about them. Several people told me of ideas
    that they might have submitted, but they felt rather rushed by the
    deadline and wanted time to consult and form a better statement. In
    other cases they felt the ideas were just too big to go into this

    More controversially, I argue that many people here (Warwick,
    England, Western Europe) just aren’t used to formulating and expressing
    their ideas for public consideration. There’s certainly a lack of
    confidence, and perhaps also a sense that one doesn’t want to speak up
    in case more work is generated. A continual process of ideas generation
    and analysis is a much better proposition, as it will establish a habit of creative thinking. For example, we now hold regular Faculty E-learning Exhibitions that are doing precisely that.

    And finally, a more continual process might help to establish a
    wider and deeper understanding of the themes, challenges, limitations
    and strategic options. For example, the notion of “community”, which
    seemed to be universally misunderstood or at the least vague.

    There, that’s my idea! All based on processes that we are currently engaged in for e-learning.

  2. Casey Leaver says:

    – I don’t want to say the words Kaizen or Continuous Improvement too
    loud before I get shot down in a howling ball of flames…

    But I used to work for the Unipart Group of Companies where (admittedly in a logistics and manufacturing environment) they used Our Contribution Counts Circles

    There are obvious disparities between the two organisations – but
    also some distinct similarities: a kind of ground-up-get-on-and-do-it
    attitude and a democratic ethos (especially now Unipart has turned to
    employee ownership).

    The main thrust is a structure and corresponding escalation process
    for that thing that most people do when they have an idea: try and
    other people involved to test out its feasibility/ get it moving.

    So – I aspire to quite a bit more than a few dismail suggestions boxes dotted around campus.

    The Honda and IBM methods are worth looking at…

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