“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey.
Photo: Dan Schiumarini, Unsplash.
Delivering value is a complex endeavour and for larger organisations like universities, with broad and diverse ranges of elements and disciplines, the complexity can be multiplied significantly. Further, for universities, the delivery of value extends beyond their confines. For universities, creating great socio-economic benefits is fundamental to their existence and reason for being.
As such, any operating model a university establishes must support an outward focus on major societal needs, and must bolster the shaping and delivery of education programs and research outcomes, together with partners, to address those needs.
Given the expansive and continually changing environments, can a university realistically establish an effective operating model to support the achievement of socio-economic benefits? The complexity involved seems overwhelming.
How does a university design an effective operating model, that creates value in the broadest sense?
Again, the implications of a conceptual framework introduced in an earlier blog (the ‘spheres of impact’) coupled with the key factors that universities must master to deliver impact (the ‘critical proficiencies’) demystifies matters.
There are three key components to an effective operating model.
Component one : Core Processes
Core processes are the key actions required to deliver societal impact from academic impact through collaborative impact (the spheres-of-impact). Core processes must be aligned with the critical proficiencies ('curate', 'shape' and 'deliver') and they represent the linked actions required to produce great socio-economic benefits. Core processes can include key actions such as sourcing offerings, shaping offers, and identifying partners (to 'curate' opportunities); selecting partners, attracting partners, and structuring partnerships (to 'shape' enduring partnerships); entering partnerships, delivering outcomes, and amplifying benefits (to 'deliver' great socio-economic benefits). Each action requires dedicated support.
Component two: Enabling Systems
Enabling systems are the activities, programs and methods that enable the core processes to deliver value. Enabling systems include key resources and capabilities such as business methods, policy frameworks, internal and external engagement programs, training programs, and strategic investment programs. Each enabling system needs to be framed around the core processes.
Component three: Organisational Functions.
Organisational functions involve the many areas of an organisation that provide professional services internally. They are likely to be very diverse from university to university, but most can be grouped into the following broad recognisable categories: human resources, marketing and communications, teaching and learning support, research support, legal services, finance and facilities. Services drawn from each function need to be designed for the core processes and are required to deliver the enabling programs.
All three components must be in alignment. But how?
Three very important principles underpin the creation of an effective operating model.
First, good people can make organisational functions work if they are aligned with a university’s organisational direction and they keep the associated critical proficiencies at the core of what they do.
Second, good people can deliver great socio-economic benefits if they are supported by the right enabling systems, those that are designed around the critical proficiencies.
Third, because the critical proficiencies remain ‘constant’, regardless of shifting operating landscapes, so too do the core processes remain constant. Therefore, an operating model designed around them can be the bedrock to deliver great socio-economic benefits.
If you’re like so many, this moment in time has you questioning and re-evaluating the ways you can make a difference. You want your university (indeed, your organisation) to deliver tremendous socio-economic benefits for our world. Now is the time to go beyond knowing, and start doing.
Accordingly, the next blog explores the most important model of all, the implementation model. Here, of paramount importance, is an understanding of the impact that internal and external environments have on strategic and implementation decisions, what brings those decisions together, and the supporting activities which are required to deliver great socio-economic benefits.
If you’d like to delve deeper, create stronger foundations, and have well developed paths to follow, you may wish to refer to my book The University Imperative – Delivering Socio-economic Benefits for our World. I hope the book will help you. A lot!
If not, don't worry. More blogs are on the way.
Please recommend the blogs and book to others. We need as many people as possible on board, contributing to improving the world in which we live.