This sector has had a long tradition of responding with speed to the changes in Government policy. We are at times like tango partners with our Minister, joined at the hip and proceeding with passion and determination to the end of the room where we about-face and head off with equal passion in the complete and opposite direction following whatever new policy has been espoused: Train to Gain anyone?
This adaptability is a great strength; we cite it, rightly, at every opportunity. Yet we have seen the advocates of the leading edge crash and burn time and time again as the policy wind changes and the leading edge becomes yesterday’s news. So, ‘fewer, larger colleges?” The policy direction was set by the former minister in what was in reality as much a former Government as if we had experienced a general election. Well, maybe.
The fact is that there are fewer colleges now than there were at Incorporation. There have been a number of mergers. Some have worked, some haven’t. That is no different than the experience of the private sector where one study gave a 75% failure rate to the process.
So with a success rate equivalent to the survival prospects of a WW1 fighter pilot should this then be a policy we quietly shelve or bury in studies or ‘preparatory work’. My view is no. And that is not because I make my living from it these days (there, interest declared). The fact is that many colleges cannot survive on their own and there are many examples where eliminating competition and combining resources would not only make for a stronger sector but better prospects for students, communities and, yes, staff too.
The key is making sure that those involved understand the fundamental reasons for following this path, ensuring that vision is tested and owned by those who will be charged with seeing it through and then that proper planning, time and resources are put in place to make it work. Don’t expect to do it all yourself. A well-run college makes significant demands on the leadership’s time. Adding in the effort required to manage a change of this order is too much. Consider creating a change team with a defined project manager, an expert resource where it can complement your own and use it as an opportunity to develop your up and coming talent.
And, talking of time, it is vital that those driving the process understand that creating a new organisation takes years. You may well merge within a year but the fact that everyone is wearing the same badge and saluting the same Principal doesn’t mean you have created one organisation, think 3 years and 5 and 10 before old histories are set aside, new heroes established and a common language shared amongst the staff. Done well, and this is one of the hardest things you will do as a leader, then you may well create the sustainable organisation and ultimately the sector our country needs to realise the potential of its people.
The blog was produced by Peter Ryder, Company Director of Rockborn Management Consultants. A proven leader with a successful track record of strategic and change management. Areas of expertise include:
- People Management
- Employee Relations
- Leadership and Management
- Strategic and Operational Planning
- Leading and Managing Mergers
- Change Management
- Organisational Development
- Communication Strategy
- Stakeholder engagement
- Curriculum Strategy
- Presentation Skills
Member of the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD)
Follow Peter on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-ryder-1902b63a/