Structural Fragmentation: An Analysis of Administrative Organisation in the EPS PGR Administration Team

This study analyses the EPS Postgraduate Research (PGR) administration team within the University of Birmingham. Using ethnographic methods of office-based observation, surveys and an interview, a series of planned changes have been developed to help combat ossification and what I term regressive conservatism found within the administrative structure of the PGR lifecycle. The administrative team is a relatively new team brought in to direct the PGR activities within the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) at a college level, taking over from the traditional organising methods that saw PGR administrators housed within school-based Education Support Offices (ESOs). The current structure means that PGR activities are fragmented along school lines, with significant influence still maintained by academics within each school. This has limited the potential for reforming processes and centralising competencies, leading to a lack of cohesive team culture and a series of redundant, repetitive processes that need change. I propose three potential changes from my research and data, identifying a combined proposal to create a shared office for all PGR administrators and move PGR administrative work patterns toward a process-based split as the best means of centralising processes, creating team culture and reducing transactional activities. I then construct a theoretical monitoring system using Kotter’s eight step change model and a Gantt chart which can be used to analyse the change and find any bottlenecks or potential failures in its implementation. Continue reading

The Transformation of Human Resource Management: Performance as Practice

Performance management is the institutional triptych of individual, team and organisation matching their demands and needs along one path. Here the contiguities of these three elements are blurred to attempt to bridge their gaps in skills, knowledge and information. It has moved from a command-and-control structure of top down implementation of goals to be met via annual reviews where pay-based bonuses are distributed and the weakest are let go (the Jack Welch model) to an increasingly decentralised system of constant feedback via informal meetings so as to meet the adaptive nature of modern business goals and focus on personal development within organisational culture, emplacing agility within the wider organisation through an individual-based and team-centric focus. Continue reading

Membership Negotiation and Organisational Structure: From Learning Styles to Meta-Systematicity

“Companies and shop-floors thus produce the heat of chatter, some of it meaningless and some of it subversive, creating code within code and internal signs that route-around management practices, filling in gaps and moving capacity by creating autonomous junctures via intra-shop-floor negotiations and informal guidelines”[1]. Organisations are a locus of activity, from membership negotiation to their structuration. They tessellate across informal and formal methodologies of practice, never fully controlling but never fully autonomising either. As they flit between adaptivity and rigidity, they must find methods of integrating the formal and informal, particularly when it comes to incorporating members and meshing individual aptitudes with organisational ideologies and needs. Continue reading

Organisational Mechanics of Voice and Exit

“Every major organization will have to learn how to maintain its identity, the quality of its products and service, and its customer relationships, while being prepared to give up everything else”[1]. The continual transformation of markets, economies and organisations signals the increasing need for work patterns and communication strategies to be on the edge of adaptivity, responding intelligently to change and flux. The organisational changes of the past century show a move away from Taylorist production systems and work by standardised process toward more flexible methods of organisation that focus on functional units and teamwork. The centralised methods of GM and Ford and their in-house units, hierarchical structure and strict control over knowledge pathways[2] gave way the Kanban system of long-term subcontractor relations, decentralised teams and dialogic methods of understanding and reforming work patterns (as through Toyota’s Operations Management Consulting Division and their workshop-based quality circles[3]). In this change, “the need for collaboration in which all parties share a goal – so that they all profit from complementary innovations – but they are not so tightly integrated that as to lose the competitive spirit to innovate”[4] is paramount. Continue reading

Motivation, Incentives and Organisational Chaos

“We are in the midst of a global epidemic of institutional failure. Even then, the signs were everywhere if one cared to look. It has much to do with compression of time and events”[1]. Chaotic systems are accelerating, from monopolistic platform companies implementing new market governance frameworks to alternative modes of accumulation developing out of the financial crisis and the rise of new axes of geopolitical power. The variety of new organisational models, knowledge flows and bottlenecks present opportunities and dangers to established methods of accumulation and growth, requiring alternative methods and incentives to exploit and explore such possibilities. In an organisation, the exploitation of existing knowledge and the exploration of new opportunities create methods of strategic renewal, the ability to use and find knowledge for the purposes of furthering organisational goals and constructing a shared vision. In creating a shared vision, “a sense of commonality that permeates the organization and gives coherence to diverse activities”[2], learning and motivation are fundamental as they drive forward strategic renewal. Continue reading

Organisational Ossification and Management Theory

Modern organisations exist in an increasing system of flux, where informational and financial flows are eroding competitive advantages, companies transform and metastasise into governmental functionaries and new forms of financial[1], knowledge[2], technological[3] and cultural[4] systems are on the horizon. Organisational culture is moving from an “instrumental view” to a “sacred view”[5], and with this new forms and leadership/managerial mechanisms will come forth. The factors that primarily affect what leadership styles are chosen in organisations are the attempt to combat organisational ossification i.e. the attempt to prevent their organisation from becoming unable to adapt to changes in the systems they work within, maintaining the value and loyalty that their stakeholders put into it. By implementing an organisational culture and methods of motivation that create an administration that is adaptive and open to change, leadership styles are influenced and created that allow an organisation to be agile. By looking at the Situational Leadership Model I analyse the four quadrants that define it, I show how the contextual nature of managerial administration attempts to combat ossification and maintain stability and implant adaptivity. Continue reading