Open Leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (4) #altc

In this, the fourth post sharing my reflections and experiences of being the Chair of ALT I’m going share a bit more around strategy development.

alt strategy graphic - greater than the sum of our parts

Having a clear, meaningful and attainable strategy is key to the success of any organisation. However, I’m sure we have all at time experienced the gap between visions outlined in strategies and the realities of day to day practice. Some strategic aims can be so vague in aspiration that they are almost meaningless.

With ALT having such a small core team it is vital that our strategic goals are really SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebased). It is the job of the Board and the Chair in particular to ensure that the organisational strategy does actually represent and meanigfully articulate the needs and aspirations of the membership as well as provide realistic targets for development.

Our current 3 year strategy lifecycle ends in 2020, so we are now making plans for the development of a new strategy. I was Vice Chair when the current strategy was developed. At that time the Board were very keen that the strategy represented the views of the membership. So the Association created multiple ways for members to contribute to its development. I co-led with the then Chair (and now President), Martin Weller, a series of community webinars to get views and feedback from our members. I found these sessions, and all the other inputs shared by members, invaluable as a way of really understanding members views and needs. Some of them we could easily integrate into the strategy, others were out of scope.

These sessions were followed by a facilitated session for the Board of Trustees by Bryan Mathers (Visual Thinkery). In this session we discussed the findings from the community consultations, our own views and those of ALT staff. The visual record of the session was invaluable in terms of bringing focus and a distillation to the wide ranging discussions. It made the writing of the strategy that bit easier, and also allowed an opportunity for us to work with Bryan to develop a really strong visual identity for the strategy, which has we have used to create an open resource that clearly explains who we are, what we do and why we do it

The current strategy has been a really active and useful document that all the work of the association is measured by and related to. As Chair, I cannot stress how important it has been in terms of guiding my leadership. It has been incredibly satisfying to see the Association grow and flourish over the past 3 years, and that has largely been down to having such a strong, concise strategy that all our work directly relates to, and stems from.

Developing the new ALT strategy will very much be my legacy, as my term as Chair will end in September 2020. The process will start at our annual conference in September this year. Of course with the ALT Assembly up and running now, it will play a core role the consultation process this time around. I am really looking forward to developing our next strategy with our members firmly at the heart of the process.

What do you (and I) want from a EdTEch consultancy/ provider?

This tweet from Joyce Seitzinger aka @catspyjamasnz  earlier in the week got me thinking.  Particularly as I have just passed my 2 month anniversary as an independent consultant.      

Would love for the #FemEdTech fam to weigh in. @femedtech . What would you look for in an Edtech consultancy or #Edtech provider? I would like them to come with more diverse teams and display more respect for the work and people of their client organisation. #lxdesignhttps://t.co/NlohiGCELb— 👩🏻‍💻Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) 22 June 2019

I am simultaneously learning quickly and slowly about positioning my “offer” as an independent consultant working in HE.  I am confident about my knowledge and abilities in all the education “stuff”, but the business side of things – accountants, different types of networking, that is a learning curve.

As a band of one, I hope that in partial answer to Joyce’s tweet,  one of the values I always bring to any project that I am involved in is respect.  Both for the people in, and the work they do for, any client organisation.   If there is no mutual respect and understanding of the context of any project then it is more than likely going to fail.  

Having experienced the other side of consultancy as a member of staff in a university, I have seen both respect and really worthwhile consultations, and, well maybe not disrespect,  but a total lack of understanding of educational processes. This has  lead to several rabbit in the headlights glances between consultants in a number of sessions I have participated in.  And ultimately a not very successful outcome. 

I think that is perhaps systematic of a different level of disrespect, or perhaps failure to understand just how things actually work from  higher up the chain. This typically leads to situations where consultants are hired as the result of processes that aren’t always as robust in defining scope as they could have been.

I will never be all about “upscaling the value chain” of education services. I will always be about valuing, and empowering people in what they do, and could do.  I will, in all honesty, probably not be able to tell many people “at the coal face”  anything that they don’t really know already. However what I can do is bring objectivity, and see and present things from a different perspective.

I can see things from outside of the often foggy confines of politics of internal ways of working. Sometimes you do really need someone from outside just to point you to the things that might be staring your in the face, or to call out the elephant(s) in the room.  I know I have benefited from someone doing that for me many times.  

Working without the distractions of other institutional priorities and focus on the task at hand is something that I am increasingly enjoying, and bringing benefits to those who I am working with.  So, if I sound like the kind of consultant you would want to work with, and you think you could benefit from finding out how Sheila Sees IT, then please do get in touch.

Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash

A life lived in hope and kindness

This is just a very short post in memory of my former colleague and friend, Marion Kelt.

Sadly, and very suddenly Marion passed away last month. I’m not going to attempt to write a eulogy for Marion. I couldn’t do her justice. Also, as one of many colleagues who attended her funeral on Friday, I think all the right words were found and shared by her family and friends there. Words that made us smile, laugh and through some tears, remember the fantastic, frantic, fun, music loving person Marion was.

Over the past year or so I have written quite a bit about the increased need for critically informed hope and love, and the value of academic kindness. To me Marion was the embodiment of all these things. Marion was always willing use her expertise and enthusiasm to share and help and students and staff alike. She didn’t do anything for personal glory, only to help others. She was one of the most self effacing people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Doing something with Marion was always fun, and you always learnt something new and often totally unrelated along the way.

If you ever saw Marion present at a conference, then you will have something of an idea of what I mean. Her conference presentations were always funny, honest, sincere and with a purpose – just like Marion.

I’m going to end with some of the words that had meaning for Marion, ones which she shared on social media, and were shared in the order of service on Friday. Then I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and start the week with a smile and hope.

“none of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There is no time for anything else.” (Anthony Hopkins)

What is important is not so much how long you live as whether you live a meaningful life. This doesn’t mean accumulating money and fame, but being of services to your fellow human beings. It means helping other if you can, but even if you can’t do that, at least not harming them.” (Dalai Lama)

And just for Marion here is a picture of a cat.