2. Rethinking OUCS: the process
As with any large organization, OUCS depends above all on the individual members of staff who make its services possible. Not surprisingly then, in order to think through the process of change, OUCS turned to its greatest asset: the staff. During August 2001, OUCS carried out an extensive internal consultative exercise. Five Organisational Breakout Groups (OBGs) were set up to investigate, explore alternatives, and make recommendations in five areas: Career Development and Staff Communication, Objectives Refresh, Users' Needs, Service Priorities, and Decision Making Mechanisms. Each group brought together staff from different parts of OUCS, selected its own Chair and Secretary, and was given the opportunity to refine and develop its initial broad charge. A spirited discussion ensued, taking up much of the autumn of 2001. The OBGs were run according to Chatham House Rules, so that all members were able to express themselves openly within their group, with nothing reported outside in a way that was attributable to specific individuals, and with the group taking ownership of all its recommendations. Some of the existing senior management staff also attended meetings, but on an ‘invitation only’ basis. As well as meetings, each OBG produced an interim and final reports on their discussions, accessible via internal OUCS web pages.
The recommendations arising from this exercise were collectively presented and discussed at a general staff meeting in February of this year. Naturally, they ranged in scope, priority, and urgency; however OUCS senior management made a committment to assessing all recommendations equally, and responding as fully as possible. It was recognised that the value of the OBG exercise would be assessed by the extent to which its recommendations were translated into actions. The majority of OBG recommendations have now either already been implemented or are in the process of implementation. If therefore, as we believe, our new structures and procedures result in an improved service to the University, this should largely be attributed to the energy and commitment of OUCS staff, who took up the challenge of rethinking OUCS.