A few weeks ago, I took part in a workshop arranged by Iain Forster-Smith. Amanda Wylie from Staff Development facilitated the day with support from Sue Johnson in HR.
This was the first event bringing us together, and the first question of the day was ‘why are we here as a group?’ Iain explained that within the staff group reporting to him, the ‘faculty management team’ are staff who manage a team of people, or who are responsible for a function. For our first workshop together, Amanda asked us to shape the agenda for the day as we progressed. The first part of the day was about getting to know each other better. We took part in an activity thinking about team working and different communication styles. We spent time sharing ideas about what is working well, and areas for improvement. We reflected that there is excellent practice within many of the teams and functions. But we also think we can improve by working in a more ‘joined up’ way across the faculty.
Some key themes and common issues came out as the day went on. Foremost is the need for a clearly defined faculty strategy to inform planning and to help us set objectives, measure and celebrate success in our work. The faculty strategy is due to be defined (linking to the University Strategy). It will be communicated during the next six months and staff will be able to engage in helping to develop the strategy.
During our workshop we brainstormed ideas about how to support strategy, in six key areas:
- standards for excellence
- clarity of functions
- roles and responsibilities
- building relationships
- communication, cross-faculty collaboration
- ways of working.
Working in groups, the exercise asked us to describe ‘the ideal’ situation (we highlighted these notes in one colour). Then we had to describe ‘what have you done to reach the ideal’ (highlighted in another colour). This was a useful way of thinking about where you are aiming, and how you might get there. We photographed a record of the activity. It was surprising how many themes kept recurring throughout the exercise.
At the end of the day we drew together a list of requests and requirements for moving forward. These included
- input into developing the faculty strategy and objectives
- further work to define roles and responsibilities
- improved information sharing about new starters, leavers and change of roles
- developing staff induction
- the creation of a monthly staff newsletter
- how to improve office and shared space in the Faculty (functionally and visually)
- further work on communication styles with Staff Development
- some ‘tool box talks’ on common management queries with HR.
Personally I found the day rewarding because it was the first time we came together as a group to think about how to improve ways of working in the faculty. I found that the activities throughout the day were varied and the facilitation by Amanda was engaging and helpful. As with many workshops of this type, it felt like a day of ‘opening boxes’. There was lots of brainstorming but not enough time to work in detail on specific problems. There is a lot of work ahead to progress actions from the day, but it was positive to be starting discussions and sharing ideas.