Reply To: Communication, Collaboration, and Community


Communication, collaboration, and controls: The October 11th Town Hall panel noted that there have been recent improvements between their units and Central IT as far as two-way communication, and collaboration on projects. The work seemed to be department initiated, mutually directed, and not enforced. So, a good foundation is forming there.

The Q&A noted significant issues with the dual reporting line itself, and I also fear that if we focus too much on that, we could lose momentum on the two areas that improved during the summer – communication and collaboration. Communication and collaboration are generating wins, the dual-reporting could halt that progress. Particularly with departments that have established, functional IT units.
While the dual reporting might on its face create some new channels of communication, one could anticipate that a forced implementation could also create or re-inforce backchannel communications. So for the greater good of the Efficiencies and Effectiveness effort, perhaps we put the dual-reporting (a Control) on the backburner, and front-end changes we can make to improve Communication and Collaboration. Once those are healthy, UNM may have eliminated the need to enforce a control, or at least its implementation will be less disruptive.

I believe the collective question at the town hall was ‘what do we want to do here?’ and what I heard throughout was ‘improve communications.’ If we focus on communication, collaboration will follow, and then whatever other large structural and governance changes UNM chooses to make will be easier to implement, because at that point, UNM will know itself better than it does presently. If we do need to pivot for something like an economic downturn, or to adopt a major new technology, the organization will be in alignment, change is easier.
Dual-reporting seems out of alignment with the communication/collaboration relationships that UNM is re-developing, as it’s ultimately a control, and if enforced as one of the first deliverables, it won’t have – within a faculty-governed institution – a durable foundation. As we saw at the Q&A, internal pressures are beginning to form, and will become difficult for us as staff to manage.

Duane and Brian have attended an intimidating number of meetings for this effort, which is seriously commendable and shows the power of communication, and its importance to this campus. In that spirit, if we first find ways to create and maintain long term communication at UNM, that sets the stage for the success of anything else that follows, which is why adding a separate left navigation topic to the discuss site, and maybe even tasking a committee to improve communication (and maintain it), could pave the way for other successes. As a campus, we could use the Discuss site Communication topic to propose technologies, processes, meetings, anything that re-starts conversations that have gone dormant over the years.

The larger issue that dual reporting invokes, and it’s one which every University struggles with, is how to implement controls within an academic-lead environment that has its own constantly changing demands and expectations? Faculty have protections of tenure, but with that the expectation to teach and produce research; academic units have their own individual accreditation demands; there’s NIH, NSF, general grant coordination; libraries and clinics have very specific requirements, the list is long. The dual reporting in effect creates staff-administered governance and controls over academic departmental operations. The pros/cons of academic governance are another conversation – the first-order problem is that dual reporting makes staff (the ITOs and IT units) in some part the enforcers of academic governance. That puts anyone untenured, like IT staff, in a no-win situation when asked to control the academic side of a faculty-governed institution.

  • This reply was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by darruti.