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Managing Change: The evolution of the provision of technical services in Biology Lyn Spencer Manager, Technical Services Biological Sciences Flinders University.

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Presentation on theme: "Managing Change: The evolution of the provision of technical services in Biology Lyn Spencer Manager, Technical Services Biological Sciences Flinders University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Managing Change: The evolution of the provision of technical services in Biology Lyn Spencer Manager, Technical Services Biological Sciences Flinders University

2 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change2 My role: Appointed to position of Supervisor, Biology undergraduate laboratories, in 1994: 12 years in life science research in the School of Medicine Nutrition research, winery, routine testing laboratory – public and private sectors My qualifications – updated from technical level: Bachelor of Science as a mature age student 1995 Graduate Certificate in PS Management 2002 Leadership role: Laboratory technical staff Imposed change process – laboratory technicians Inclusive, consultative change process All technical staff Transition to Manager, Technical Services, responsible for all technical staff and activities 2002-ongoing

3 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change3 Aims of this presentation: Map the driving forces, together with structural changes, of how the provision of technical services has evolved in the school of Biological Sciences over the past decade Discuss the impact of change in the workplace for individuals and the organisation, and the importance (& pressures) of managing the change process well The importance of forward-thinking change – looking to the future in Biology

4 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change4 Background - Prior to 1997 Laboratory Technicians 6.25 FTE teaching only Laboratory Technicians 9.0 FTE research only Other Technical staff - Academic Supervisor Director of Technical Services Academic Technical Supervisor Academic Supervisor Aquaculture Aquarium 1.0 Animal House 2.0+casuals Horticulture 1.0+casuals Mechanical Workshop 2.0 Computing &Electrical Workshops: 2.8 Research: 9.0 Teaching: 6.25

5 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change5 The first change: 1997 Review of Technical Services in FSE: (Mack Consulting): Revealed disparity and inequity in the work of the 2 laboratory technical groups Recommended a convergence of roles 1998 New system: All Laboratory Technical Staff to participate in annual roster: 1 semester servicing undergraduate practical classes 1 semester assigned to an academic research group Individual academics were assigned technical assistance in accordance with a performance ranking within the limit of staff availability It was a ‘solution’ at the time…..

6 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change6 The good and the bad… Technical staff: Opportunity for some to upskill Appreciation of the differing demands in research and teaching & the relevance of both ‘Meat market’ annual auction Restricted research assignments Loss of skills Academic staff: Assistance to productive researchers limited by staff availability Workload implications - compiling bids at busy end of year ‘cattle auction’ at the end of the year Perception of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ New staff left in the wilderness Academic / technical mismatches Assistance not always well used As the Manager: Fairer workload distribution Growing sense of ‘cohort’ Staff development opportunities Loss of ‘team’ in teaching Academic / technical mismatches Poor behaviour and resistance by a few No allowance for growing OH&S and service tasks ‘on-off’ divide

7 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change7 There must be overt and demonstrated needs driving the change The review clearly identified the need to blur the boundaries between the 2 laboratory technical groups The organisation must be seen to support the change process and the managers of change The organisation ‘consulted’ all staff, and in the absence of any other constructive suggestions imposed the only plan on offer The employees affected must be involved in development of the change process They were invited to put forward suggestions, but there was no participative development process Ie: this was Prescriptive change, and unlikely to be successful Organisational Change

8 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change8 External change driver: Faculty of Science & Engineering School of Biological Sciences Assoc.Prof. Sue Thomas Head of School Biological Sciences 2001 MOLECULAR Bioinformatics Genomics Biotechnology ECOLOGY Ecotourism Biodiversity& Conservation MARINE Marine Biology Aquaculture A shift in tertiary education funding emphasis from teaching to research productivity and outcomes Demanded changes in strategic direction and approaches to research across the School and Faculty

9 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change9 Internal change drivers: Note: The lower graph displays actual weeks of practicals and as such is a conservative representation that does not reflect the true workload associated with numbers of repeat sessions, enrolments or complexity

10 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change10 A window of opportunity: “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” Both general and academic staff were dissatisfied The points ranking system for the annual ‘cattle auction’ was out of kilter with the shift in research funding and training (Kemp policy statements) Decreased technical staff, increased practical load The current system promoted temporal, physical and behavioural divides that: Prevented a clear reporting and supervisory structure Prevented rational management of School service tasks Ignored the current EBA directive that ‘wherever practicable’ general staff were required to be supervised by general staff January 2001 – Biology School Retreat: Confirmed commitment to strategic plan for 3 foci (‘clusters’) of research and teaching Acknowledged the need to introduce efficiencies to promote research effectiveness Identified the priorities required to achieve this: Review and rationalise topics Evolve strategies to nurture and train research students to attain outcomes in accord with the new policy Use its resources, including technical staff, efficiently and effectively

11 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change11 There must be overt and demonstrated needs driving the change Both internal and external drivers had been identified The organisation must be seen to support the change process and the managers of change members present at the School Retreat included all academic staff and elected general staff members of the School Board A representative Working Party in consultation with the School Community: Review and revise the current method of allocation of technical staff Consider the possibility of allocation to research ‘clusters’, not individuals Report to the June 2001 School Board The employees affected must be involved in development of the change process All involved from BEFORE the 1 st WP mtg through to the final proposal Organisational Change

12 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change12 Ownership of change: Laboratory technical staff met prior to the 1 st mtg of the working party: Discussed what was good and bad about the system prior to 1997, and the current system and what would be desirable in a new system Summary of this discussion provided to the Working Party and incorporated in the report to the School Board June 2001: Statement of commitment: technical staff are a valuable resource to be used in the best possible manner in the School Key recommendations: 3 core activities of technical laboratory staff - teaching preparation, service tasks for the School community and research assistance Meeting the needs of teaching is a priority and retention of the current teaching and research rotation system best meets those needs at this time Teaching and research assignments should incorporate and allow for the provision of the service tasks in a manner to be determined Allocation to Research Clusters may be the most appropriate strategy Consider NOT retaining the points system

13 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change13 The Objectives: Lead the laboratory technical group, in consultation with reference groups and stakeholders, through the process of evolving a more equitable and effective system of deployment in the School of Biological Sciences in a manner that is transparent and promotes ownership of the outcome How? Develop a system that enables technical staff to meet the priority needs of teaching and research in a manner that can be flexible and responsive Must be centrally managed to ensure flexibility in meeting the changing immediate and long-term needs of the School A shift in management structure, in keeping with University policy, to ensure that all technical staff are permanently under the supervision of the Laboratory Manager This will establish clear supervisory roles and reporting lines for management of the consolidated group and development of team-based activities Recognise and manage use of technical staff expertise within the context of the changing organisational, and research and teaching activities of the School An audit of technician skills and competencies to provide a reference database to:  identify and use individual strengths  match what we have with the needs of teaching and research, and the overall needs of the School and University, and subsequently identify the 'mismatches' and gaps  identify staff training and development needs and opportunities

14 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change14 The Plan: Build a framework: Based on the key drivers Identify stakeholders: undergraduate and research students, general and academic staff What are the priority needs of the School (tasks): What must be done? What should be done? What is desirable? What are the needs of technical staff: What are the considerations, strategies, skills required to meet the needs of staff and the organisation?

15 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change15 The process: SCHOOL COMMUNITY LABORATORY TECHNICIANS LABORATORY MANAGER WORKING PARTY SCHOOL BOARD From August 2001, the technical group met weekly to develop the new strategy and…. the working party dissolved into obsolescence

16 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change16 The Change Grid: PASTFUTURE Denial or Optimism Shock or Relief Exploration Planning Contributing Resistance Negativity Self doubt Commitment and Enthusiasm Positivity Balance SHIFT

17 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change17 Punctuated Equilibrium: DENIAL Sudden realisation by some technical AND academic staff that change was definitely going to happen RESISTANCE Persistent arguments by a few about why things would NEVER work Erratic attendance and/or participation by a few EXPLORATION A revisit to the key drivers and ‘the good and bad’ refoccussed and reinvigorated the group enthusiasm COMMITMENT Consensus was being reached The group was positive, productive and infectious – attendance was almost routinely 100% The focus was tasks – essential, required, desirable Participative Change outcome

18 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change18 Proposal: 5 primary overlapping elements…. Service Tasks TeachingNon-teaching LABORATORY MANAGER TECHNICAL STAFF Teaching only Teaching service tasks University policy tasks School service tasks Research only Highest PriorityLowest Priority

19 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change19 Meeting the objectives: Develop a system that enables technical staff to meet the priority needs of teaching and research in a manner that can be flexible and responsive Hierarchical “whole School’ approach Establishment of TLC to review changing needs A shift in management structure, in keeping with University policy, to ensure that all technical staff are permanently under the supervision of the Laboratory Manager All technical staff officially under the supervision of the Technical Manager from 2002 Recognise and manage use of technical staff expertise within the context of the changing organisational, and research and teaching activities of the School The audit survey was extremely detailed, perhaps threatening and most technical staff never completed it Accepted for implementation January 2002

20 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change20 Just when you thought it was sorted…. Jan 2002 – 1 staff on maternity leave (no replacement) June 2002 – a staff member commenced a year’s LWOP to spend time with family in Europe (contract replacements) Aug 2002 – Another who clearly did not accept the new system resigned Jan 2003 – the staff member on MLWOP decides not to return Feb 2003 – a 0.5 staff retires – Technical Manager 0.5 secondment to faculty level role 0.5 replacement staff appointed from within laboratory technical pool

21 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change21 Hence: Service Tasks TeachingNon-teaching TECHNICAL MANAGER TECHNICAL STAFF, ANCILLIARY SUPPORT SERVICES TECHNICAL STAFF, LABORATORY SERVICES Teaching only Teaching service tasks University policy tasks School service tasks Research only Highest PriorityLowest Priority

22 TechTrain 2004 July 1-2 Lyn Spencer: Managing Change22 The future? We were able to appoint a contract staff member to fill 1 resignation, but the laboratory group is now effectively further reduced by 1.5 positions There is a ‘bottom-line’, but we have flexibility, and also some new directions that would not have been possible under the old system: Roles are blurring, divides are going: The technician responsible for ‘plant’ practicals also assists in the glasshouses The technicians responsible for aquaria and animal care also assist students doing related projects Laboratory and computing staff have worked in tandem to introduce efficiencies eg the electrical testing regime – we are all here to service teaching and research In summary – the new and future PD “key purpose’: The Laboratory Services Technical Officer operates within a technical team to provide laboratory support for undergraduate practical teaching and technical infrastructural services across the wider School environment. Very broad, very flexible, very robust for the future


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