The value of Transparency and Targets within the context of Higher Education ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

I just got a chance to give my feedback on my university-experience at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. I really let them have it! Much of my thinking and standards is certainly based on my positive experiences at the University of Manchester, (formerly UMIST) School of Management, which contrasts starkly with those at EUR.

Now, before I go more into this, how is this relevant to my focus on this site? Simple. Much of my attraction to working in this industry is because of the people-focus. Not only is much of your brand determined by the people working your difference, they are in fact your product. And, in addition to that, you can be sure that your customers, who happen to be people too, will let you know immediately if they find something lacking. S+FnR is a people-business, for people, by people, which gives it a lot of similarity to the higher education system.

Now let me start with what bothered me with EUR. When I began there as a master, I immediately got the sense that everything was very relaxed. Students were in my class, who still had to finish some bachelor subjects. At UMIST, you had to finish your courses for one year, or you would not pass on to the next. It's perhaps a small thing, but can have significant consequences on the mentality of students. In the Netherlands, you are penalised if you study too long, 7 years to be exact, by way of no longer receiving funding. So 7 years later, if you went wrong, here's your punishment.

What also bothered me was the complete freedom you got with writing your thesis. Basically, you have to enrol into a thesis-course, which means you get started on your trajectory. You can choose a topic, then choose a coach, then submit a proposal. Your coach can guide you, but you only get access to a dedicated coaching-system after your proposal has been submitted. That opens up a large loophole for students to fall through, those that can't even decide on a clear topic.

At UMIST, from week 1, you are introduced to the central secretary, who is your access-point when you have a problem. In my case it was a pretty friendly lady, who had a dossier on me 5 cm thick, and would help me find relevant people to talk to and communicate messages to me. At EUR, everything goes electronically.

Now there are a few things of note here, which relate to business. First, targets. You have to set clear targets for the people in your company, from the start. That pressure also forces people to work their asses off to make it.

Second, transparency. There are two things here. You need to be physically accessible to the people working for or with you, so they can discuss their problems openly and vice versa. This understanding also leads to a better development-plan to coach these people to become future leaders or whatever they desire in your business. 

Now, by coaching, I of course don't mean holding people's hands all the time. No, in fact targets should send a clear message that this is not the idea. But in order to move things forward, there must be a combination of the carrot and the stick, to put it this crudely.

Clearly, people-organisations (though all organisations are people-based in some way), present some special challenges, that of effective communication and motivation. It's not as easy as turning on an engine and adding gas. When dealing with humans, you must act human too. More on this in future posts!


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