Dust Shaken out of a Book into an Empty Skull? Higher education culture in Britain and Canada
The result of two years' Doctoral research into linkages between internal organisational processes and strategy implementation, this paper presents an unique methodology developed, piloted and successfully applied in business schools both sides of the Atlantic. Surprisingly, although very ready to examine the activities of other organisations, it is only very recently that the academic world has attempted to turn the analytical magnifying glass back on itself. Much of this impetus comes from external pressures, rather than from a visionary flash of introspective fervour. British academics are currently under the microscope of the Academic Audit Unit, set up by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals to investigate and make recommendations concerning the maintenance and improvement of teaching quality in universities. The Canadian Government are also in the process of undertaking a similar review of higher education in Canada. The timeliness of this study and its implications for education policy and strategic management in both countries should be readily apparent. Using a methodology integrating conceptual developments in strategy implementation, organisational behaviour, social psychology and political sociology; innovative techniques have been applied combining quantitative methods, projective exercises, ethnography and discourse analysis in a case study situation. Participant observation, secondary data analysis, face-to-face interviews and feedback Delphi groups provide a triangulated exploration of the issues and processes facing the quality-seeking academic institution. Specific instruments include a Rokeach-type technique especially designed for investigating academics' value systems; the applied cluster analysis of 3 demographic data, attitudes and values for identifying subcultures within the organisation; and pictorial representation used to enrich verbal data. A dynamic approach is used to enhance understanding of organisational change processes in a university environment. Ultimately, as well as providing a holistic diagnostic tool of intra-organisational processes, the methodology aims to assist the formulation and introduction of Total Teaching Quality (TTQ) implementation strategies in higher education. Even before the conclusion of this comparative study, lessons drawn concerning the successful implementation of a quality strategy in an unique, complex and often frustrating culture are inescapable. At the very least, if we as academics are to cast our own eyes over the workings of other organisations, we must first try to understand our own.