Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

‘Balancing Act’ of Today’s Complex University Environment – Harnessing Organisational Complexity Positively: Balancing Academic Rigour and Business Efficiency

Glenys Drew.

Competing pressures have served to make universities increasingly complex organisations. Pratt et al (1999:45) note, ‘Attitudes can become embedded within organisational cultures through history without there necessarily being (any) carefully reasoned underlying organisational logic’ underpinning those attitudes and assumptions.
Universities worldwide have been required to rely less on ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake’ and to be more ‘applied’ with decreased government funding and increased expectations to connect with the university’s external professional communities. Ramsden (1998) reports: ‘The immense cost of mass higher education means that those who pay the piper - …mainly the taxpayers…- will want to call the tune’, while ‘academics are under almost daily monitoring from very public and often critical audiences’.
With concomitantly increasing administrative reporting and accreditation requirements, universities are caught between the worlds of ‘Academe’ and ‘business’. The question is how to build and maintain an environment which extends academic rigour while managing increasing internal and external accountabilities. How will the institution span its different ‘worlds’ in the 21st century?
Accountability must be held in tension with the university’s unique mandate to contribute uniquely to humanity and to model the best of ‘learning’ in every aspect of its operation.
This paper refers to researched ‘360 degree feedback’ surveying in Australia and suggests some ways to harness organisational complexity positively, welcoming increased ‘transparency’and scrutiny. It argues how a more reflective, partnering and communicative culture helps universities integrate goals with reality, refine administrative procedures, decrease ambiguous messages to its stakeholders, and optimises its desired strategic positioning.


Glenys Drew  (Australia)
Senior HR Advisor (Organisational Development)
Organisational Development, Human Resources Department
Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Glenys leads QUT's Senior Management Development Program, including coaching senior managers undertaking the QUT's Quality Leadership Profile '360' degree leadership feedback survey. She consults to universities implementing the '360' instrument which is tailored for use by senior leaders in key education/knowledge environments. She is currently undertaking a PhD within the Centre for Innovation in Education, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

  • University Leadership
  • Harnessing Organisational Complexity Positively
  • ‘Learning’ Organisations
  • ‘Transparency’ And Scrutiny
  • Strategic Positioning
  • Balancing Organisational Priorities
  • ‘360 Degree’ Surveying For Developmental Purposes
  • Innovation

(Virtual Presentation, English)