Tertiary talk


Transformation: “Are we there yet?”  

Tertiary Talk - March 2018

Transformation is an overused word that leaders use to express displeasure at where they see their organisations are today, or will be when they are disrupted by markets or competitors, and how much they need to change in order to be fit for the future. “We’ve got to transform to survive” is a common mantra, implying incremental change won’t be sufficient to ensure success.

But transformation isn’t easy to sell to the organisation or its stakeholders: it implies substantial change, considerable risk, uncertain timeframes and unclear outcomes. It calls on skills that organisations may not have in-house, around strategy, operating model design, programme delivery, change management, and implementation of new technology. And it is likely to cost a lot, and distract the people are meant to be delivering services to customers and stakeholders, and those who are leading the organisation.

Our tertiary sector has all the indications that disruption is happening, and that transformation may be needed. A Deloitte report from 2015 highlighted several factors that we need to respond to:

  • Operating in a global market
  • Increasing costs and shifting funding
  • Rising student expectations
  • A demand and need for new technologies
  • Linking estates, strategy and the student
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent
  • Making research sustainable

So how do you respond to this? Too many organisations jump straight into planning the transformation journey rather than engaging with their staff, students and stakeholders in a conversation about the destination: the shared vision for what success looks like for their tertiary institution.

Choices have to be made because you can’t do everything, and not everything will play to your strengths or deliver the same value to your organisation, students, staff and stakeholders. Establishing a clear vision for your organisation – your aspiration for the future, where you want to play, and how you will win – requires you to make hard choices between real alternatives that are informed by facts and supported by a great process.

This is tough to do, but really important. Transformation can only commence once you have that clear vision for the future, and a path can be laid that will take you there over time. You’ll know where you’re going, and you’ll know when you get there.


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