An Examination of the Role and Experiences of Middle Level Academic Managers in Higher Education when Implementing Organisational Change: A case study utilising Appreciative Inquiry
A qualitative case study using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was undertaken to identify the experiences of middle level academic managers in a UK university when implementing change. First a systematic study and critique of the literature relating to the theoretical framework of Appreciative Inquiry was carried out. Here AI was examined in the context of higher education; the theoretical perspectives that are applied to the management and implementation of change; and the experiences of academics working as managers. Then a series of interviews were carried out and provocative propositions, based on the AI cycle (Cooperrider, Whitney and Stavros, 2008) were generated and circulated for comment. Appreciative Inquiry proved to be an excellent research tool, yielding rich descriptions of the managers' roles at a time of change. Middle level managers primarily implement change without necessarily being privy to the decision-making process which has preceded the change. Since they have no budgetary control or access to any incentives to encourage staff to embrace the change these middle managers need to cajole and persuade staff to participate. They are frequently in a difficult position, as more senior managers expect them to implement change, while their subordinates expect them to support them in their objections to it. The respondents in the study welcomed the opportunity to interact with people from different discipline areas and to try and cohere different programme teams into a department. The fact that frequently they interacted with people on a very personal level was valued, although it could be emotionally draining. Every respondent mentioned student satisfaction as a key motivator and were concerned that good quality teaching should not be compromised by changes in the university system. It is recommended that middle managers be supported by the creation of a cross-university discussion forum and a mentoring scheme.
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