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Matrix management could lead to improved administrative support


REVIEW. According to external reviewer Jörgen Tholin’s evaluation, the University should increase administrative support to faculties by employing matrix management.

“Administrative offices should process everyday administrative tasks at the faculties and institutions,” says Tholin.

On Monday, September 30, Tholin presented the results of his review of the Joint University Administration and Services (gemensamt verksamhetstöd) to Vice-Chancellor Kerstin Tham. During the hour-long meeting, he presented the overall conclusions, guiding principles and recommendations that emerge in the almost 30-page report. Following the meeting with Tham, Tholin proceeded to relay the same information at an open meeting for University staff members.

One of the first conclusions in Tholin's report is that: “a lot works well within the Joint University Administration and Services.”

“It is natural in all kinds of assessments that the majority of the focus is on what can be changed and improved. That’s why it is important, in this context, to mention that many of the individuals I interviewed reported that the University's administrative support has improved in recent years and is on the right track,” says Tholin.

The report also states that the most pressing issue in need of prioritisation is “increasing administrative support to institutions and faculties.”

However, Tholin believes that a reorganisation of the entire Joint University Administration and Services is not the solution to this issue. Instead, he proposes that the administrative offices at the faculties be staffed so that they are able to handle so-called "everyday administration" by implementing matrix management. This means that staff members are employed in various departments but are physically present at the faculty offices. Examples of competencies that should be represented, according to Tholin, include finance, HR, communication and study administration.

“I think this kind of model has great potential to offer even and equal support to the various parts of the University. For example, it could ensure offices are less vulnerable when someone quits or falls ill, as well as making it easier for employees to receive adequate professional development over time,” Tholin explains.

Another major change that Jörgen Tholin suggests is that faculties and institutions need to be able to influence the planning of the support provided at the University. He therefore believes that there should be a clear model for the governance of Joint University Administration and Services. This should consist of a work outline closely linked to Strategy 2022 (anchored within the University Management Group), as well as a budgetary framework (decided on by the University Board or the Vice-Chancellor).

“Based on these frameworks, meetings and discussions can be held annually between Joint University Administration and Services management and faculty management to deal with different priorities and initiatives,” says Tholin.

“It is my absolute conviction that administrative support close to the faculties and institutions is what needs to be prioritised over the next few years.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

• drawing up a plan for systematic quality work within the administration;

• identifying work areas for standardisation;

• creating a structure for confirmation of incoming administrative tasks;

• creating a clear system management model, meaning a unified organisation for strategic and financial management of all operative and developmental efforts within administrative support; and

• working with internal culture at the University in the long-term.

“Functioning administrative support is very much about finding a reasonable balance in terms of size, distribution of opportunities to influence governance, and between centralised and decentralised support.

“However, there is no one recipe that works over time for everyone. Instead, it is important to try and create the type of support that works as well as possible given the current situation and conditions,” Tholin adds.

Text: Per M Eriksson