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Like a disease my books on the First World War have more than quadrupled; you take the subject seriously (MA) and now I need six texts on everything. My current task, almost complete, is to understand what the f*ck went on during Third Ypres (Passchendaele). And now I know, largely due to this book: Passchendaele. The Untold Story (1996) Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson. When I’m told and go and explain what was going on to my grandfather, now approaching 118 and in an urn in the shed. Actually, as a machine gunner he was less likely to get killed or injured that the soldiers ‘going over the top’ – in some instances 50%, 70% even 80% of those being sent in became casualties all because … because our government i.e; Lloyd George had gone from hands on interference to letting the military get on with it, because Haig was the archetypal public school boy over promoted dim wit whose greatest skill was riding a horse and currying favour from those above and at his side. The evidence makes me angry. He could have and should have been removed, indeed, refreshing your military leaders, as France did, was probably a good idea.
A month in Passchendaele – October 1917.
I’m giving a presentation on it on June 14th. Somehow my irritation and anger needs to subside into something more objective over the next month. It is NOT revisionist to curse the British military leader who, for all the evidence, expected tens of thousands of men (not all young, my grandfather served with a bloke of 42) to fight, despite everything that he was told and knew of how futile it would be, through the quagmire of the Ypres Salient. Haig allowed value judgements and private passions to supersede common sense … and by then blunt experience and evidence of repeated failure.
A week in the Ypres Salient
My grandfather was sent in to relieve a couple of fellow machine gunners on the 19th of October 1917. Columbo House. He went in a couple of times. Also Nobles Farm. This is south of Houthulst Forest during the final efforts to take the Passchendaele ridge. Getting to this part of the line could take many hours, in the dark, at considerable risk of slipping off the duckboards into deep, unforgiving shell-holes full of mud and water, body parts, blood and chemicals from gas shells. I have the local. I haven’t quite got the dates, but he was with machine gunner Dick Piper when he died of a stomach wound and had already buried the ammunition carrier Henry Gartenfeld – a married man with two kids in his early forties by the way. My grandfather always expressed his dismay that the man had got in, that the war should have been for unmarried men with no attachments. He had none. Or he kept quiet about it.
My impressions of what he went through ‘keeping the gun in action’ for a week, without relief, for a week have changed over 46 years. What I saw in my mind’s eye when I was five or six, cannot be the same as what I perceived when I was ten, or twenty or even thirty years older. As well as his own two men, dead or dying there were, some twenty Guards lying behind a wall next to this pill-box. All dead beat, or dead, or dying. Mostly gassed he reckoned. From some push into Houthulst Forest that had gone wrong. No forest of course, just the dissemination and wreckage as if a hurricane had swept back and forth over several weeks reducing the trees to stumps and sticks. Aerial photographs show a pockmarked land with handfuls of snapped matched sticks and on the ground or in the shell holes lice-like bobbles and impressions – dead men litter the landscape like eggs from a careless spider.
This is the view that Flight Lieutenant William Wilson would have had … my grandfather’s younger brother, who at 17 had joined the RFC and in 1917 was flying De Haviland bombers’ over the German lines to try and wreck railway lines.
Haig … and Lloyd George
My first impression was bad, my second impression good, my growing view is not only on the bad, but anger that those who should have pulled Haig from the job, Lloyd George, did not do so. Though Haig and Lloyd George loathed each other they had something in common – they both carried on, in their own way, a merry little dance that was designed primarily to keep themselves in power and their reputations clean. All in power have to be accountable to others in a way that means they can be asked to account for their actions and record and where it is found to be failing they are swiftly replaced.
I’m going to consider this from three perspectives:
- a substantial learning provider that is migrating content to the web wholesale (no policy);
- an e-learning agency that produces modules for learning and design managers (the policy is the policy of each different client)
- at the Amateur Swimming Association who have a meaningful relationship with disabled swimmers (a policy toward athletes may not be as supportive and accessible when it comes to their own teachers and coaches).
In due course I’ll consider accessibility in relation to content and resources provided by the Open University whom one would expect to be leader in this field – indeed I believe they are and it is apparent as soon as you look at a page of OU e-learning content compared to the kinds of materials typically produced for corporate clients. Having worked for or in such organisations I can identify differences and suggest reasons for the decisions taken.
If your organisation does not have a policy, why do you think this might be?
I would like to consider this from the point of view of three learning providers – a substantial institution akin to the OU, a specialist niche trade association and from the perspective of an agency that creates e-learning.
Does your organisation have someone in a senior position whose job it could be to lead accessibility-related policies and initiatives?
The person responsible ought to be senior, ought to carry influence, have personal knowledge or training in relation to access and accessibility and demonstrate the leadership qualities that come from taking on something new and seeing it through.
Are senior management aware of accessibility issues and simply choosing to ignore them?
People are in love with the cutting edge of e-learning – desiring an advanced look and feel and the smart technology behind tracking personal development, e-assessments and accreditation, rather than standing back and favouring instead something cleaner, simpler, perhaps less fashionable, but more accessible – and potentially easier to scale, adjust and for assistive technology – to read. Effectiveness, cost effectiveness and accessible ought to be priorities rather than gamification, virtual worlds and all encompassing solutions where a smorgasbord of choices and decisions is a better reality.
If there are laws in relation to discrimination that have teeth then no person or institution has yet been taken to court.
Has a decision been made that policies are not the right tool to use to try to change practice?
Agencies will do as asked – issues of accessibility might be raised at the briefing stage and the client will say then to what degree accessibility matters and share how accessibility issues have been addressed in the past in their organisation- usually piecemeal and after the event rather than building accessibility in from the start. No one has consider an approach, whether a policy or a design and technical response. The difficulty faced by an agency pitching in a competitive environment for work is that the market too often favours used of the latest gizmos and the most compelling, potentially award winning design. The policy should be for effectiveness and value for money with a close look at cost effectiveness based on old as well as new media.
If so, how is your organisation communicating to staff any desire or intention relating to accessibility?
Will any individual or group of students be significantly disadvantaged if they are required by their programme or institution to use the proposed system? (Seale 2006:128)
This needs to be at the top of the agenda.
Just like a change in management practice or take over of or by a business communication with people should be thorough, timely and authentic. If attitudes have to be changed, developed or refreshed the effort will be all the greater. This requires commitment and resources from the top and engagement of people familiar with such exercises.
How might you improve on accessibility-related policies that exist in your organisation?
1) Find a champion and a leader – if necessary two different people.
2) Get disabled students involved in deciding and advising on policy based on their experiences
3) Know the legal position and comply – tie in with ISO and Plain English policy and compliance (best practice).
4) Organisations have to mean it and be professional about it
5) TEAM WORK
6) Purchasing decisions
7) Benchmark accessibility
1) There has to be someone to champion the cause, needs, benefits and legal requirements of accessibility. This person needs leadership qualities – informed, persuasive, by example, with authority, credibility and presence. Seale (2006:128) suggests that supportive managers with a positive attitude are need, people with previous experience of supporting students with disabilities. Seale (2006:128)
Accessibility implementation needs to be actively managed (Lamshed et al. 2003) Seale (2006:128)
- ensuring that the accessibility of e-learning material and resources is monitored and audited (see Seale (2006 chapter 7)
- ensuring that there is ‘joined up’ thinking between the different specialist and mainstream learning support services within an institution (see Seale 2006 chapter 8)
- ensuring that staff development opportunities are strategically targeted to raise awareness and that staff are able to respond to accessibility requirements (see Seale 2006 chapter 9)
- developing and implementing procurement procedures to ensure accessibility of future technology purchases;developing and implementing institutional accessibility policies.
USER GROUP ENGAGEMENT
2) Talk to and engage with end users – be proactive, learning to accommodate and work with the broadest church or representative disabled students.
From US. (Oregon) Accommodations in postsecondary education are governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Students with a documented disability have a right to receive reasonable accommodations. Additionally students have responsibilities which include:
- Providing the DAS office with appropriate documentation
- Responding to requests for information
- Scheduling and completing a required DAS orientation
- Making requests for accommodations according to the DAS Timeline for Service Requests before and during each term of attendance
- Following the policies and procedures which are available in the DAS Student Handbook
KNOW THE LEGAL POSITION
3) The legalese must be understood – ignorance of the law is no excuse – ideally a legal advisor will inform the CEO and Board, or trustees should seek advice and exirt pressure – that or responding to demands from society and individual campaigns. People need to believe that an organisation could be taken to court for failure to comply to accessibility legislation. Compliance. Level Double-A Conformance to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1AA-Conformance
Comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Part Four (as amended by Special Educational Needs Disability Act 2001) and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. All of the Priority 1, 2 and 3 accessibility checkpoints across websites, as established in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI promotes a high degree of usability and accessibility for people with disabilities.
It is possible that some of our older pages (those not within our new visual identity) might not currently conform to these standards. However, we are actively engaging with our website team to ensure that all future web pages are compliant with W3C guidelines for accessibility.
Like compliance to IS0 9000 and 9001
And PLAIN ENGLISH CAMPAIGN
4). Purchasing decisions need to take accessibility into consideration – so someone with control on budgets needs to have a say. All new purchases of learning management systems, courseware and networked equipment is accessible (Rowland 2000; McCarthy 2001). He who pays the piper, plays the tune.
5). Some organisations could or do put issues into their mission statement or reflect specific brand values – just as companies have ‘gone green’, so too they ought to be looking at both accessibility and equality as part of their corporate and social responsibility mix. Anderson (2004) argues that practice will only change if the policy is actively implemented:Developing campus Web accessibility policies, guidelines or standards is often thought of as a way to meet legal obligation, however, implementing Web accessibility policies can be a means for creating a campus e-culture of inclusion. While developing a policy has numerous challenges – implementing, supporting and updating a Web accessibility policy is where the rubber hits the road and separates those who succeed in Web accessibility efforts and those who have a policy. (Anderson 2004)
- embedding accessibility across all institutional activities and systems, from procurement to student support services;
- addressing whether and how the development of an institutional accessibility policy will encourage such embedment;
- identifying a team of key stakeholders, across the whole institution (and not just specialist disability services) who are willing and able to work towards embedment.
This may or may not be a ‘tall order’ (Wilson et al. 2002: 20), but without leadership from managers the task will not get any ‘smaller’.
6). It is a grave error to make access the responsibility of one person – and the cliche is to give the role of ‘Disability Officer’ to the one person in a wheelchair. Rather to be effective an ‘action team’ needs to be created so that from across the organisations there are partnerships with a range of representative stakeholders. it must be both a collaborative and a team effort.
Byrne (2004) suggests that in setting up a ‘Web Accessibility Policy and Planning Group’ the following stakeholders (among others) should be included: management, student representatives, disabled students, administrators, web designers, lecturers and learning support staff.
- involve all stakeholders, including top-level support (Burgstahler 2002a; Smith and Lyman 2005);
- organize an accessibility committee (Smith and Lymann 2005; Hriko 2003; Byrne 2004);
- provide training and technical support (Smith and Lyman 2005; Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002);
- promote institutional awareness (Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002);
- evaluate progress towards accessibility (Smith and Lyman 2005; Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002).
7). Organisations have to mean it – not pay lip service, but set SMART goals, adhere to plans, be open with failings and strive to make things better. Whilst mission statements and guidelines are a move in the right direction, they will not necessarily ensure or mandate that practice changes. In order to ensure accessibility, policies need to be specific, detailed and directive.
i.e. SMART goals
Advice from a number of accessibility advocates would suggest that accessibility policies need to:
- define the scope of the policy (Johnson et al. 2003; Brewer 2002);
- delineate a specific and official technical standard (Johnson et al. 2003; Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002; Smith and Lyman 2005);
- indicate whether compliance is required (Bohman 2003d);
- indicate a timeline or deadline for compliance (Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002);
- define a system for evaluating or monitoring compliance (Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002; Smith and Lyman 2005);
- indicate any consequences for failure to comply with policy (Bohman 2003d).
8). Benchmark accessibility annually and raise the bar each year too, with comparisons tolike institutions – are we doing better or worse – and particular with those those organisations the ‘action team’ admire for what they are doing or have achieved. A useful exercise would be to look at the history of adoption of access in the physical world, the debates, legislation and practices. Change to be done appropriately and to be permanent takes time.
Develop the view that making accommodations for students with disabilities forms part of the institution’s engagement with learning technologies, can provide efficiencies and improve business agility and performance.
REVIEW – Visitors using the centre are taken through a structured questionnaire that enables them to review their learning practices and compare their level of performance against evolving good practice.
COMPARE – Three key performance indicators above.
ACT – Once you have identified where you can improve , the centre contains over 200 resources to help you take action in your business.
TOWARDS MATURITY (2012)
If none exist, what might you include in any new accessibility-related policy within an organisation?
It would be an interesting activity to hold a meeting and hand out books pertaining to contain text that are blank, to be handed a laptop on which all the keys have been glued down, a radio that scrambles the audio.
Design with Assistive Technology (AT) in mind. ‘As technology evolves, Assistive Technology (AT) often becomes outdated, leaving developers scrambling to produce new forms of AT to “catch-up” to IT. In the meantime, individuals relying on AT are left with obsolete equipment and consequently, reduced access to information and services. Although AT does catch up, inevitably, the accessibility cycle repeats itself as technology is too often developed with little or no thought to accessibility’. KATSEVA (2004)
‘Typically, technology is designed for functionality from the outset and made accessible only after-the-fact, either with AT or with retrofitting. This process excludes those for whom access to information and services is already difficult, as well as being terribly inefficient and costly. This process is akin to building a house without the electrical infrastructure, only to have each room wired individually, as new appliances are purchased’. KATSEVA (2004)
Does your organisation have other policies that should refer to accessibility?
If so, do they refer to it? If not, in what ways should they refer to it? Kelly et al. (2004) note that IT Service departments usually aim to provide a secure, robust managed environment, which may conflict with the flexibility many end users would like. (Seale 2006:128) The same is likely to occur with the strict adherence to web accessibility policies. There will need to be a compromise. The IT department, as they are used to managing and even policing IT should perhaps become the guardians of accessibility policy too as it would impact on design and programmining choices.
Who are the key people who have a role in managing accessibility in your organisation?
What helps or hinders them working together on accessibility-related issues?
Leading an institution’s response increases the visibility of accessibility as an issue, makes it easier to dedicate the necessary resources to the issue and makes the monitoring of compliance more of a probability (WebAim n.d.b).
At Cranfield University, we try to ensure that our services, products and facilities are available to all – irrespective of any disability. This applies to our website, too. Our website has been built following expert disability advice. (http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/ prospectus/ note.cfm) SEE APPENDIX 6
Oregon State University provides on its website a set of general web accessibility guidelines:
The universal access to information is a part of the University’s ongoing commitment to establishing a barrier free learning community at Oregon State. These guidelines have been established as a part of this commitment, and to meet the ethical and legal obligations that we have under The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Telecommunications Act of 1996, and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
The Oregon State policy has been replaced by Disability Access Services Mission and Goals, http://ds.oregonstate.edu/ about/mission.php (last accessed 24 May 2012).
Integration not segregation
Given that many advocates argue against ‘add-on’ specialist services that segregate people and issues from the mainstream, there would seem to be merit in considering whether accessibility should be integrated into existing policies or whether existing policies can be applied to e-learning accessibility.
Using this argument, perhaps accessibility should be embedded into a range of policies and strategies including: e-learning strategies; teaching and learning strategies; non-discrimination policies; inclusion policies; widening participation policies and learning resources policies.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines
Anderson, A. (2004) Supporting web accessibility policies: creating a campus e-culture of inclusion at UW-Madison. Paper presented at CSUN ’04. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.csun.edu/ cod/ conf/ 2004/ proceedings/ 20.htm> (last accessed 23 May 2012).
Burgstahler, S., Corrigan, B. and McCarter, J. (2004) Making distance learning courses accessible to students and instructors with disabilities: a case study. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 233–246.
Byrne, J. (2004) An example: UK university accessible web design plan. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.mcu.org.uk/show.php?contentid=85> (accessed 5 October 2005 but no longer available).
Katseva, A. (2004) The case for pervasive accessibility. Paper presented at CSUN ’04. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.csun.edu/ cod/conf/ 2004/ proceedings/ 114.htm> (last accessed 23 May 2012).
Lamshed, R., Berry, M. and Armstrong, L. (2003) Keys to access: accessibility conformance in VET. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/ projects/ resources/ accessibility-conformance.doc> (last accessed 23 May 2012).
Tinklin, T., Riddell, S. and Wilson, A. (2004) Policy and provision for disabled students in higher education in Scotland and England: the current state of play. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 5, 637–657.
TOWARDS MATURITY (2012) http://www.towardsmaturity.org/static/towards-maturity-benchmark-centre/
WebAIM. (n.d.b) The important of leadership. If not you, who? Online. Available HTTP: . (Now available at http://www.webaim.org/ articles/imp_of_leadership/, last accessed 23 May 2012.)
Wilson, A., Ridell, S. and Tinklin, T. (2002) Disabled students in higher education. Finding from key informant interviews. Online. Available HTTP: (accessed 5 October 2005 but no longer available).
Read cover to cover yesterday, into the evening and small hours. I’m now onto the second read, with various notes to add, references to pursue and further research to undertake.
Yet to be published, I’ll give detials in due course of how to get your hands on a copy.
Why read ‘A Life Remembered’ ?
It’s a fascinating life story from surving the Warsaw Uprising as a teenager to achieving as an Academic and educator in England, Scotland then at various leading universities around the world while pursing various interests and causes with passion and dogged determination. A life lesson? I think so.
This isn’t something new; the best way to learn is from and amongst others.
John Seely Brown gets it right when he talks about ‘learning from the periphery’. Think how in the playground or when joining a club where there may be no formal induction or training, how you gravitate towards the centre over time as you listen in to conversations, get the drift of what is being said, get up the courage to ask questions (which is hopefully encouraged), and in time gain knowledge and confidence to offer your own unique take and things. In time you gravitate towards the centre; you may even become the centre. the ‘leader’ or part of the ‘leadership’ those wise folk at the centre of things.
I recall this as an undergraduate on campus, an outsider for a year, at the centre for a year and then worrying about Finals.
This is exciting. It brings the hubbub of the eclectic learning community online. This is more than a forum, it is a virtual learning space.
It will take all kinds of participants for it to work otherwise it is like one of those South American Pipe Dreams to build cities from scratch in the Amazon Jungle. It is the people and their ideas, thoughts, knowledge and participation that will bring it to life. It will require moderators, and leaders, and champions, and people to listen and guide and share. It will require moderators:
‘The essential role of the e-moderator is promoting human interaction and communication through the modelling, conveying and building of knowledge and skills’. (Salmon, 2005:4)
And a new take on things:
‘Online learning calls for the training and development of new kinds of online teachers – to carry out roles not yet widely understood’. (Salmon. 2005:10)
Creative Problem Solving: Why is anything but incremental change often so difficult for the most successful organisations?
What’s your experience?
A gradual cultural shift or a new person at the top and overnight transformation?
Even with the most charismatic leader in charge, unless the company is privately owned, and depending very much on its size, I don’t see how anything other than incremental change is feasible or given employment laws actionable.
Unless the business is a football club, or like a Film production Company moves from one project to another with a skeleton staff or perhaps a Government Department, but even here, with a new minister of a opposing political persuasion the inertia and scale of the department/organisation (as Cameron and his Cabinet are seeing) negates radical or swift change or your risk strike action and other forms of discontent.
How do Oxbridge Colleges survive?
Look at Balliol as it approaches its 750th year. It has been hosting the Institute of the Internet for a decade so it can’t be thought of as backward looking. How much does the location and reputation count? Even, or especially the nature and value of the ‘Quad?’
War and natural disaster forces change.
Economic down turn obliges organisations to cut back, to prune. In bad weather they hibernate? Is there a horticultural metaphor to work with? (With those Garden Festivals of the 1980s that was the route to regeneration).
Incremental change of the farming landscape?
Formal education survived concentration camps and the Burma railway. What does it take!
My inclination as a KAI Innovator is to seek immediate, overnight change.
The reality, and I have seen this in small organisations and large, public and private, even from the perspective of a Non-exec Chairman, that long term survival, especially over the lat few years, is the product of caution, indeed of being prepared for the worst while maintaining an brave if not positive and ambitious face. Where can apparent overnight change work? Pop ‘acts’ like David Bowie and Madonna, TV Series like Dr Who.
But this is the cover, the book remains the same?
Surely any organisation or brand can more easily make adjustments to its brand (yet these two will have been carefully planned far in advance for strategic effect).
I’m just about through the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and I’m inclined to give it one more pass so that I can blog-along and make some of the insights stick. This second reading has got me quite tearful; I want to say was it worth it? Could he have been a little less intense and so not the insensitive sh1t that so often manifested itself. ‘Intense’ is Steve Jobs in one word and largely how the biographer wraps it up. Go read then come join the ‘Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson discussion group on Linkedin or follow me on Twitter @JJ27VV as I read and share moments from the book on Twitter.