I’ve worked at a number of different enterprises throughout my career. I’ve seen even more of them when I was a consultant. In one way or another I have seen all the following organizations in action:
- Manitoba Hydro
- Great West Life
- Investors Group
- Multiple departments in the Province of Manitoba
- Assante Asset Management
- Manitoba Blue Cross
- Manitoba Public Insurance
- I could go on…
What is the most interesting to me is how the University of Manitoba differs from all of these in one important way. I imagine that this observation can be applied to other educational institutions as well.
I see books everywhere.
What I’ve noticed is that almost everyone reads books specific to their career. Beyond that, there is a commitment to education. I guess this should not be surprising since this is a University, but the focus is profoundly different from anything I’ve seen in the private sector. Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not saying the education budgets are larger. I don’t get that sense. But almost every project that delivers has a focus on education and training. There is just a profound focus that we need to educate people and train them and we should not expect people to just pick up new skills without training and effort.
Hand in hand with this focus on education and training comes an increased focus on innovation and improvement. Perhaps because our main clients are students who learn, we are eager to share information and learn ourselves. This gets magnified as Universities are very collaborative and we are eager to share information and innovations. This creates a larger eco-system of innovation with the goal to improve the educational system and our support of higher learning.
Since private companies are in competition, you rarely see professionals between companies sharing new methods and procedures that could help others in the industry. As a result, innovations have to be ‘discovered’ multiple times in private industries.
Which brings us back to System Thinking. I remember reading a book on System Thinking that proposed IT systems are designed within the larger enterprise context and can’t help but mimic the overall company culture and values. An open company’s IT systems will have less formal procedures that a company that is very hierarchical. The IT systems reflect the company.
So I guess it should not be surprising that our systems and our IT organization and culture have been modeled after the University as a whole.