Well-known benefits in team playing

April 28, 1995

Martin Harris (THES April 21) concluded "sharing of information with all members of the community. . . can seemingly only be achieved in large and complex organisations in ways which are inherently flawed and of limited benefit" having earlier asserted that "the entirely reasonable demand to be told what is going on can only in reality be met by direct communication to all involved".

Both statements are wrong. The problem of effective workplace communication was addressed years ago; both the private sector and the public sector use a variety of systems and procedures such as team briefing, a proven system of workplace communication operated by line managers. Organisations which adopt such systems wholeheartedly invariably benefit; there is no reason why a university should not benefit similarly (even one which still clings obstinately to the myth that it is or should be a collegiate organisation).

Of course, for such systems to work, department heads and others in "middle management" have to behave like line managers rather than lords to their own feifdoms, monopolising and distorting information to suit their own ends. Consequently, senior management must take steps to ensure that messages are transmitted faithfully, in both directions.

In addition, senior management have a duty to act swiftly, and possibly ruthlessly, when there is evidence (however unpalatable) that department heads have lost the confidence and respect of those they supervise.

BILL BARLOW Forfar, Angus

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