Steph O’Halloran

Lead Consultant | AUA Consulting

Steph is an experienced learning and development professional with a wealth of experience in engaging managers and leaders to bring about behavioural change. She is a tutor on the Open University’s MBA programme, a qualified coach and an ILM Accredited Action Learning Set Facilitator. She is CIPD qualified with a Masters in HR.

Is now the time for a rethink of your strategy?  Boris Johnson said there will be plenty of opportunity in the future to review how the Government responded to Covid-19, but for universities – why wait?  John Lewis, an organisation loved by many, appears to have had a very successful brainstorming session considering just that.  The pandemic has had a significant impact on the retail environment in the UK, so John Lewis’s response appears to be, among other things, to strengthen their existing popular services (by bringing food into department stores), diversifying into new, more trendy areas (horticulture) and repurposing some stores into residential accommodation.  On the face of it, this looks like a speedy and decisive change of strategic direction.

During the past 6 months, the HE sector has had to adjust and adapt all aspects of our operations in order to continue to provide a first class service to students.  But what has this imperative thrown up? What new things has it exposed for the way we work and, indeed, for who we want to be?  For universities, a review of their response to pandemic – what went really well, what could have been done better and what that means for our future – seems timely.  So why not strike while the iron’s hot?  Does this period of significant disruption present the perfect opportunity for change?  Could now be just the time for transformation?

And it doesn’t only need to be at high level or institutional level – what does this new way of working mean in the longer term for Faculties, Directorates, Teams? 

To consider these, potentially existential, questions a professionally facilitated, structured session could help.  Firstly, it is important to get the right people in the room: the sponsor and representative stakeholders.  Secondly, having clear, unambiguous questions to consider in an open, trusting and respectful environment.  Questions such as:

  • What have we changed in response to Covid-19 in relation to students, staff and the Estate?
    • Principles and policies
    • Processes
    • Approaches – management, leadership, communications
  • What has worked really well and how do we know?
  • What could be better?
  • What do we want to maintain and/or grow in the future?
  • What might be the longer time implications of these changes?
  • What are the new opportunities and threats we face?
  • What does this mean for our strategic direction?

A skilled facilitator can bring expertise in practical, tried and tested, business-ready tools and After-Action Reviews to help surface and work through the issues, as well as providing impartial, inclusive and outcomes-focussed support.

So what are you waiting for?  The time is ripe for a rethink!

AUA Consulting is a consulting practice ‘of the sector for the sector’ – our Consultants are working now with a wide range of HE institutions on areas as diverse as governance; professional services structure and operations; student mental health; employability; CPD and professional development.  AUA Consultants are practitioners in higher education administration and management with a depth of experience and professional expertise – for clients this means we combine the benefits of an external perspective with sector specific credibility. Any financial surplus derived from AUA Consulting is reinvested to support the AUA’s charitable objectives – connecting and developing HE professionals.  If you’d like to find out how AUA Consulting can help your team explore the issues discussed in this blog, email Find out more at AUA Consulting.

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