The post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas

The Higher Education Institution can be likened to a large cruise liner sailing unexpectedly in turbulent waters. In March 2020, a storm like no other hit. Whilst stop-gap solutions in response to COVID-19 temporarily kept the ship afloat, further apertures surfaced as a result of the storm that can no longer be ignored.

Now, as the storm quells and new and old challenges and opportunities await on the horizon, it is critical that Higher Education Institutions use this opportunity to take stock and plan a course ahead. In order to turn this gargantuan vessel, we need not only a captain to steer, but everyone on the ship’s manifest to fuel the engines and map their own courses of action.

We believe the metaphor of a ship offers opportunity. Yes, storms at sea can mean chaos and danger, but after the storm has passed, the ship can offer destination, hope, deepened relationships, reflection and focus. The Post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas can help guide your own course of action over the next academic year. How will you help steer the ship?

An introduction to the post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas

The Ready are a partner tackling organisation design and transformation. In 2016, The Ready released the ‘OS Canvas.’ The OS (Operating System) canvas is a tool for reinventing organisations designed to provide a focus on 9 key ‘in flux’ components of an organisation.

Mi:Lab has adapted The Ready’s OS Canvas into the post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas, a discussion tool adapted for HE teams, departments and institutions to reflect on their current practices and to consider how, from a bird’s eye lens, they might reimagine and redesign their institutions post-Covid. Each component on the adapted canvas considers certain aspects of their HEI more deeply than they typically would. The canvas uncovers the organisational DNA that exists, accounting for the beliefs, principles, policies and processes that exist behind the structure of an establishment (Dingan, 2019) and investigates these 9 key components of an organisation:

  • Structure & Space
  • Authority & Decisions
  • Information & Communication
  • Policy & Governance
  • Purpose & Values
  • Meetings & Coordination
  • Strategy & Innovation
  • Resource Allocation, Targets & Forecasts
  • People, Development & Motivation

Structure & Space

As we consider the structure and space of the institution, we examine the functional and physical anatomy that exists. Our return to campus this semester leads us to consider both the physical and digital anatomy that exists as both play an important role in how we currently function and will continue to operate into the future. Mi:Lab’s prompt questions help us to consider how we examine the structure and space of an institution:

  • How will departments and offices organise and lead?
  • How will we reimagine the physical and functional campus as it current exists?

Authority & Decisions

In this section, we examine how decisions are made within the institution and considers how authority is distributed. Consider:

  • How will we distribute authority?
  • How will we make key institutional decisions?
  • How will we collaborate with key Higher Education partners to take action?

Information & Communication

Information & communication looks at how we share and use data and information within the institution as well as accounting for how information is transferred to all members of the institution. For this section, we can consider:

  • How will knowledge be shared within the institution and how should stakeholders communicate with one another?
  • What tools, systems, or forums support storing and sharing information?

Policy & Governance

Policy and Governance accounts for general written policies, laws, rules and regulations that exist within the institution and consider how we steward the institution. When exploring this field, start by considering:

  • How will our policies be drafted and redrafted?
  • How will institutional policies and governance reflect our purpose, values and strategic mission?

Purpose & Values

As we consider our purpose and values, we consider our ‘why’. Why do we exist as an institution and what do we hope to achieve?. We also consider the principles and values that guide the vision and mission of our higher education institutions.

  • What is our reason for being?
  • What are our values?
  • How will our purpose and values evolve?

Meetings & Co-ordination

This section looks at how meetings are coordinated within the institution and asks how we interact with one another to create meaningful outcomes. We look at how these meetings are executed and how we collaborate with one another at these meetings.

  • How will we convene, coordinate and communicate as we move forward?
  • How will we organise and manage workflows?

Strategy & Innovation

As we consider how we might manifest our strategy or strategic plan, we too consider the role that innovation will play in this in order to create meaningful change within the institution.

  • How will our institution manifest our strategic plan and what needs to happen for the institution to evolve?
  • How will we promote and incentivise a culture of innovation day to day?

Resource Allocation, Targets & Forecasts

In this section, we consider how and where our resources (financial, human, and others) are allocated within the institution and consider how these resources might assist us in achieving our targets and goals. When exploring this section, consider:

  • How will we ensure the allocation of the appropriate resources and support within the institution to achieve our strategic plan?

People, Development & Motivation

This field is dedicated to all things people and how we interact and engage with one another — from recruiting to development, compensation, and beyond. When exploring this field, start by considering the following questions:

  • How will we invest in people?
  • How will we define and cultivate relationships and networks within the institution?
  • How will we recognise and reward the contributions of stakeholders within the institution?

The tumultuous journey ahead calls for all on board to take action and “design the shape of things to come” (Guo et al., 2020: 1322). As we pause at this point of reframe, we must consider and devise “courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1969:111).

We believe the post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas can assist us in examining the institution on a deep, holistic level, by breaking the institution into more manageable components, to direct focus and provide a two-dimensional representation of the institutional components that are in state of flux.

If you would like to try out the canvas for yourself, you can download Mi:Lab’s post-Covid Institutional OS Canvas template here.

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