Change calls for strong leadership, not for unanswered questions


TU/e has commissioned a working group to evaluate its current governance structure and propose a revised one. Columnist Michel van Eerd argues the process so far leaves ample room for improvement.

For a decent evaluation, a thorough analysis of the current governance situation would have been a good start. It remains a question if this has been done. At least it has not been presented by the working group nor can a complete and up-to-date organogram and governance documentation be found on the TU/e website, certainly not in the most obvious locations.

Another requirement is having solid and clear problem analysis to substantiate any proposed change(s). For this another question remains: Was the working group provided with problem statements, or were they commissioned to imply, propose, ignore, or keep them hidden? Regardless, the working group has not transparently communicated a solid and clear problem analysis to the TU/e community.

TU/e’s community is inherently critical and opinionated. Proposing solutions, potentially impacting every employee as well as every student, without being open about the current situation and underlying problem(s), was going to be a hard sell from the start. Support from the community will increase the chance of success of implementing drastic changes. How can the TU/e community currently be enthusiastic about any of the proposed changes?

Any non-biased and well-equipped working group should have been aware of the three paragraphs above and act accordingly. How was the composition of this working group decided? Are there any apparent conflicts of interest amongst its members? Did the working group members themselves feel socially safe enough to speak out? Could TU/e in this case have been lacking in leadership skills?

The way the working group has involved the TU/e community could already be evaluated. One might question how successful this approach has been so far. Has this process provided TU/e sufficient insight to enable broad support for a single scenario (from the limited set of proposed scenarios) to be adopted successfully? Failing to reverse-engineer a problem statement to fit a scenario resulting from a hidden agenda does not particularly blow my novice-leadership-socks off. To start with carefully explaining the problem we may have to solve, is better in my opinion.

While there seems to be an invisible force steering towards a reduction of the number of departments or reorganise services already in the process of (potentially) being reorganised (SQUAD), the growing number of other often ambiguously or even undefined entities like institutes, centres and flagships is surprisingly excluded from the openly communicated governance scope of interest by the working group. Is there a specific reason for this?

Merging departments to form similarly sized clusters could be a goal, but how future-proof would that be? Although the scale jump is not (yet officially) taking place, project Beethoven has already caused some departments to be labelled as growth departments. If clusters would be similarly sized now, could this projected growth skew the balance already in near future?

If the answers to the raised questions are neither existing, nor convincing, ditching the whole exercise or re-starting from scratch, taking lessons learned into account, might be a better way to display leadership skills. While we require our students to learn, the TU/e itself should lead by example by including them and by showing what a learning organisation may look like. This could still become another fine example!

Michel van Eerd is team leader of general educational lab facilities in the department of Electrical Engineering. He was elected for a second term in the University Council last December. Views expressed in this column are his own.

Share this article