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Organizational Type Impacts Institutional Culture

While Birnbaum (1988) notes that IHEs differ in important ways from other organizational types, especially for-profit businesses, he also concludes that colleges and universities differ from each other in important ways. Birnbaum outlines five models of organizational functioning in higher education: collegial, bureaucratic, political, anarchical, and cybernetic. In Bush's (2011) text on educational leadership, he groups educational leadership theories into six categories: formal, collegial, political, subjective, ambiguity, and cultural. In their discussion of organizational structure, Bolman and Deal (2008) provide yet another method for analysis of organizational culture, identifying four distinctive "frames" from which people view their world and that provide a lens for understanding organizational culture: structural, human resources, political, and symbolic.

Each of these models can provide a conceptual framework by which to understand and evaluate the culture of a college or university. Understanding the organizational type of a particular institution is imperative when considering issues such as the process by which goals are determined, the nature of the decisionmaking process, and the appropriate style of leadership to accomplish goals and implement initiatives. What works in one university organizational type may not be effective in another. The leadership style of senior administration may be operating from one frame or model while the culture of the faculty may be operating from another, thus affecting policy and practice in positive or negative ways.

While not true across the board, for-profit organizations tend to operate from what Bush as well as Bolman and Deal refer to as the formal or structural models and Birnbaum terms bureaucratic. The structural frame represents a belief in rationality. Some assumptions of the structural frame are that "suitable forms of coordination and control ensure that diverse efforts of individuals and units mesh" and that "organizations work best when rationality prevails over personal agendas" (Bolman and Deal 2008, p. 47). Understanding this cultural and framing difference is important when considering the adoption and implementation of ERM in the university environment, and can help to explain why many university administrators and faculty are skeptical of the more corporate approach often taken in ERM implementation outside of higher education.

Bush observes that the collegial model has been adopted by most universities and is evidenced, in part, by the extensive committee system. Collegial institutions have an "emphasis on consensus, shared power, common commitments and aspirations, and leadership that emphasizes consultation and collective responsibilities" (Birnbaum, p. 86). Collegial models assume that professionals also have a right to share in the wider decision-making process (Bush 2011, p. 73). Bush points out that collegial models assume that members of an organization agree on organizational goals, but that often various members within the institution have different ideas about the central purposes of the institution because most colleges and universities have vague, ambiguous goals. Birnbaum describes the collegium (or university environment) as having the following characteristics:

The right to participate in institutional affairs, membership in a congenial and sympathetic company of scholars in which friendships, good conversation, and mutual aid flourish, and the equal worth of knowledge in various fields that precludes preferential treatment of faculty in different disciplines. (p. 87)

ERM (or risk management and compliance initiatives in general) tend to be viewed as more corporate functions and to align with formal, structural, and bureaucratic aims, goal setting, planning, and decision making. The chart in Exhibit 9.1 outlines management practices and how they are viewed from the

Exhibit 9.1 Distinctions between Structural and Collegial Elements of Management'

Elements of Management


Collegial/Human Resources

Bolman and Deal



Bolman and Deal



Level at which goals are determined




Institutional through

i agreement and


Process by which goals are determined

Vertical and lateral processes

Set by leaders

Based on organizational structure and roles




Relationship between goals and decisions

Organizations exist to achieve established


Decisions based on goals

Conscious attempt to link means to ends and resources to objectives

Shared sense of direction and commitment

Decisions based on goals

Strong and

coherent culture and value consensus informs decisions

Nature of the decision process

Rational; rules, policies, and standard operating procedures


Rational; compliance with rules and regulations






Nature of structure

Organizations increase efficiency and enhance performance through

specialization and division of labor




Designed to accomplish large-scale tasks by systematically coordinating the work of many individuals

Organizations exist to serve human needs; must be a good fit between organization and people



Style of leadership

Established authority

Leader establishes goals and initiates policy

Leader is concerned with planning, directing, organization, staffing, and evaluating

Doesn't control or overly structure; sensitive to both task and process; use of teams

Leader seeks to promote consensus

Leader is "first among equals," consultation and collective responsibilities

'Adapted from Bush (2011), 199 (Figure 9.1).

formal/structural and collegial/human resources models. As will become clear in the University of Washington ERM implementation case described in this chapter, the culture of higher education in general, and the institution-specific culture of the particular organization, cannot be ignored when adopting or implementing an ERM program, and may be the most important element when making ERM program, framework, and philosophy decisions.

Risks Affecting Higher Education

One way in which colleges and universities are becoming more like other organizations is the type and variety of risks affecting them. Risk and crisis in higher education may arise from a variety of sources: a failure of governance or leadership; a business or consortium relationship; an act of nature; a crisis related to student safety or welfare or that of other members of the community; a violation of federal, state, or local law; or a myriad of other factors. The University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA 2007) cites several drivers that put increased pressure and risk on colleges and universities, including competition for faculty, students, and staff; increased accountability; external scrutiny from the government, the public, and governing boards; IT changes; competition in the marketplace; and increased levels of litigation. A comprehensive, yet not exhaustive, list of risks affecting higher education is outlined in Exhibit 9.2. Risks unmitigated at the unit, department, or college level can quickly lead to high-profile institutional risk when attorneys, the media, and the public get involved. Helsloot and Jong (2006) observe that higher education has a unique risk as it relates to the generation and sharing of its core task: "to gather, develop, and disseminate knowledge" (p. 154), noting that the "balance between the unfettered transfer of knowledge, on the one hand, and security, on the other, is a precarious one" (p. 155).

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