Reflections on Organisational Restructuring and Change in a

Thabo Fako
The purpose of this study is to describe the context, magnitude and effects of organisational change that took place at the University of Botswana (UB) from 1990 to present. The study should provide useful insights for those who may wish to conduct studies of institutional change, and those who continue to work as change agents in African and other developing country universities. Reflections on organisational change that are contained in this study are made from the vantage point of an
more » ... point of an observer who had the opportunity to participate in university teaching and management as well as working in tertiary education broadly. It is argued that, when in the mid-1980s organisational restructuring was first contemplated at the University of Botswana, there was no major management crisis that could cause the institution to collapse tomorrow. Restructuring of the institution, was part of a proactive, forward planning process to help the University prepare for effective management and control of anticipated expansion. The university examined its administrative, organisational and academic structures with a view to decentralising and / or consolidating or merging certain functions in order to be effective in view of the projected increase in the numbers the University would experience in the coming years. Organisational restructuring at UB was part of a broader global managerial revolution which began in the United States in the 1950s, got underway in Britain and was given an impetus by the changes wrought by the Thatcher Government. Restructuring was intended to address problems of overworked senior management; a weak middle management; a weak administrative and technical support staff; inefficient, costly, overstaffed and under-utilised operating levels; a reward system that had little relation to performance; and poor staff morale. After most aspects of organisational restructuring were implemented at UB, unprecedented administrative paralysis, logistical failure and inexplicable delays crept into the system, giving the impression that "the left hand did not know what 2 the right hand was doing". There was uncertainty, helplessness, cynicism, low morale and a sense of despair as predictable, understandable and, therefore, acceptable outcomes became a thing of the past. Demands for explanations of inaction, delays and unacceptable decisions punctuated Minutes of Departmental and Faculty level committees. Positions of administrative responsibility held by academic and non-academic staff assumed unprecedented importance. Authoritarian arbitrariness and top-down communication increasingly replaced open and transparent consultation, democratic participation, consistency, predictability and relative efficiency within the institutional decision-making system. The collective wisdom of a cosmopolitan collegiate with a rich tapestry of international experiences that informed institutional decision-making was quickly replaced by varieties of executive imposition, bureaucratic manipulation, administrative slight of hand and politics of loosely-coupled coalitions, which were facilitated, to a large extent, by the use of the newly established university-wide computer-based communication network that linked everyone into an electronic mail group. Reflections on Organisational Restructuring and Change in a Southern African University: The Case of the University of Botswana by Thabo T. Fako