This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them and the communities they operate in. And, it’s dedicated to the 100s of millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.

A case of “internal communication deficit disorder”.

This week a Canadian University was diagnosed with internal communication deficit disorder. Though not rare, the disorder is almost always fatal if left untreated.

Concordia University is an institution I know well.  It’s 45,000 students studying in over “300 undergraduate and 200 graduate programs” are at the centre of the downtown community I work and live in. I studied and graduated with my MBA from there; began studies for a PhD there; taught there; consulted there; worked with a student intern and volunteers from there on an urban farming project.  And it’s an institution that has seemed sick at the core for some time; perhaps even further back than the Fabrikant murders in 1992.

Last year, for the second time in 3 years the President left before the end of their contract. After considerable bad press and internal finger pointing, the interim President, Dr Frederick Lowy, asked an external committee to review the governance of the university. This week, Concordia University received the report “Strengthening governance at Concordia:  A collective challenge“.  The review pulls no punches in reporting the situation and recommending changes to all aspects of governance.

Among other things, the review panel reported that the university was “…blatantly deficient internal communications“…  had created “…a lot of distrust, often bordering on mutual contempt, between the various communities of the University.” And that “…the chorus of negative response [to the most recent President’s departure], the depth and even the fury of that response could only have arisen in a context where long simmering governance and internal communication problems between the Board and the University community, to say nothing of other outstanding matters, had neither been addressed nor resolved.” The report reflects my experience and understanding of the good [and there is a lot of good there], bad and the ugly of Concordia.

Today, the University has a decision to make:   To take the recommended course of treatment for internal communication deficit disorder or not; to act on the letter and spirit of the report and its 38 recommendations or not.

If they do, it won’t be either a quick or easy recovery but recover they will.   Concordia has an opportunity to change how they do things.  To become a place where the board, faculty, administration, and students work together to create a unique and compelling experience for those who want to study and learn, to teach and do research, to invent and explore new ideas.  In the end, this report and its recommendations are less about fixing something that is broken and more about supporting Concordia in becoming the great institution it has always had the potential to be.

As a neighbour, alumnus and friend that’s my hope.


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