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Student Desk Tilburg University. The stream of incoming questions from students could not be dealt with in time due to processes that had stagnated. Bottlenecks in the organisation consequently became visible at the front office. This is not where the problems originate, but where they come to light. Boer & Croon made the organisation manageable again.

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Tilburg University
Public Solutions

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The outbreak of corona had unforeseen knock-on effects. When it became apparent that travelling abroad was practically impossible, a lot of young people decided not to take a gap year. In September last year, students enrolled en masse at educational institutions, including Tilburg University. At the same time, a transition had to be made to digital education. The organisation was unable to cope with the amount of work and this escalated at the Student Desk. Boer&Croon promptly brought in an interim manager and a young executive to urgently defuse the crisis and bring the organisation under control.

Assignment

The university has the ambition to grow in terms of the number of students and at the same time, they strive for excellence in their provision of services. Nevertheless, this combination has an impact on internal services and operational processes, which were strained at the beginning of the academic year. This pattern has been prevalent at many educational institutions for years, but was exacerbated in 2020 by the quick switch to digital education caused by corona. In concrete terms, this meant that the provision of services by the Student Desk and the organisation surrounding the admission process were under considerable pressure.


Backlogs in the work led to large reserves of work and lengthy turnaround times, so that students did not have clarity in time about their admission before the start of the academic year. The stream of incoming questions could not be dealt with in time. Boer & Croon was called in to address this problem and to advise on which changes needed to be made in order to reach a structural solution. On behalf of Boer & Croon, Freek Bahlke - Young Executive - took on this assignment together with interim manager Pieter van Oosterhout. Gradually, the assignment was extended to include the request to implement the advice. Inelise Fröberg realised this implementation assignment as a Young Executive.

Cause & Effect

Freek: "At the start of the project, it was a matter of crisis management. The pressure was considerable and things had to be put in order within a few weeks. We then had the challenge of getting to grips with the internal organisation as an outsider and investigating what the underlying problems were. After all, bottlenecks within the organisation became most visible at the front office of the organisation - the Student Desk. Yet this is not actually where the problems originate, but where they come to light."

Approach

Freek: "After an investigation, it turned out that there were several sticking points on various fronts, which together caused major problems. In order to realise long-term improvements, we recommended implementing three work packages. The first was aimed at process optimisation of the admission chain, the second at professionalisation of operational management, and the third at improving the Student Desk. By carrying out these projects at the same time, we were able to work towards the end result, which would eliminate unrest among the students, everyone would be admitted on time, and the internal organisation would be in good order."

Inelise: "First of all, I mapped out the existing processes in detail, which showed that there were a lot of differences between faculties. As an external advisor, it proved possible to take a fresh look at the organisation. Everyone carried out the work activities in a different way, using a range of different and outdated systems, whereas the organisation would have benefited from standardisation. There was not much awareness of the interdependencies within the chain. Moreover, there was hardly any insight into the expected volume of work and the capacity required to handle it."

Cooperation

Inelise: "For Boer & Croon, it is important to have short lines of communication with people from the organisation and to involve them in all the measures. As an implementation manager, you can in fact initiate improvements, but the long-term follow-up must be carried out by people within the university. The cooperation between an interim manager and a Young Executive from Boer & Croon ensures that you are not on your own with the client and that you can pool your strengths. You have an extra pair of eyes to get to grips with the organisation and a sparring partner to discuss issues and test ideas. This is also extremely valuable for the client."

Result

Inelise: "Within Tilburg University, significant steps have been taken and the university has been given the knowledge and tools to develop itself further. One of the most important things that has been achieved is that much more awareness has been raised: awareness of weak spots, chain interdependencies, the organisation itself, and working methods. Additionally, the organisation is currently undergoing a culture change whereby concrete objectives are being set and, with the help of the available information, it can be steered towards achieving them. Insight and oversight have been created so that adjustments can be made if things go differently than planned. Lastly, communication between the different departments has improved. This is not about having more consultations, but about having the right conversations between the right people. All these aspects contribute to creating a culture where constant improvement is achievable."