Thursday, 1 October 2009

Faffing about moving desks and floors

It's the beginning of a new academic year and new MRes and first year PhD students are registering today, and will need their desks from Monday. So all the third year students are moving upstairs to sit near their seniors who are now in fourth year and writing up as fast as they can. The second years have moved downstairs. That leaves the new MRes students in the same room as the first year PhD students.

In the practitioner consulting literature, a strategy {Block, 2000 } for getting people to engage with each other is have a physical structure that supports community. Our new arrangement will support year groups as communities. But we're all split up so casual conversation or observation of what senior students are doing will no longer be possible.

The desks were moved two days ago, but the computers only moved yesterday, and not immediately connected, so the first half of the day was spent getting phones and computers connected. On top of that, my desk was high, and colleague's desk was low. He's tall; I'm short. He needs his desk high to reduce his back ache; I want mine low so that my chair is low and my feet touch the ground. So we had to get the removal men to swap our desks round.

By the time all that was done, it was time for coffee. Coffee time is an opportunity for us all to get together, compare notes on progress or refuse to talk about work. Next week, we'll have to get the new students' emails /extension numbers and let them know when people are about to have a coffee or lunch break. That might help newcomers to engage usefully with the senior students and get some value from their experience.

Block, P. (2000). Flawless Consulting: a guide to getting your expertise used, Jossey-Bass/Fpeiffer.

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