Research Administration

The Black Box: Delegate and Fix Problems Behind the Scenes

First, imagine a black hole.  A region of space where nothing, not even the smallest particle or beam of light can escape. You have no idea where you are. You have no idea where you’re going. And you have no idea if you’re moving, let alone how and why you are moving.

Now imagine a worm hole. A foggy passage through space-time that creates a shortcut across the universe. You know where you’ve come from and where you’re going to, and you vaguely know how you will get there–but everything else is a mystery.

Now imagine futurist public transportation system. A driver-less system that runs 24 hours a day, carries millions passengers each day, with no carbon footprint. Immaculately clean, well-signposted, free, regular, convenient system that connects anyone to every corner of every city, from the crowded city bowels to the rural villages.

On our team, administrative and research support is often provided via a black box. Meaning that the faculty member alerts the nearest administrative staff member with a general (and usually hopelessly vague) task that needs to be completed. From there, the faculty member has no idea a) who will complete the task, b) how it will be completed, c) what the final format will be, and d) when the final product will be presented. The faculty member just trusts that the task will be completed and that they will be notified when it is done.

Behind the scenes, as soon as the staff member receives the general (and hopelessly vague) task, they immediate consult with the team lead to see how the task should be processed and completed. From there, the task may be delegate to the same staff who received it, to another staff member, to the team lead, or any number of other support offices within the institution. It may require the coordination of several different offices, team or resources prior to completion. And it’s journey from start to finish may often resemble a gravity-free roller coaster attempting to forcibly push its way through a wormhole.

This is the concept of the Black Box: the faculty member believes the staff member who gets the problem fixes the problem; no matter what the problem is or what team it ultimately goes to, they don’t always know how we fix the problem but they know it gets fixed.

Article publié pour la première fois le 08/05/2018

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