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Ambassadors for development

How do you use a strategy paper that looks like self-glorifying hot air for some people? Thirty-one team leaders at the Department of Bioscience are to get the new organisation to work in practice.

2012.03.29 | Camilla Nissen Toftdal

Personnel managers and heads of academic groups at the Department of Bioscience discussing the implementation of the new organisation. They will help create more openness and less scepticism, so that everyone actively contributes to pulling the department together.

Provided Bioscience maintains its status quo for finances from now on, the department has already reached its financial target for the next five years. In just six months, Marine Microbiology alone has attracted external funds amounting to DKK 100 million to the department. It is thus full speed ahead at Bioscience, and it is hard to contradict Head of Department Bo Riemann when he says he can document the department’s position among the leaders. But there is a sense of listlessness within the organisation, and the question is how the management group can both create a good workplace and motivate the staff to reach the strategic goals. Personnel Manager Susanne Amsinck, Silkeborg, has a suggestion.

The speed of trust

Bioscience is organised in management teams of academic group coordinators and personnel managers. How can you gain success with the new organisation?

- I think the most important prerequisite for success is close collaboration between the academic group coordinators and the personnel managers. It’s important that we, as managers, lead the way and facilitate development. We have to include the strategy in our day-to-day work in both the academic and personnel groups, and ensure close interaction between our academic activities and staff development. We must ensure competence development, for example, so that staff members are prepared to seize the academic challenges of tomorrow.

Your personnel group is located in Silkeborg, but most of them are part of an academic group – and thus a research field – with a group of researchers in Aarhus. How will you get them to use each other?

- From my perspective, trust is a key word when we’re talking about efficient management and cooperation. The better we know each other, the fewer misunderstandings arise. It’s ‘the speed of trust’. Collaboration based on deep trust is extremely effective. But if trust on the other hand is low, friction easily arises, as well as hidden agendas, conflicts and rivalry. And this holds up any form of communication or action. When all comes to all, it’s the department’s results that are sacrificed.

How does the necessary trust come about?

- Building up trust means that we must take time here in the start-up stage to meet in person and get to know each other well, so that we achieve a mutual understanding of each other’s differences and backgrounds. Along with Brian Kronvang – one of the academic group coordinators – and the other personnel managers, I’ve organised a number of meetings with both academic and social activities on the programme. Once we’ve laid the foundation for getting together in person, it’ll be easier to get video meetings to work, for example.

Peace to work is a necessity

You mention the strategy yourself. How will you get to the core behind these nice words?

- I actually believe that we should specifically discuss how we ‘make’ the strategy. We all have a responsibility to relate to the strategy and reflect on how we can best contribute to achieving our common goal. When we’ve each made up our minds, we need to sit down together and determine who’s going to do what, how and when. This way, we’ll get a clear distribution of roles, and everyone will have an opportunity to contribute and see themselves as part of the strategy. If the strategy becomes a natural focal point for our work, it’ll help create a collective spirit. And this is in great need in many parts of the organisation right now.

What challenges do you see in your work as team leaders?

- We sense a feeling of listlessness in the organisation, and we need peace to work so we can create the commitment and foundation necessary to get the strategy to work from the bottom up. Time is a really big challenge. As managers, we have to not only talk to the members of staff, but also take the initiative, follow up on things and at the same time maintain our academic activities, ensure that revenue is generated, cultivate new fields of research, publish, lecture, etc. Many of the team leaders already spearhead activities at the department in different ways, so we can very well experience that time is a limiting factor, but we believe in the cause, concludes Susanne Amsinck.

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