Blog entries

A little less managerial oversight...

When is enough enough? Or even completely adequate? In this month’s blog post, I’d like to focus on managerial oversight versus trust and using resources wisely.


As a public sector institution, we must make sure that we use our resources effectively, economise and not least comply with the requirements and laws which govern us. This is why we have various oversight procedures, for example when we receive and pay for goods or services, when we hire an employee or issue a diploma. 

But at the same time, we have to make sure that we don’t over-supervise. Both because managerial oversight requires enormous resources, and because we want a work environment at Aarhus University characterised by trust in our employees.

And it appears to me that in some cases, we over-supervise. For this reason, I’d like to encourage us to consider whether the number of rules we adopt in the administration – that we subsequently have to enforce – might be a bit excessive. My central message is that we must be aware of the relevance of our rules for managerial oversight of work processes.

In other words, we must dare to challenge the level of oversight we have adopted. For example, is it reasonable to spend just as many energy checking a travel expense report for 100 kroner as a travel expense report for 10,000 kroner? Does it make sense that a manager has to approve a 500 kroner purchase? And how many pairs of eyes need to check a 5,000 kroner reclassification?

As I see it, there are areas in which we can supervise less – and still run a professional administration in compliance with the requirements.

For example, could we simplify the administration of small external grants? Or simplify the rules and documentation requirements for internal catering and inspection of vehicle usage logs? Do we have too many forms that need to be signed by managers? Do we devote too many resources to supervising exams to prevent cheating? I would like us to be extra attentive of this going forward.

Responsibility for our development towards an AU with a lower level of managerial oversight lies primarily with managers, whom I expect to be able to determine when the degree of oversight exercised is excessive in relation to risk. It is also the role of managers to help create a work environment characterised by trust in our employees.

As an employee, you should always be able to go to your manager if you have good ideas about how we can reduce the amount of managerial oversight in order to economise our resources and create more trust. I very much hope that you will do so.

And if you have concrete suggestions on how we can achieve the right level of oversight at AU, I encourage you to share them in the comments field.