Monday, 12 January 2015

Another paper excercise

We all know people who are clumsy - its just the way they are. We know people who could not change a fuse - its just the ways they are.  You would not entrust your grandmothers bone china tea set, into their care. While working in academia for many years. I used to hear similar old anecdotes, 'them as can, will - them as can't, teach.' To a point its true - some of the most intelligent and gifted people I ever knew - could never have wired a three pin plug.  But they were inspirational, they were organisers, they were managers and they got things done.  

I had a conversation about career development with one such individual.  He told me one simple fact - 'Career progression has nothing to do with ability. Its certainly nothing to do with knowledge, skills and management. It's just a paper exercise based on essentials and desirables. Its all down to managing the expectations of the interviewing panel. Explain to them in some detail what they want to hear and you will get the job. Can you actually do the job - who cares!' I saw an example of such a thing with one of my late and much missed colleagues.

Periodically we would have a reorganisation, you get a new VC you get a reorganisation - a very disruptive process for staff and student body. A process, where people had to apply for their own jobs. These talented individuals had spent the last five years since the previous reorganisation on sabbaticals and personal development to top up their skill sets. This friend had to apply for his own job, but unfortunately did not make the cut. The job went elsewhere to someone who could talk the talk, but was lacking in swagger when it came to walking the walk. My friends line manager called him into his office and asked him if he could train up his replacement. It was a short and succinct answer, of two words. Unusual and very blunt for use in academia. But provided an answer that his old boss was not expecting. Here you had someone who was inspirational, tenacious, respected and admired by the students, being replaced by someone who could not do the job. But was someone who knew how to manage an interview.

It's the same with the management of the trust. After all, its the same management that managed the British Waterways into the lead up to the current maintenance black hole. It was management style based on bad decisions, belligerence, we know best and the inability to listen.  The golden hour is the phrase of used to describe the precious period of time when someone has had a stroke and the speed of treatment. One which could decide likelihood of a full recovery. The formation of the trust missed the golden hour. Because in the third sector it requires a different set of business skills.  It needed a new type of management, one armed with a skill set far beyond those of a quango rubber stamp. Somewhat prophetically, we inherited a set of useless square bollards to fit into round holes.

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