Monday, 22 September 2008

HeadCamp: managment training for academic leaders

Snedders! What is going on with that new initiative I started to train our future heads of department in effective modern management practices?
Ah yes vice chancellor, HeadCamp, we have been doing that in conjunction with the Higher Education Leadership Foundation. It is very popular.
It may be popular Sneddling but it sounds to me like it has turned in to a popular rebellion. I had Albert Ross, the Head of Financial Strategy and Strategic Procurement, in here yesterday. He went to give a talk to the HeadCamp course on the importance of strict financial procedures and they savaged him. He has had to go on sick leave with stress related illness!
Well Vice Chancellor, as you remember he did preside over some IT procurement disasters that would put the National Health Service to shame. You do remember the on line calendar software fiasco? That cost us so much we could have paid for a secretary to follow all our senior staff around with a filofax and a mobile phone to make their appointments for the next three years. And there was the timetabling software?
Never mind that Smedling, what about this list of project titles I have been given from HeadCamp students? I am meant to go and listen to their presentations and shake their hands politely, but looks at them: "How to performance manage your vice chancellor and deans", "Circumventing university bureaucracy to get the job done", "Ten secrets of the master cat herders: a study of succesful academic department heads", "Great to Good: the failure of leadership at Funcaster", "The autonomy of the professoriat as a key performance indicator, a study of globally successful universities", "Sun Tzo's 'The Art of War' and choosing your battles with your dean". It sounds to me more like "Head Case" than "Head Camp". I conceived this course as a kind of mini-MBA to instil management values in to our senior academics. Instead it has turned in to a kind of terrorist training camp for rebellious academics fermenting revolution!
That is putting it a bit strongly Sir, after all modern leadership and management training is meant to encourage "thinking outside the box".
OUTSIDE THE BOX SNODDLING! These people are so far our of the box they are way beyond the ball park in the meadow painting daisies on their faces and sitting in circles singing and playing guitars.
You seem to be mixing your metaphors Vice Chancellor. Are you saying they are more like Al-Quaida or Greenaham Women?
Both Snodders! Like a dangerous insidious mixture of guardian-reading gun-totting bomb-throwing bearded hippy revolutionaries. Why can't they just get themselves some sharp suits and a blackberry and fall in to line?
But they are academics vice chancellor. We pay them to think.

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Adam Upwrite is Professor of Creative Accounting at the University of Middle England. His Registrar's Diary is about a fictional registrar and an equally fictional English university.