Universities are populated with very intelligent staff, who all have opinions about things, and expect their opinions to be sought & listened to. This makes the institutions quite difficult to run because it’s difficult to implement anything that the staff feel hasn’t been consulted about extensively. The response to this tends to be the implementation of committees, sub-committees and working groups (and sub-working groups) about every aspect of university life, that all exist in a complex matrix that hopefully someone has a handle on.
The reason I’m mentioning this is that I’ve noticed something that I’ll call ‘Passive Aggressive Performance Management’ which has developed because whilst staff want their say, they tend to find committees a bit boring, so often look for reasons to be elsewhere. Now it’s difficult to force a professor to attend, so another way had to be found to penalise non-attendance, and the magic bullet is Action Points. There’s an indirect correlation (admittedly anecdotal rather that empirical) between attendance and number of action points – put simply – if you don’t turn up then those that do will foist all the work on you. Now we could debate whether getting the least motivated people to do most of the work is really the best long-term strategy, but it definitely encourages attendance.
Having read that you might be wondering the relevance of the title – and here’s the bit it’s relevant to. One of the 3rd year undergrads booked an appointment the other day under the name Leonardo da Vinci, which got me thinking what a careers adviser would say to the young LdV. I came to the conclusion that it would probably be along the lines of ‘It’s all very well-being interested in art and literature and science and mechanics, but if you don’t start concentrating your mind on one area you won’t achieve anything! And we’re never going to get a consistent and compelling narrative out of your CV. Clarity & Focus, Focus & Clarity – let that be your mantra, and we might just salvage something out of all your ‘potential’.’