Olympic Fever

More by accident than design, I returned from my annual vacation just in time to see the start of London 2012. Although I have played and enjoyed sport all my life (and have dodgy knees to prove it), I must confess to be one of the many skeptics that wondered if the colossal expense was justified, given the economic gloom.  However, after watching some remarkable performances from Team GB, I’m happy to concede that I was wrong. Seeing some of the most amazing achievements in recent years, such as Mo Farah’s incredible double-gold, I realised that I was seeing the fruits of many years hard work and sacrifice on behalf of the individuals involved, in order to be the best – I salute them all.

Closer to home, and at the risk of sounding corny, there are interesting parallels with what we are trying to achieve at NU. I’m not suggesting we all need to run 120 miles per week, but it’s worth analysing what it takes to reach the top. Firstly, there is an emphasis on the basics. So if you are  a tennis player like Andy Murray, you need to get the basic principles of your strokes right, so when under severe pressure they don’t break down. In essence the mechanics work subconsciously (or unfortunately very consciously in my efforts to play that frustrating game 🙂 ) . Then there is the need to extend outside your ‘comfort-zone’ – no pain, no gain as they say. Importantly, you can monitor your progress through competitive events. Why competitive? – “the best” meaning of course “better than the rest”.  If you fail to win anything then you need to go back to basics and ask what’s going wrong.

There is also a hard-edge to our Olympics successes. It is widely acknowledged that our achievements can be attributed in significant part to the injection of Lottery Funds into UK sport. In the post-Olympics analysis, those sports that failed to achieve the expected outcomes might find it harder to secure these funds in the future, which is all about focus.  In essence if you receive financial investment than you need to deliver – sound familiar?

Back in March I wrote a blog entitled ‘Strategy into Action’, where I suggested that for the forseeable future we need to focus on the basics, namely research excellence and a high quality student experience. Ultimately we will see whether we got the basics right in research through REF2014. We also have a ‘health-check’ along the way, namely our own Internal Quality Assessment, the most recent being IQA2. In learning & teaching we have the NSS scores to help us judge if we are moving in the right direction. These are two examples of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that I mentioned previously. It so happens that these are arguably the most important measures for SAgE at the current time. In fact they are so important that I am planning to hold a series of  open meetings during the next academic session for all staff in SAgE, to explain our current position with respect to these KPIs and where we would like to be at various stages on the road to Vision 2021. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions of me and other Senior Managers in the Faculty. Each meeting will have an identical agenda and format so hopefully everyone will be able to attend one of them despite busy diaries. I look forward to seeing you!


About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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