John Charnley: running an RAE department

John Charnley describes some of issues in running an RAE department.

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It was my job as the department head to make sure that the project people were taking full advantage of whatever was going on in the research areas, to make sure – and also if they had any problems in the project areas, to make sure that the research people were involved in solving those with whatever they could come up with. Now down at the working level, down in the labs, there wasn’t really a problem at all. When you got to the two people running – running it, then they were each looking after their own corner. How do you manage that? You understand the strengths and weaknesses of the characters and you do your best to solve the – or avoid the weaknesses and use their strengths. And, you know, this is just part of the – wherever you are, of organising – of working – getting people to work together, by recognising the strengths they have and the weaknesses and doing your best to make sure that, if you’ve got a place where the strength of one is the weakness of the other, then for God’s sake don’t let that boil into a really serious issue. And you – and you get into the detail of talking straight with one of them, saying, ‘Look, look, look, you’re going too far, back off,’ or, you know – and you can do that informally. You can be conscious that their staffs are aware that this problem might exist. They can – the staffs will be aware that on a particular issue it might become serious. They might know it – that there is this – these are two different people and therefore this problem is likely to arise, but then it does arise and at that stage, that’s where you have to take a strong line. The simple answer is understanding the two people concerned and the jobs they’re supposed to do. You’ve defined what your impression is of where the limits are and within those limits, fine. But once you get close to the point of almost exceeding them then beware and recognise beforehand that there might be some sorting to do and then some straight talking.

  • Interviewee John Charnley
  • Duration 00:02:36
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 11/24/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/30

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