Managing an Established Facility
Operating an established facility combines together most of the other aspects and activities approached in RAMIRI, such as Human Resources (HR), legal issues or project management, and adds to it some other practical elements such as ensuring the continuity and the pressure (by the users and the management itself) for the constant development of the facility. During the RAMIRI course the topic has been addressed mainly by case examples of existing centralized or distributed RIs, through which the best practices and lessons learned have been discussed. The interaction with Industry and other collaborations as an essential part of RI must also be covered in analyzing this phase.
The Chapter aims at giving a better understanding of the characteristics of different RIs, sharing the information and how to develop the capability to combine various areas of work together to enable better management of RIs.
An important suggestion is to link and use the network of RAMIRI students and lecturers as a valuable community, which can help in future sharing of expertise and best practices.
The topics to consider vary from daily practicalities of an organization to the need for proper communication and everything in between, above and below those. It is necessary to note that the same approach does not necessarily fit to all RIs without modifications, which sets a requirement to think twice about the potential consequences before applying the suggestions and previous experiences practice. However, since running an existing facility or an industrial company have many practical things in common, many benefits can be obtained by wisely applying the lessons learned by others.
During the lifetime of a RI there are several stages from lobbing for the funding in its beginning to decommissioning the facility after tens of years. In some cases decommissioning might be replaced by re-building an upgraded facility. Whatever the stage, there is a constant need for development: people, technology, services, cost structure, organization, efficiency etc. The management of RIs needs to take this into account – being dynamic is one key requirement.
Even if things would look stable, something is constantly burning underneath. This is typical for innovative organizations where people always want to find a better way of doing things. To set the direction and also to meet the internal expectations, the target setting and strategy need to be both challenging and clearly communicated. And do not forget to get your personnel involved in making it.
Be prepared to the unexpected, make scenarios in advance to tackle the common challenges. Examples of these include a key person leaving, financial crisis, budget cuts or overloaded personnel. During the lifetime of RI these will happen and it is much better to have a plan available in advance then to start to make it in panic after the unexpected scenario materializes.
Ensure the commitment of funding bodies and customers. Make sure you serve the customers and do not consider their support automatic. Be in constant discussion with your funding and steering bodies and make sure you understand their targets. Be prepared to discuss and constructively argue about some of them in case their opinion does not sound optimal. Remember that you, as a manager and a 100% employee of the RI know probably best the overall situation, but the external advices can have a new and useful insight even if the persons giving them would not be as deeply involved.
Communication is one key topic. You need to be able to tell about your achievements in such a way that a standard politician understands it is important for society. This is ss important – but much more difficult – to make sure your internal communication works: people must know the necessary developments that are happening next door but at the same time they should not be overloaded with non-useful information.
Running a facility requires combining various things. Make sure that these work: (NOTE: This could be the list of the paragraphs of the overall Chapter?)
- Customer relations
- Stakeholder management
- Services and their development
- Decision making process
- Target setting for individual employees, groups, the whole company
- Internal communications
- Strategic planning
Training needs for RAMIRI (NOTE by CR: I would place the concepts in the following paragraph within the text of the chapter)
Some learning goals were already stated in the beginning, such as sharing of best practices and lessons learned and need for understanding the full picture. A need to build a human network – such as one formed by the colleagues in RAMIRI course – to challenge and discuss your ideas is also evident. Future training for managing an existing facility should continue to include sufficient number of different kind of case examples: centralized and distributed, national or international, single discipline or multidisciplinary etc. Role of e-infrastructure as one common key component for every kind of facility should be adequately addressed. Theme sessions about industry collaboration and other kind of collaboration should be included to give practical examples. Ensuring adequate time for discussion among the presentations is strongly encouraged.