Nieuws - 21 januari 2010

Letter tot the editor: Bonuses


When I read the Christmas message from Aalt Dijkhuizen, which I got through the post, I was reminded of Foodservice, an American company belonging to Ahold.

Spurred along by the bonus culture, one of Foodservice's directors added the purchasing discounts still to be realized in the coming year to the profits for the current year: counting his chickens before they had hatched. Indeed, that turned out to be strictly forbidden by the accounting rules.
I had the same feeling on seeing Aalt Dijkhuizen's remarks about the 'Van Hall Larenstein Ahead' (VHLV) plan. He says this plan contributed to the slightly higher score our University of Applied Sciences got in the Guide to Higher Education. However, people are still busy drawing up this plan, while the surveys for the Guide were carried out several months ago. If we have made any progress, then in my opinion that is not due to VHLV but because lecturers, support departments and facility managers were finally again able to get on with what they are paid to do - provide education - after all the chaos and uproar of recent mergers, reorganizations, relocations and teaching changes. In such a situation it is not nice when a top manager, possibly spurred on by the bonus culture at the top of Wageningen UR, tries to take the credit for results achieved by lecturers, support departments and facility managers.
Please note: the University of Applied Sciences still obtained a poor score for the aspect 'organization' in the Guide. We ought to do better. But what should we be doing? The University of Applied Sciences HAS Den Bosch, which did get a good score, shows how it should be done. A lack of hierarchy, committed, calm, patient, scrupulous attention to details rather than continually making changes. A boring and not very spectacular process, but one that is crucial and has taken many, many years. A short-term bonus culture only serves to hinder such a process.
It might be an idea to reconsider the bonus system when reappointing Wageningen UR board members. It is demotivating and also encourages the wrong priorities in top management, because it just so happens that education thrives on boredom, regularity and calm rather than yet another exciting plan for change. What we need is not one grandiose plan but lots of minor improvements.
Merijn Knibbe, Leeuwarden