Published: 20-12-2023 15:59 | Updated: 21-12-2023 12:25

KI´s president on the focus areas "We must dare to tackle the complex issues"

portrait Annika Östman Wernerson
"There are no easy solutions, or we would already have introduced them," says Annika Östman Wernerson. Photo: Erik Flyg.

In the fall of 2023, the university management presented nine focus areas for KI's future development, major issues that affect all employees and students at KI. "Our conscious strategy has been to try to listen to and understand what Karolinska Institutet needs here and now," says President Annika Östman Wernerson.

There are lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, says Annika Östman Wernerson, but also issues that have been overlooked and now need to be addressed.

"It is important that we continue to develop our cooperation with other actors in society, because what does not work when there is peace and quiet will not work when there is a crisis. Our relationship with healthcare and Region Stockholm is particularly important," she says.

The focus areas are based on KI's vision and strategy 2030 and will fulfill KI's vision: to drive the development of knowledge about life and work for better health for all. If the strategy describes the entirety of what KI wants to achieve, the focus areas can be said to be more of a "how".

They relate, for example, to finances, resource allocation, skills supply, utilisation of shared resources and premises, and KI's operational support. A changing environment places greater demands on security work and efforts to ensure KI's visibility and relevance in society.

Experiencing the same type of problems

The nine focus areas have emerged during open dialogue meetings and seminars with heads of department and administrative managers, the faculty board, faculty councils and meetings with students that the university management has had during its first months. Annika Östman Wernerson took over as President in March, as did Pro-Rector Martin Bergö, and in April, University Director Veronika Sundström started.

The picture that KI's new management took away from all the meetings was so consistent that Annika Östman Wernerson was surprised. Many employees at KI experience the same type of problems.

"Among other things, it is about how KI can achieve more effective governance with higher quality decisions and a well-functioning flow of information, from KI's advisory and decision-making structures to departments and employees," she says.

Equally important is a well-functioning feedback from the departments to management, both regarding challenges in the operations and things that work well.

"We need to ensure that the right people are involved in the right context and need to work more proactively so that we don't have to solve the same type of problem over and over again. This requires us to be good at listening to our staff and understanding their challenges. We also need to move from words to action and be a clear leader," says Annika Östman Wernerson.

No easy solutions

The focus areas describe what KI needs to work on for a robust operation with sustainable institutions and satisfied employees also in the future. This will provide a strong and good foundation so that Karolinska Institutet can deliver high quality research and education and continue to be an important voice in society.

However, working on large and cross-cutting issues is rarely a simple matter. Although there is now a picture of what KI needs to address, this does not mean that everyone agrees on the right way forward.

"There are no easy solutions, or we would already have introduced them. We must dare to tackle the complex issues, discuss them, find out whether things need to change and, if so, make decisions," says Annika Östman Wernerson.

From her previous assignments as vice-rector and dean, she has experience of achieving results. Words such as systematics, determination and openness recur when she describes how she envisions the work going forward.

"KI needs solutions that are anchored and that we can make understandable. We in management must be able to answer why we are implementing a certain change. Then we will hopefully get a large part of the organization on board. Those who do not agree with the choice we make may still understand that it is a difficult and necessary choice."

Everyone's responsibility

In 2024, the work with the focus areas will move into an active phase, where a timetable, a person responsible and a process for anchoring will be developed for each one.

"I hope that KI's employees are already noticing that change is happening. One of the focus areas is increased dialog and transparency. I also think that everyone who works at KI has a responsibility to consider how we can contribute to this work for our future," says Annika Östman Wernerson.