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The President of CBS answers criticism from the HSU and Academic Council about strategy approval behind closed doors

CBS building

Foto: Anna Holte

At two meetings with the General Consultation Committee (HSU) and the Academic Council, the President of CBS answered criticism about the absence of involvement in the final stages of the strategy process up to the CBS Board Meeting on June 29. Members of the two collegial organs still lack a good explanation as to why the decision was made to finalize the strategy in secret, and expect more involvement in the strategy process going forward.

News |   21. Sep 2020

Anne Thora Lykkegaard


Several points of criticism were to be discussed when the President of CBS, Nikolaj Malchow-Møller, met with the General Consultation Committee (HSU) and the Academic Council on September 8 and 9.

The employee representatives of the HSU and the Academic Council have sent separate letters to the President of CBS in which they criticize the decision to finalize CBS’ new strategy in confidentiality at a CBS Board Meeting on June 29.

Moreover, they criticize that they were not given the document ‘Elaboration of Core Priorities’, which was decisive for the strategy being approved at the CBS Board Meeting held on June 29, prior to the meeting. The document was not shared with the HSU, the Academic Council, or the remaining CBS employees and students until August 20.

Both of the collegial organs agree that their exclusion from the final stages of the strategy approval process contravenes CBS bylaws and is a breach of section 3 of the Cooperation Agreement.

At the two meetings with the HSU and Academic Council held on September 8 and 9, Nikolaj Malchow-Møller responded to the criticism, and writes in an email to CBS WIRE that he does not agree with the criticism.

“Our strategy, which was already available at the Board Meeting on June 3, and was adopted unamended at the extraordinary Board Meeting on June 29, has been through a comprehensive hearing at CBS. I therefore do not agree with the criticism that has been raised – and subsequently discussed at meetings of the Academic Council and the General Consultation Committee. The strategy process at CBS is based on involvement, as well as knowledge and insight from the entire organization, and the process has complied all the way through with the Bylaws of CBS.”

On September 16, however, the Senior Management issued a statement on CBS Share specifically about the status of the elaboration document.

“In Senior Management, we recognize that this document could be mistaken for an approved action plan. However, this is not the case,” the statement says and is followed by a comment from Nikolaj Malchow-Møller.

“To guide the discussion, the Board asked Senior Management to detail our preliminary thoughts about how the strategic ambition could be fleshed out and turned into concrete action. The document (“Elaboration of core priorities”) is our response to that request by the Board and was presented at the meeting late June.”

CBS WIRE asked the President of CBS why the item about the approval of the strategy was dealt with behind closed doors at the CBS Board Meeting on June 29. Nikolaj Malchow-Møller did not wish to answer.

The statement from September 16 on CBS Share says:

“As you perhaps recall, we had hoped for the Board’s approval of our new CBS strategy by June 3, but instead the Board needed more time to discuss their joint understanding of the strategy behind closed doors.”

“It’s not acceptable”

CBS WIRE has talked to members of the HSU and the Chair of the Academic Council to hear their responses to the meetings held with the President of CBS.

Ole Helmersen, Senior Shop Steward and member of the HSU, points out that the strategy process has generally been running really well, but the fact that the final step towards approval of the strategy was made a confidential item on the Board’s agenda, has had “a drastic effect on the organization and has severely damaged many employees’ trust in senior management and the Board”.

“It’s a real source of irritation that when the strategy is to be finalized and become concrete with action plans that, as they are described may well lead to major changes that will affect CBS’ employees, it’s discussed behind closed doors. It generates a pronounced reaction,” he says.

Ole Helmersen explains that the HSU explained to the Senior Management that they did not understand why the item about the strategy had to be confidential, and after the meeting that point remained unclear.

“I don’t think we received a satisfactory explanation,” he says

Like Ole Helmersen, Morten Knudsen, Associate Professor and member of the HSU, also feels he has not been given a good explanation.

“Having a Board that keeps things secret is not acceptable at a public institution, especially not when it’s about a strategy for the entire organization,” he says.

Morten Knudsen finds that the whole process has left CBS without a common understanding of the new strategy.

“As there is no common understanding of the strategy, it will in effect be decided backwards. We will only understand the strategy when we see the kind of projects the Senior Management and the Board will support. Based on ideals of staff involvement and informed decision-making this is of course less than satisfying,” he says.

There’s a burden of proof with the Senior Management and the President of CBS regarding how the process should continue

Ole Helmersen

Ole Helmersen emphasizes the necessity of having an inclusive management and Board during such processes.

“CBS is its employees’ workplace and students’ place of study. There are laws and bylaws on co-participation and co-influence for the employees. Therefore, the Board should not set about discussing the future of the workplace in a matter as important as a new strategy with the Senior Management in confidentiality. If one does not understand that, one has no legitimacy as a Board,” he says, and hopes that the Senior Management listened to the criticism and will not treat similar cases in confidentiality again.

Tine Løvig Simonsen, senior shop steward for technical-administrative staff and a member of the HSU, was also present at the HSU meeting on September 8 and explains that she left the meeting with a feeling of being heard.

“The President of CBS acknowledged that it had not been an optimal process. The HSU emphasized that at CBS, transparency and dialogue are important, and we would like the Senior Management to discuss that with the Board of CBS, so that we can keep the good tradition of employee involvement,” she says.

Moving forward

On September 2, the Academic Council sent an open letter to the Senior Management and the Chairman of the Board of CBS with its critique of the process. The letter is also published on CBS Share for all CBS employees to read, and the content was up for discussion at the Academic Council meeting on September 9.

Kristian Miltersen, Chair of the Academic Council, explains in an email to CBS WIRE that the members had a “good and long dialogue about the process” at the meeting.

“We believe that, going forward, we will be involved earlier and more, and will also receive the relevant information in due time so that we can give relevant advice – in particular, during the implementation phase of the strategy process,” he writes.

Now that the strategy has been approved, the major implementation awaits, and with the coming process in mind, Ole Helmersen hopes that the organization can put what has happened behind it and move on.

“There’s a burden of proof with the Senior Management and the President of CBS regarding how the process should continue. At the HSU, we will keep an eye on the process and engage in it, as strategic plans are hardly carried out without changes that can affect the employees,” he says.


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