The significance of the unglamorous
When you think of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), its service units are certainly not among the first that come to mind. However, without the unremitting work of more than 150 employees in the central administration performing unglamorous tasks, the Robert Koch Institute would simply not be functional: concluding employment contracts, calculating salaries, placing orders, paying bills, securing third-party funding, maintaining buildings, water and power supplies, planning and building new laboratories, providing everyday hardand software for everyone as well as highly specialized applications for laboratories and other number-crunching units, messaging, receiving and distributing laboratory samples, cleaning, carpool service, sterilizing laboratory equipment, or processing telephone calls. These are only some of the numerous tasks of our Central Services Department.
In general, public administration is all about putting laws in action to better serve the public. For the Central Service Department at the Robert Koch Institute, this means providing the best possible environment and the best service available for our scientific departments while strictly observing and sometimes implementing rules and regulations.
125 years of central administration: from authority to service The rich history of the Robert Koch Institute is also reflected in its central administration department. The administration’s understanding of its function has changed significantly from authoritarian Wilhelminian time to more participatory approaches and a closer proximity to citizens. In recent years, we have arrived at a modern, service-oriented self-conception, which is characterised by flat hierarchies and team-orientation and which we are eager to constantly develop further.
Nevertheless, tensions between our obligation to comply with laws, rules, regulations and budgetary restraints, and the ever-evolving demands of a spirited, dynamic research institute are inevitable and provide new challenges. We do what we think we have learned best: to manage between the two poles as best as we can, to anticipate new demands to the best of our ability, and to still maintain our good spirits. The following will give a brief overview of how we are trying to achieve this in everyday practice – from the perspective of the head of department and each of our five units – human resources; budget & procurement; construction, physical plant & technology; information technology (IT) and organization, and internal services – in the following chapters.
Smooth running: the Central Services Department today
Our five units manage and maintain the assets, financial and personnel resources of the RKI and provide the necessary services and infrastructure for the four scientific departments, project groups, junior research groups and – last but not least – the management staff.
Our main goal is to ensure the smooth running of the scientific departments according to the specifications of the president in compliance with legal and financial rules and limitations.
The Central Service Department represents the interface between the general framework of the federal administration and the specific conditions, demands and challenges of a federal departmental, but nevertheless progressive and dynamic research institute.
All rules and regulations of a higher federal authority apply directly to the Robert Koch Institute. They are the foundation of all our actions, and it is our task to communicate these to our researchers and executives in order to ensure legal conformity.
On the other hand, we do our best to meet the expectations of our specialised departments, who wish to recruit new personnel, procure consumables, place orders, raise and use external funding, be provided with a good IT-equipment and who wish to utilise state-of-the-art, smoothly running laboratories and laboratory services as effectively and, of course, as soon as possible.
It is our duty to strictly observe public services and collective bargaining laws, the federal budget code, procurement laws, laws and regulations, occupational health and safety as well as technical regulations. However, the demands of our scientific colleagues often ask for a high degree of flexibility. Although it is not always easy for us to bridge this gap, it is our policy to utilise all the available room to manoeuvre we can take responsibility for. We might even say at times that we welcome these challenges, because they enhance our own knowledge and performance.
The Central Services Department recruits and attends to the personnel of the entire institute and provides the financial budgets for the scientific departments according to the specifications of the president. We procure goods, supplies and services, provide infrastructure and logistics, and maintain the premises. An important task is to ensure the operability of laboratory equipment and building technology. We also make modern and safe communication technology available, as well as special IT required for laboratory equipment. The internal organisation must be structured effectively by systematic, transparent and lean business processes.
Our department prepares information, bases for decisions and tools for the president regarding the allocation of human resources, budgets and the use of buildings. The necessity of an effective resource management and long-term planning becomes ever more crucial under the double conditions of limited financial resources and dynamic scientific research. At the same time, we have to maintain the leeway for the president to act and make decisions to the best of our ability.
Based on the RKI-leitmotif “protecting health, assessing risks”, we have developed our own complementary mission statement that guides our daily actions and sets the standards for our management and our executives: we act efficiently and shape the change.
This mission statement is based on an identity consisting of seven guiding principles:
- We meet demands; work flexible and result-oriented, always complying with regulatory frameworks and budgetary conditions.
- We maintain a high level of expertise; we work on schedule, anticipatory, and we communicate efficiently.
- We are a socially competent team and set high value on friendly and courteous demeanour.
- We act transparently on the basis of structured business processes, well-grounded decisions and all necessary information.
- We act efficiently and cost-effectively.
- We provide the technical and organisational infrastructure. Ω We improve ourselves constantly and optimise our quality of service. www.rki.de/zv-en