Lasse Kannas: Strategy − a navigator for faculties

We at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences have recently worked out our strategy.The purpose was to recognise and define the core fields of our future activities and to formulate a vision for the faculty’s ambition.

At its best, the strategy work was a very interesting and useful learning process.To find a consensus, we had collective dialogue in numerous workshops, discussion events and meetings.And inevitably, on top of the official process, there were many animated coffee break discussions!

In my opinion, the process of successfully working out the strategy was as valuable an experience as the end result formulated in texts and presentations. Our vision is recorded in the operating and financial plan and the performance agreement, and our areas of research strength are prominently displayed in the University’s profiling applications.

The current development ideology of universities emphasises the reinforcement of existing strengths, especially in research. This is a good thing. However, attention should also be paid to future societal demand, impact and new innovations, even the risky ones. Alongside research, this would make educational innovations and the production of competence that anticipates future needs more visible when additional euros are handed out.

The strategy life cycle is relatively short, so the updating process should be flexible and agile. For example, today I would supplement our faculty’s strategy with a core field for steering the development of research and education so that it highlights societal impact. This did not come up sufficiently in our strategy work. I would formulate it as follows: “Exercise and health promotion, and changes of the sport culture, physical activity and health literacy”.

We should not compromise on any of the ambitious goals of our vision, which we have created together: “The Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences is one of the world’s leading educators of physical and health education teachers and physical activity experts. It is also among the world’s leading research centers in the promotion of physical activity and health.”

Naturally, a critical scientific community also includes people who look down on strategy work. Instead of disdain, I would recommend active and constructive participation in order to promote the future endeavours of the scientific community. Along with research and pedagogical skills, the ability and readiness to consider and discuss strategy-related questions should be among the basic skills of those in the university community. 

We cannot sail into the future without setting a course. We should use the strategy like a navigating device: locate the starting point, define the destination and select the route. Simple, isn’t it?

Pondering strategies and academic leadership have a way of dividing opinion.Personally, I have liked and enjoyed both very much.

I am thankful for my years as a dean.


Lasse Kannas, Dean of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences 1989–1990, 2005–2017