ILRI director general Jimmy Smith (right) addresses ILRI staff in Nairobi for the first time on 3 Oct 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/Samuel Mungai).
Jimmy Smith, new director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), spent his first two weeks on the job visiting and listening to staff on both major campuses of ILRI, its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and its principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In remarks made on several occasions, Smith repeated his belief that staff are ILRI’s most important asset. But unlike many who give lip service to such change management speak, Smith has reason to mean it. In the 1990s, he served for a decade as a member of ILRI’s more far-flung staff, first in Ibadan, Nigeria, and then Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He thus has personal experience of what it’s like to be outposted and said he was making it his personal commitment to see that all staff feel an integral part of the institute.
‘I see all staff of ILRI—as well as those of our sister centres and partners of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)—on all our campuses as part of our family and feeling themselves to be so.’
At his first coffee morning meeting with staff at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, Smith also said the following.
‘I came here to build on what ILRI has already accomplished through its former director general, Carlos Seré, and his teams.
‘We have 2 billion more people to feed by 2050 and we already have 1 billion hungry people today. We must deliver.
‘The future is in our hands to make ILRI and the CGIAR live up to our promise to eliminate hunger and poverty.
‘I’ll be talking with you about where we go in the future to become a truly world-class global livestock institute known for its work to reduce hunger and poverty.
‘With this change of senior management, some staff may feel somewhat apprehensive. I promise you there’s nothing ILRI is doing now that I don’t value. But there is much we can do even better.
‘Our mission is urgent. Our research must deliver. And we have to become more efficient as well as more effective.
‘I don’t promise you business as usual. I promise you, rather, a commitment to integrity, performance and change.
‘And I’m counting on all of you to be my partners in this.’