Reflections Of A New Department Chair

Our semester is quickly ending. I think the way I am feeling right now is similar to how other faculty are feeling, exhausted. Every year at this time I always think back to the moment when I retired from Boeing and told our Academic Dean, my boss, that I could hardly wait to start full time at Warner Pacific, and maybe slow down a bit. Every year I reflect how wrong I was. I truly am working harder as a professor, and now department chair, than I ever did at Boeing. However, I am having so much more fun and feel much more fulfilled. I thought that I would take a few moments and reflect specifically on being the department chair of the business department.

I began the job August of last year. It was a little messy start, but I think as a department we accomplished a few things. During the Spring of 2013 we had an external review of our Business program at Warner Pacific. The external panel came back with several recommendations. Our department has acted upon those recommendations, and have initiated many of the changes, such as the revision of our traditional program and the distribution of responsibilities so each of do not have to work as hard. The last is still a work in progress.

I don’t want to bore you with a break down on all the changes but I do want to reflect on the role I have played this year. My performance was mixed: some things I think I did well while others not so well.

Think first, and talk later is one of the tips Barry Glassner and Morton Schapiro gave to College Presidents and CEO’s in the April 29th WSJ. I have tried to be a little more deliberate in decisions and what the “words are that are coming out of mouth,” but I am still talking too quickly. This has caused me to back track a bit at times. This may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Talk less and listen more. I agree with the author’s point that when a leader comes from the outside they need to take time to learn the idiosyncrasies of the culture, but in our case we needed to act quickly. This led to some hurt feelings, but we needed to move forward.

Show up. There are many different responsibilities that are associated with the department chair. Each group of people connected with those responsibilities want to hear directly from you. An email will never be as affective as a face-to-face encounter. This is an important lesson I have learned.

Engage veteran employees. Glassner and Schapiro said, “Spend time with those who have devoted their lives to the place, leaving their mark on future generations.” I have learned that those veterans may not be in one’s own department, but they will be a part of the organization. We also need to filter this by the needs of the moment. Those veterans may be the ones who have caused the problems that you are facing and will be defensive and resistant to change. However, at least in my case, there were many veterans outside of my department who gave me wonderful advice on how to deal with our situation.

Don’t ignore the staff. These individuals are the unrecognized heroes of our organization. The support folks make what we do possible. The academic advisers at our adult program, the people in admissions on our traditional campus, and so many more ensure that our Business program grows and is strong. I salute them and always thank them for their work.

The customer wants to be consulted. In our case the customer is our student. There is a difference between asking students what they think and students whining because something is too hard or they don’t like a professor. When students work hard I am more willing to listen to their whining than if they are feeling entitled because they are paying for their education. However, I think it is important to listen to the student and what they think. It does help your classes to become better.

Answer nearly all messages. I do try to answer all my emails. There are some that fall through the cracks, but I am working on this. I also try to answer messages face-to-face whenever possible.

The last two recommendations that I want to address are two sides of the same coin. Don’t take things personally and never believe the hype. Any leader, pastor, teacher, or manager, will always be someone’s lunch. People will whine, complain, and gossip about you. Don’t take those things personally. If you do, it will destroy you. “Many of the most spirited attacks have more to do with the attacker than with you.” On the other hand, those that like what you are doing will tell you that you are their favorite whatever. That pedestal is easy to fall from. Be careful and don’t believe the hype because if you do you will lose perspective. The Apostle Paul warns us, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” And Proverbs 16:18 “ Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”

And that is my thought for the day!

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Marx, Inequality, And Capitalism

Earlier in one of my blogs, I mentioned that I have been eating, drinking, and sleeping entrepreneurism; specially, social entrepreneurism, and even more accurately, the power of business to create positive social change. I know that dogmatic classical economic thinkers, such as Milton Friedman, would cringe at the thought of mixing business with social change, but if we don’t we have missed an incredible opportunity.

Let me remind you of what I don’t think works. First, large government and never ending increasing taxes that make people rely on government. I think that is counter-productive and encourages an entitlement mentality that stifles productivity. Second, ever increasing large scale corporatism that is unfettered and free to exploit the masses. I will explain this part a bit more in a moment.

So now that I have ticked off both sides in this process, I’ll explain why I am in the middle. I am a firm believer that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle between two extremes. So, the large government people are wrong, and the large business people are wrong.

I will continue my point with an economic discussion focused on reducing income inequality. Thomas Piketty makes a comment in his book Capital in the Twenty-first Century, “Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, as Karl Marx believed in the nineteenth century? Or do the balancing forces of growth, competition, and technological progress lead in later development to reduced inequality and greater harmony among the classes, as Simon Kuznets thought in the twentieth century?” I have been pondering these two questions, and have settled on my original conclusion that the truth is somewhere in the middle, although I lean towards Simon Kuznets conclusion.

I am enjoying Picketty’s book, and his economic nuggets are incredible. “When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” Why does this happen? Return on capital usually goes to the owner’s of the capital, and the growth in output and income is usually more dispersed to the mass. Thus, when the return on capital is high it increases the wealth of the few, while a growing economy resulting in more people working distributes wealth to more people.

Because our economy has grown along with the income of workers, there has been a greater distribution of the wealth. Thus, the “Modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have made it possible to avoid the Marxist apocalypse, but have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality.”

The phrase “Marxist Apocalypse” refers to Marx’s conclusion that capital accumulation narrows to fewer and fewer owners. Piketty describes this as the “principle of infinite accumulation.” What specifically does this mean? It means there is a tendency for “capital to accumulate and become concentrated in even fewer hands with no natural limit to the process.” Remember the old saying it takes money to make money? This is what Marx was alluding too.

I have read the Communist Manifesto which begins with the ominous words, “A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.” And I do find value in Marx’s economic discussion, but his political comments are incorrect and have failed in history. “The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

Why didn’t this happen? Why did Marx’s political prophecies fail? I think Piketty hits the nail on the head. “Like his predecessors, Marx totally neglected the possibility of durable technological progress and steadily increasing productivity, which is a force that can to some extent serve as a counterweight to the process of accumulation and concentration of private capital.”

Two years ago I wrote and published a paper entitled, “A Managerial Response to the Marxist Critique of Capitalism.” My premise was based within the idea that we must pay attention and fight against the excesses of Capitalism. Capitalism is amoral, it is an economic system, one that works well within a free society. However, as noted above, when certain conditions exist the return on capital becomes centralized, and this is what we need to be aware of. If we aren’t the specter will return, and then we may experience the revolution that Marx thought would happen.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Good Strategy + Good Execution = Good Management

The title of today’s blog is an equation I use in my Strategic Management course. As we progress through the semester I will continually return the this equation to make sure the students see the importance of good planning, in other words applying a thoughtful engaged planning process to the needs of the organization. During the semester discuss planning tools such as PESTEL, Porter’s Five Forces Model, VRINE, SWOT and others that help leadership make sense of the environment and industry within which they compete. VRINE and SWOT are tools that help leadership understand their own capabilities and resources and properly apply those resources and capabilities within their chosen markets.

But a good plan is nothing unless it is expeditiously implemented. Execution of said plan will determine the sustainability of their economic or social endeavor, while ensuring the business model is effective and efficient. This means the company is being well managed. There are many examples of companies that are well led, poorly led, or just plain lucky, but today I want to focus on one leader who has done a great job planning, organizing, leading and controlling a company. Alan Mulally, an ex-Boeing person, has done an excellent job leading the Ford Company, but will be retiring soon, but not before he has “shifted Ford to a stronger course.”

Neal Boudette, Christina Rogers, and Joann Lublin wrote about Mulally this week in the Wall Street Journal, reminding me what good leadership looks like. “Alan Mullaly arrived at Ford in 2006 with no experience in the auto industry. After eight years at the helm, the 68 year-old Kansan is preparing to retire with a reputation as one of the best chief executives the industry has seen in a generation.” Wow, pretty high praise. So my question, what did he do?

Well, obviously profitability must be a part of the measure. Ford is doing better economically than it ever has in its history: $42 billion in profits over the last five years. Not bad! With that much in profit the return to investors is probably good. What about long term growth measured by market value of the company? In other words, how much is the company worth based on its stock price? “Its market value is more than $63 billion, and increase of $48 billion since he arrived.” If I am an investor in Ford; then I am pretty happy because I am getting income and growth from my investment.

Whenever I look at leadership effectiveness, I look at what happens after the leader leaves. In other words, what has the leader done to ensure the company is better off after they leave? What kind of succession plan is in place? Is the business healthy and will it continue to be healthy after the leader leaves? In the case of Mulally he is leaving the business healthy and with a good successor following in his footsteps.

The company’s streamlined product mix sells well throughout the world. The combination of cars and trucks are popular, and the Ford truck is the number one seller in the world. But what about people? How did he do in this category?

“When he arrived at Ford after 37 years at Boeing, Mr. Mulally broke down regional rivalries that had divided the company for decades, quietly demanding and rewarding accountability from his lieutenants.” He did what he did at Boeing, instituted weekly meetings where each manager reported progress in their area of responsibility with color-coded charts. Green is good, yellow is cautionary, and red is bad. He developed new methods of control while creating a better environment for creativity and honesty.

There is a great example of Mulally’s creation of an environment of trust and accountability at Ford. Mark Fields, who will be Mulally’s successor, confessed in one of these meetings that his sports utility program was in the red. Mulally could have berated him in public for this disclosure, but instead he applauded, reinforcing an environment of trust and innovation, instead of one that hides problems, which is what was done before.

Mulally believed in one Ford, one plan, and it appears that his process worked. He was asked if he is worried that when he leaves Ford will go back to the way it was. His comment reflects the eighth step in John Kotter’s change model, anchor the change in the culture of the organization. “Mr. Mulally said in a recent interview that he wasn’t worried about the auto maker going back to its old ways. Rather, he said, he was excited about the institutionalizing of our management system inside Ford.”

I think Ford is a better company because of the Leadership of Alan Mulally. And I believe that Mark Fields, his successor, will not only carry on the new management system, but will make it even better. Why do I say that? Because good planning, and good execution, means good management. And that is what Alan Mulally did at Boeing and at Ford.

And that is my thought for the day!

Curmudgeons

Isn’t the word curmudgeon interesting? It is a word that describes a bad tempered surely person. It is usually applied to grumpy old men, “who have crotchety opinions.” I have just found out there is a book titled, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead.” It sounds interesting, but I don’t plan on buying it.

The book supposedly demonstrates to people just out of college how to adjust to a workplace controlled by curmudgeons. As I read the description of this book, I have concluded it is just another book attempting to help young people adapt to a workplace controlled by the previous generation. The people that make up the old guard are those “who are inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture,” and who are not afraid to make decisions that affect the young positively or negatively based upon this grumpiness.

The words of encouragement the author gives are nothing new. Be careful with language. This is just as true now, as it was forty years ago when I was just starting out. Second, think about how you address someone in authority. Don’t call them by their first name unless they have approved the use of their first name. Personally I think that one just may be a good thing to do.

You also need to be careful with slang. Don’t use popular vernacular, such as “no problem,” sharing, reaching out, and other so called vogue words. I do think these words represent mindless comments that are not well thought out. This gives an indication that a particular young person is superficial and not truly committed to anything.

The author of the above mentioned book “suggests that the privileged young would do well to get outside of their own social class and discover a world beyond the one in which they were raised.” This comment sounds like what a curmudgeon would say, which gives me an indication that the author is probably a curmudgeon. I have this picture in my mind that he is sitting on his front porch complaining of how they don’t have the experience needed for the workplace to be successful. Yelling out at the top of his lungs, the youth of today are spoiled , and they don’t have what it takes to be successful.

I have worked with many curmudgeons in my day. I always tried to win them over through hard work, but sometimes the curmudgeon wins out. However, I think there are critical actions that can lead to a successful career, no matter how old you are.

How you talk, how you treat others, and how you do your work are three important ways that you can win over the curmudgeons of the organization. I do think that doing your job well can cover a multitude of sins. I also think that treating others with respect can repair many difficult relationships. Overcoming negative thinking with good thinking can be done, even when someone is very young and the grumpy one is very old. And as the writer of this book mentions, “Being nice is not enough.” Good encompasses “the cardinal virtues, courage, justice, temperance and prudence.” The young person who exercises these practices can overcome the curmudgeons of life.

I do like the last paragraph of the article. “If I were allowed to advise the young on the good life, the only advice I would have for them is to forget about happiness. In my fleeting glimpses of it, the good life has a great deal to do with contentment and satisfaction and – forgive me if I sound too curmudgeonly – nothing whatsoever to do with that fool’s gold called happiness.” I could not agree more hardily. Life is hard, we have our ups and our downs, and we learn along the way. That is what makes it so good.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Three Social Deficits And Boeing

This has been a very fast school year. Our department has accomplished quite a bit, but with all of the activity time flew by. I am looking forward to several months of reading, writing, and playing golf. One of the books I am reading is entitled “The New Capitalism” by Richard Sennett. He has written other books that I have enjoyed, but some colleagues mentioned this one to me. These colleagues and I plan on having conversations this summer about this book.

Sennett identifies three social deficiencies that are a result of this new capitalism. According to Sennett low institutional loyalty, diminishment of informal trust, and the weakening of institutional knowledge are a result of the empty promises of this new economic system. “The apostles of the new capitalism argue that their version of these three subjects – work, talent, consumption – adds up to more freedom in modern society, a fluid freedom, a liquid modernity in the apt phrase of the philosopher Zygmunt Bautman.” Sennett counters this with his point that this new capitalism does not create more freedom but less for people, and I would add more for the company.

Sennett then applies his ideas to the concept of social capital. We can think of social capital as the good feelings one has about the group – society in general or the group we belong too. Robert Putnam applies this to ones willingness to be involved, will others apply social capital to “family, education, and labor.” I agree with Sennett when he describes social capital as “low when people decide their engagements are of poor quality, high when people believe their associations are good quality.” I always this of it as a bank of good feelings; I can make deposits or make withdrawals, deposits make my world better, withdrawals make my world worse.

The first social deficit is low institutional loyalty. All of us agree that one’s loyalty to the company they work for is at an all time low. I don’t think this is just a generational characteristic; it is a response to specific causes. I do think that loyalty, at some level, is necessary for company longevity.

Sennett’s second social deficit, involves trust. I do agree with him that trust comes in two components formal and informal. I think our current systems do support strong formal, or contractual trust, as evidenced by our social agreements. 99% of formal agreements are completed as agreed upon. However, informal trust, which involves reliance on another to have your back, is a bit suspect, especially involving the relationship between company and employee. Patrick Lencioni in his famous book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” notes that trust is one of the most important factors associated with team performance.

The third social deficit, according to Sennett, involves the “weakening of institutional knowledge.” However, I would call this tribal or tacit knowledge. In any given situation there is the codified way of doing something, and then there is the way it really gets done. There are the rules, but often the written does not reflect what really occurs. With retiring baby boomers, this tribal knowledge is heading out the door. Companies therefore are trying to codify this knowledge before the old-timers leave. The only problem with this is that the process of codification eliminates the ownership and spontaneity that usually accompanies the exploration of finding better ways of accomplishing things.

I think the current situation at Boeing illustrates this very well. Boeing is a large corporation that needs to constantly change to stay connected with the environment. Political situations are changing, economics are evolving, new technology is emerging, the environment needs to be protected, and the legal requirements are becoming more complicated everyday. To deal with this Boeing is changing its systems.

The IAM, International Association of Machinists, had to approve a less that optimal contract. SPEEA, the professional union, has had to adjust. Even in today’s paper we see the reality of how this company is trying to adjust, and the impact on the people who are vital to its success.

“Documents show dip in morale at Boeing,” is what the headline states. Boeing is transferring 1,000 jobs from Seattle to California. This action has prompted “widespread internal discussion, distrust and confusion.” Loyalty has taken a bit of a hit, and many engineers are looking for other jobs. The managers of these engineers are warning the company “that Boeing could lose top talent as both veteran and early career engineers, some with security clearances for defense work, scramble to hunt for jobs elsewhere.” Realize that these individuals make really good money.

Contagion is occurring. Negativity is spreading, not just within a few people, but in all engineers. Management has responded to this negativity by providing opportunities for employees to discuss the situation with management. Management welcomes these meetings, and has said that the changes are “not easy, but we believe they are necessary to enhance Boeing’s ability to provide effective and efficient technology solutions.”

Realize that this is not an isolated incident. Changes are happening all through the company. Each of these changes are eroding the loyalty, trust, and social capital associated with working at a company.

You know I agree with Sennett, but I am not too sure one can change this reality. However, management can be more humane in how they deal with change events.

And that is my thought for the day!

How To Master Something

Life takes you in so many different directions. Some directions you carefully plan for. When I went back to school, there was a definite purpose. I wanted to finish my four-year degree ensuring that I could maintain my employment at the company I had been working for over a decade. There are also the directions our lives go as a result of adjustments along the way.

After I finished my Bachelors Degree, I found out I liked the academic environment. I decided to get an MBA. Now my original plan was morphing into a variation of the original plan. Now I began looking at other possibilities. The MBA would help with my career at my current company, but what if I wanted to try teaching at the college level? This Masters Degree would help with that also. So the adjusted plan resulted in another step toward mastery of a new career.

Shortly after finishing my MBA, I decided to approach the school, where I am teaching today, to ask them if I could try teaching in their adult program. They said yes, and now my original plan is adjusted again. I actually like this new career path, and the new set of possibilities. However, to continue down the path of mastery as a teacher the decision is made that I need to pursue a Doctorate. My wife and I agreed this was a valid path for us, and we started on an incredible journey of learning that has included huge amounts of frustration.

After fighting, working, and struggling, and I finished my Doctorate and my wife and I traveled to Virginia where I graduated with a PhD in Organizational Systems. It was hard work, but it has helped me garner the skills I need to teach, but not necessarily make me a master at teaching. That work is done as one is day in and day out within the classroom. This is where one develops the skills necessary to master the role of teacher.

I was looking at the Parade Magazine this morning and I looked at the wages associated with various vocations. One of the people was a college professor who dislikes the tedious nature of grading papers. I would totally agree with that. I sometimes get very tired of reading the same thing over and over again, but I have found over the years that this is where you conquer your tendencies to procrastinate. This is where you focus to finish strong.

The Mastery of anything includes the mastery of one’s self. The mastery of one’s self is usually the mastering of one’s way of thinking. I truly believe that when Paul talks about spiritual warfare the battlefield is not just the physical world; it is the world of our mind. Thus, putting on the whole armor of God is critical for victory.

Paul begins his discussion in Ephesians by saying that we are to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. To do this we must put on the whole armor of God. The struggle is not against the physical world around us, it is against spiritual forces the wish to destroy each of us. The process of mastery in our lives then is the process of overcoming those forces, both internal within our own psyche and those within the spirit world that are committed to our destruction, and becoming all that God means us to be. This involves a lifetime of hard work and dedication that never ends.

Paul tells us we are to stand firm, with truth holding our armor together, keeping the breastplate of righteousness in place, recognizing that our purpose in life is to know, share, and live the gospel of peace. We are to take the shield of faith, which can extinguish those flaming arrows that come from the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, the keep our minds in the right place. To me these characteristics tell me how to master my life and vocation.

The Greek poet Pindar wrote 2,600 years ago “Become who you are by learning who you are.” I would revise that by saying, become who you are, by first realizing who’s your are.” Mastery of life or vocation comes from the desire to follow the path you have been called to by the One who made you. I started down this road forty years ago and I do not regret it for one moment. I do regret some of the things that have happened, such as losing my daughter Jennifer, but this road has been full and rich, filled with great meaning. I am trying to become a master. I will not stop here.

And that is my thought for the day!

Various Thoughts On Our ENACTUS Team

Wow, what a week last week. I travelled with the WPC ENACTUS student leaders and presentation team to compete at the National ENACTUS conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. I learned many lessons about leadership over the last year, both watching and interacting with this group. The result was the best performance by our team at the conference ever. The question is what did I learn?

First, as the leader you don’t have to do it all. If you have a capable team, that allows you the freedom to delegate your authority to the team. The board of WPC ENACTUS this year was the strongest board our club has ever had. They doubled club membership and raised service hours by 500%. Pretty amazing performance by anyone’s standard!

Second, team leadership is critical. The President for the club this year was a type A personality. He drove the board well, but would often case some friction. I think this is pretty typical. However, I could trust him to get what needed to be accomplished done. There is great freedom in that, and I only had to get involved a couple of times over the year.

Third, my job as Faculty Advisor is to remove barriers. This is also a lesson I learned as a manager for a large company. You tell the team what is supposed to get accomplished, and then you remove any barriers that would get in the way of them getting it done, which is what I did this year.

The board for next year is already beginning to take shape. Our new President has been elected. I believe she will do a great job. Students are stepping forward to get involved and be a part of the board. The club has come so far! It originally had five members, but now encompasses 10% of the student body. These students are using business skills and personal strengths to create positive social change within the community.

I do believe the ENACTUS team now has a vision of success. I think when the five students who were a part of the presentation team stood on stage during a sound check, just in case they made it to the final four, they realized that they could do it. They now realize they can compete with the ASU’s, U of A, or OSU, all much larger schools than theirs. All of a sudden the students of Warner Pacific College can view the strengths of their Business program in juxtaposition with other schools. They can see how now only are they getting a good education, they are getting it in a smaller more personal setting.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? Warner Pacific College ended up finishing the competition tied for fifth in the nation. To get there we won two competitions on the strength of our program and the poise of the presentation. I am very proud of those students and what they accomplished. I can hardly wait to see what happens next year.

And that is my thought for the day!