What do business schools undervalue?

November 24, 2008

At the Presidential Inaguration of Babson’s new president Leonard (Len) Schlesinger, Jack Welch gave the guest speech. Jack and Len worked together at GE as part of the GE Path Forward re-engineering of GE. Jack gave a short speech on the current economic crisis and then took a couple questions. One question (I’m paraphrasing here): What do businesses need, yet business schools undervalue?

Jack’s answer (again paraphrasing): Business schools do not emphasize enough of the soft skills needed to succeed. Organizational Development, Human Resources and Communication are the areas businesses desperately need competent and qualified candidates.

Coincidentally the professor, who was asked to welcome our new President, was the department lead in Organizational Development.

You can read more about the inauguration here.



June 5, 2007

I was shocked when I saw the news last week. Dave Roberson had left HDS! I am very disappointed to see that Dave decided to leave HDS. I think one of Dave’s greatest strengths was his accessibility. He actually responded to email with meaningful comments and questions, he actively sought out employees to let him know what HDS could do better. The one and only time I met Dave our conversation was easy and open. I think his efforts to open up communication channels to HDS employees was very positive for the company. While I understand that Dave, like anyone else at any company, must look out for his/her own career, it is unfortunate that he couldn’t continue his 26 year career at HDS just a little longer. However, the storage industry is very small and it would not surprise me if he returns in some way. I wish him the best in his new role at HP.


December 9, 2006

Recently I took a look at mentoring opportunites available to me and found there were none easily available. I didn’t know who would make a good mentor, what I should look for, how I should approach a possible mentor. Working in a company were employees are already working as hard as they can, do they really have time to mentor their fellow employees like me?

My wife is working on her PhD and as part of the process she has regular meetings with a group of advisors who help to steer, challenge and advise her along the way to completing her PhD. So I wondered if the same process could work in a corporate setting. Instead of a single mentor, the employee could look to a Board of Advisors who would provide guidance and advice for the employee. So I discussed it with others and came up with the following guidelines for the Board of Advisors. The mentoree/employee is called an Associate.

  • 6 Month Term for each Advisor
  • Meeting (phone) with each member once per month
  • 30 Minutes during first week of month
  • Face to face with each Advisor at least once per term
  • 3-5 Advisors on the Board
  • Each Advisor to create a goal for the Associate
  • Advisor tracks and reviews with Associate regularly
  • Goal to be completed within Advisor’s Term
  • Goals must track to Associate’s defined goals
  • Each Advisor to state reason(s) for agreeing to be on Board
  • Associate to state reason(s) for asking Advisor to be on Board

So I approached 4 potential Advisors for my Board, 2 outside the company, 2 within the company. Not that I planned that, it just worked out that way. I am supposed to setup one-on-one sessions with my Board to set the plan in motion to start in 2007. As the experiment continues I will make note of any interesting results, both expected and unexpected.

Speaking on unexpected, life is funny sometimes, by shear chance, I attended a recent HDS event for companies in the Social Networking space. Jeremiah has blogged about the event here. At the event was Ann Tardy of LifeMoxie, a company that provides a methodology, training and a web based application to match mentors with individuals seeking mentors. Initially, she has focused on getting companies to setup the service as part of their HR offerings so that employees within a company can sign up to be mentors, or to find mentors. She described it as Match.com for mentoring. Each employee has a profile that allows you to check their potential as a mentor. The application acts as a coach to both the mentor and the individual to walk them thru the mentoring process. While I haven’t seen the application, it sounds very intriguing. You should know, that Ann has more moxie and energy than 99% of the people in the world, if nothing else seek her out and pick her brain, you won’t be disapointed.

McClelland Follow Up

December 4, 2006

Well I finished reading the HBR OnPoint collection on Power: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The first article was written by David McClelland and David Burnham called Power Is the Great Motivator. I skipped the second article as it didn’t apply to my situation ( now or in the next 2-3 years). Skimmed the 3rd article, but really wanted to focus on the McClelland & Burnham article.


Its based on their research and uses McClelland’s assertion that people are motivated in three ways (as discussed on my last post) 1)Power, 2)Affiliation and 3)Achievement. Using these three archetypes as a basis, McClelland and Burnham breakdown managers into one of three categories 1)Affiliative Managers, 2) Personal Power Managers and 3) Institutional Managers. The two Davids utilized a workshop format using interviews, stories and questionnaires, compared the participants to national norms, interviewed the managers subordinates. The subordinates were asked to rank their managers on 6 areas:

  1. Amount of conformity to the rules their supervisor requires
  2. Amount of responsibility they feel they are given
  3. Emphasis department places on standards of performance
  4. Degree of rewards for good work vs punishment for bad work
  5. Organizational clarity in the office
  6. Team spirit

The Davids were looking for managers that scored highest morale scores based on (5&6). They also point out the stages a manager moves through as he/she matures from 1)Dependant on others, 2) Interested in autonomy, 3) Interested in manipulating others and finally 4) serve others selflessly. The pool was 500 managers from 25 US corporations.

The classification of a manager into one of the three archetypes closely followed McClelland’s work on motivation. The Affiliative manager was deemed the worst type of manager as they would work to have everyone like them at the expense of the corporation and team members. The Personal Power manager, was given higher marks for personal accomplishment and ability to be productive, but did little to inspire those around them and build a team. Lastly the Institutional Managers were those that sought power not just for the sake of imposing their will on others, but to further the corporation’s goals. They also acted in a democratic way when possible and attempted to help those around them first but not at the expense of the corporation’s goals. The Davids also believed that it was possible for a manager to change if they put in the time and effort and tracked their efforts along the way.

My Analysis

So what does this all mean to you an me? I think there are some basic elements you must possess in order to begin to be a good manager.

  1. Want to improve and seek out ways to improve yourself
  2. Want to help others achieve their own goals
  3. Derive gratification from doing good
  4. Willing to listen to others
  5. Understand that it will take time (perhaps on the order of 10 years)

With these elements as a foundation I believe one can then start to apply and incorporate some of the traits and methods that the Davids point out in the Institutional Manager archetype. Specifically:

  • You must seek power, but use it in a non-dictatorial fashion for the purposes of helping those around you achieve their goals and achieve the corporations goals.
  • You must be willing to inhibit your own desires and put others and the corporate goals ahead of your own.
  • Be democratic and try to coach their subordinates to achieve individually and as a team.

So while I have never sought higher management, I think that in order to become a proficient KM practitioner, one must be able to help others achieve their own goals, find out what motivates others and build the environment to respond to these motives. To be successful at KM, it would appear that the same characteristics of an Institutional Manager would apply equally. That means I have a long road ahead of me.