Wednesday, November 27, 2013
"The Road to Omaha" is used to reference getting to the NCAA D1 College World Series for baseball. "The Road through Omaha" is my shorthand for Seattle U's victory over Creighton University in the first round of the NCAA D1 men's soccer post-season tournament.
On November 21st, SU played Creighton in Omaha and snatched a 2-1 victory over the favored Bluejays. I went to the game because I spent 19 years at Creighton before coming to SU in 2001. I went to many Creighton soccer games at what was then Tranquility Field, which was about 10 miles west of campus at a windblown location. Most of the time it was with my kids, who were able to run all over the place and pay little attention to the games.
Today, Creighton has a soccer stadium on campus, and it is no doubt one of the finest facilities in the nation, even finer than our own Championship Field. But there was nothing the stadium could do about the weather on November 21st. The 7:00 PM game was played in 20 degrees, 20 mile an hour winds out of the north, and snow on a turf field.
That's weather that we never see in Western Washington, so a decided advantage for the Bluejays. Nevertheless, our team was able to overcome the elements and pull off a surprise. Creighton started the scoring with a fluke goal, but SU was able to respond and the score was tied at the half. Weather conditions were continuing to deteriorate and we were starting the second half with the wind at our backs, which was becoming more and more of an advantage. With about 25 minutes to go, SU scored a second goal to go up 2-1. Both SU goals were solid finishes by Miguel Gonzalez, despite the elements.
Creighton tried to rally back, and had a few opportunities, but could not get it into the net. The clock wound down and SU had its first D1 post-season soccer victory, and apparently the first victory in post-season D1 play since 1965 in any sport!
Having lived in Nebraska for 19 years, I was fairly well prepared for the weather. Still, by the end of the game my hands and feet were feeling it. No excuse for the hands, though. Prior to the game, Coach Fewing gave me some hand warmers, but during the game I forgot that I had them, so never put them to use. Sorry, coach!
Naturally, part of the reason for the trip was to see people at Creighton that I worked with for 19 years. With the stadium on campus, that was fairly easy to do. But no one seemed to be taking the Redhawks seriously, despite my warnings that I would not have travelled all that way for anything less than a victory. I was able to see the new digs of what is now the Heider College of Business in the Harper Center. Very impressive and a big improvement over the Eppley Building!
Beating Creighton earned SU the privilege of playing UW here in Seattle. It seems a bit ironic that after all the drama in Omaha, we earn the right to play our reinstated cross-town rival.
I went to the UW game on November 24th, and the weather could not have been better for Seattle at this time a year, yet alone in comparison to Omaha several days before. UW prevailed with a 4-2 victory, but I could not help thinking that the last time I had been to the UW stadium was to watch Creighton play UW! I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of Red in the stands!
In one way, I appreciated the nice weather, but on the other hand, as UW's Michael Harris continued to plague SU with his flip throw-ins, I could not help but wonder. There is no way he could have done that in Omaha. The snow covered turf would have been too slick and he would have been neutralized! Maybe that Omaha weather was not so bad after all!
2013 was a great year for men's and women's soccer at SU! With two terrific coaches in Julie Woodward and Pete Fewing, I am looking for more of the same in 2014!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
On November 18th, the Albers School and the Matteo Ricci College co-sponsored an appearance by Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream? Smith is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Emmy Award winning producer, and bestselling author. Prior to publishing Who Stole the American Dream?, he wrote The Russians and The Power Game, two critically acclaimed books. He has won Pulitzer Prizes for his work on the Pentagon Papers and for reporting from Russia in the early 1970's. He has also produced several Emmy award winning specials for the PBS Frontline program. Smith has won the Columbia-Dupont Gold Baton for the year's best public affairs program on U.S. television twice, and also received the George Polk, George Peabody, and Sidney Hillman awards for his excellence in reporting.
In his latest book, Smith explores the demise of the middle class in the US. He started off his lecture by saying some societies succumb to threats from the outside, while others are threatened from within. He said the US is threatened from within due to increasing income and wealth inequality.
According to Smith, this decline can be traced to policy in DC. Decades ago the middle class was able influence policy via a strong union movement, the women's movement, the consumer movement, and the environmental movement. Then, a "Revolt of the Bosses" took place, where the business sector organized and fought back, creating such entities as the Business Roundtable to lobby for its interests. He traced this movement back to the writings of Supreme Court Justice Louis Powell and said it launched the expansion of increasingly successful corporate lobbying and PR in our nation's capital.
Smith cited such legislation as the creation of 401k plans, modifications in the corporate bankruptcy code, the end of usury laws, and more favorable capital gains tax treatment as rising from the growth of corporate power and at the same time undermining the middle class.
In the decades since, as the economy continued to progress, productivity gains were scoped up by the upper class and family incomes stagnated. At the same time, the cost of key goods such as health care, education, and home ownership rose significantly, forcing families to borrow if they wanted to acquire these goods. It's no wonder that families overcommitted in real estate, argues Smith.
There is no denying that the distribution of income and wealth is deteriorating in the US, and we cannot take comfort in the idea that all are being lifted up by a rising tide. This rising tide is definitely not lifting all boats. Policy changes in Washington have definitely contributed to this unfortunate trend, but policy alone is not the culprit. Globalization, an inconsistent education system, and technology access are part of the explanation as well. Add to that list the polarization of politics in the US, which will prevent us from addressing this trend for the foreseeable future.
Smith's presentation was an interesting contrast to one that took place on campus later that evening by Chris Matthews of MSNBC fame. Matthews also has a new book out - Tip and the Gipper -- and was co-hosted by Town Hall and Seattle University. Some of the things Smith condemned for undermining the middle class, such as a lower capital gains tax rates, Matthews was hailing as bi-partisan accomplishments. Matthews did not take on corporate lobbyists, but instead chose to focus on unrestrained campaign contributions, arguing the key was to keep electing Democratic presidents so that the Supreme Court could be changed out and free speech redefined as speech and not campaign contributions.
Interesting evening on campus!!
Friday, November 08, 2013
Phyllis Campbell, Chairman of JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, was our speaker for the Albers Executive Speaker Series on November 7th. Phyllis formerly served as chair of the Seattle University Board of Trustees, so she is a very good friend of the university.
The title of her talk was, "Leading in the Turbulent Financial Sector." She opened by recalling an episode in 2009 when she had just accepted the position with JP Morgan, leaving the Seattle Foundation which she had headed up since 2003. She was on a plane headed to New York, having a very nice conversation with her seat mate, but when he found out she had just taken a job with JP Morgan, he said he could not believe she had done that, since he had thought she was "a nice person." That illustrates what public opinion about JP Morgan was like back in 2009.
In 2013, JP Morgan is still surrounded in controversy, and Phyllis acknowledged how the "London Whale" episode and the bank's recent attempts to settle with regulators are still weighing on the firm's reputation.
In trying to lead through these five challenging years at JP Morgan, Phyllis shared three lessons she had learned:
- Be totally transparent. - acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.
- Do the right thing, but also do things right. - there is no room for error. Banking is a highly regulated industry and there is a compliance culture.
- Step up and address the concerns of the regulator. - if the regulator has a concern, address it and move on. Get it behind you so you can focus on the customer and the business.
When asked who her mentor was, she replied that she had many mentors, but the one with the most impact was her father. He ran a dry cleaning business and was not college educated. What lessons did she learn from her father? First, whatever you decide to take on, be the best you can be. Second, devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself. She gave the example of her father signing up for service in the military even though he had been interned in the camps with other Japanese during WWII. Despite the mistreatment, he still believed in his country.
When asked how JP Morgan can best restore its reputation in the community, Phyllis said they would do that by increased philanthropy (every business should have the philosophy that you do as well as your community does), working with community partners (non-profits who are working to improve the community), and doing things right by your customers every day.
A question was posed about how she would describe her leadership style. She answered by saying that humility was important. You have to realize you do not have all the answers and need to learn from your mistakes. Second, you should be working on empowering and mentoring the people in your organization. Third, you need to be resilient and optimistic so that others in the organization will not be discouraged by difficult times.
What are her core values? Phyllis said what drives her is a desire to give back to the community, the value of hard work, and a desire to be the best she can be.
Phyllis Campbell was an inspiration to our students in the audience, particularly our women and Asian students. It is important that they have role models of success as Phyllis exemplifies it. She is not just a successful banker, but an impactful leader in our community working for the common good.
Our next speaker is on January 16th when Ray Conner, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will visit.
Friday, November 01, 2013
Today, many of the faculty and staff of the Albers School spent the day off-campus at an all-day strategic planning session. That is right, the Albers School is developing a new strategic plan! Our current plan was finalized in 2010, and while we have refreshed it every year, it needs to be updated. In the meantime, the university finalized a new strategic plan in February, and we need a plan that is informed by the university plan.
Our process includes a 27 member strategic planning team, including faculty, staff, students, advisory board members, and representatives from other parts of campus. We have two facilitators, Mike Diamond and Mark Robison from Academic Leadership Associates, who are doing a fine job of guiding our process. This was our second full day meeting and a final meeting is scheduled for December 6th.
Between meetings we have five committees working on our five strategic objectives, which are around preparing highly demanded graduates, a compelling curriculum, the impact of faculty scholarship, social justice, and business and alumni engagement.
Each committee is charged with developing strategic initiatives that support their strategic objective, and then building out the action items and assigning responsibility and time lines. All this needs to come together by the middle of December and it will!
We have looked at the mission statement and have decided we need to update it. Stay tuned for that!
We have a good track record with strategic planning. Since I started as dean in 2001, this will be our fifth strategic plan. Prior plans were developed in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2010. Some processes have been more elaborate than others, with the first one in 2002 being the most demanding. In fact, Mike Diamond was one of the facilitators for that plan!
What are some of the lessons I have learned about strategic planning? They would be:
- Use an outside facilitator, and definitely do not, as the leader, try to be the facilitator for the process. Also, don't use someone else from the organization as the facilitator. No matter how well respected they are, they have an agenda and a perspective that is hard to overcome.
- Make sure the planning team is widely representative of the organization, and add some people from the outside who can provide a different perspective.
- Communicate with everyone who is not on the planning team about how the plan is shaping up. Do not bring them a finished product that they are seeing for the first time.
- If you, as the leader, have something you definitely want in the strategic plan, get that in the mix early. Do not wait until the end to throw that in.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to people outside the planning team to help out along the way. They will be happy to be included and can make up for competencies the planning team may lack.
Stay tuned for the Albers School's new strategic plan!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Brad Tilden, President and CEO of Alaska Air Group, was the guest speaker for the Albers Executive Speaker Series on October 24th. He opened his talk by describing the difficulties faced by the airline industry, noting that since the industry was born it has not been profitable on a cumulative basis. Billions of dollars of capital has been destroyed and bankruptcy has been a frequent occurrence. Of late, the industry has consolidated into four major players who control 90% of the US market. That has left Alaska with 3.5% of the market, yet despite that small market share it has been one of the few profitable domestic airlines.
What are some of the reasons for this? One that Tilden mentioned was that performance at the margin can really make a difference. Where you decide to spend your last $100k can make a big difference, they have found. Also, he credits Alaska's practice of bringing in business leaders from other organizations to learn from them has also been very helpful. Two examples he cited were Jim Sinegal from Costco Wholesale and Orin Smith when he was at Starbucks.
How does one survive in an industry of big players? In this capital intensive industry aren't their overwhelming economies of scale that a small player misses out on? That may be true, said Tilden, but there are also diseconomies of scale. Being smaller gives one less to worry about and brings fewer coordination problems. Tilden also gave credit to Alaska's use of "Lean." These process improvements have been especially helpful in aircraft maintenance, and the Lean method keeps you from thinking you have everything figured out. You are much more open to continuous improvement. Simplicity is also key - it is not a good idea to be flying 14 different airplane types, for example!
When asked what he wanted his legacy at Alaska to be, he replied he wanted the company to remain an independent, be known as a good employer to work for, and leave a strong leadership team in place.
Jim Sinegal talks about Sol Price as his mentor. Who was Brad's mentor? He mentioned his predecessor, Bill Ayer, and his father. Both were good role models for him.
When asked what advice he would give to college students, he noted two things - (1) When it comes to your career, make sure you do something you really enjoy, and (2), Don't play it safe with your career. Take risks. Apply for that promotion if you want it.
Finally, he discussed the importance of the people in the organization and creating a culture where employees feel empowered and going the extra mile is recognized. He also stressed the importance of safety - both for customers and employees.
Brad Tilden drew nearly 300 people to Pigott Auditorium, and they left very impressed with the leader of Alaska Airlines. It was both what he said but also how he said it. His sincere and approachable demeanor impressed his listeners.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
From October 11 to 13 the Center for Business Ethics at SU organized a conference inspired by The Vocation of the Business Leader (VOTBL), an important document released by the Vatican that discusses the role of business in society. VOTBL was released in March, 2012 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Why is VOTBL so important? Catholic social teaching goes back to 1891 with the publication of Rerum Novarum, and the various encyclicals over the years have dealt with a number of issues related to business indirectly, not directly, and often in language that is hard to follow. This is the first document from the Vatican to directly address the role of business in society and to do so in a readable and sympathetic format. If you have not read the document, you can find it at: http://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/cst/conferences/Logic%20of%20Gift%20Semina/Logicofgiftdoc/FinalsoftproofVocati.pdf.
One of the keynote speakers for the conference was Professor Michael Naughton, from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. Naughton was one of the chief architects of the document. In his opening address he gave a nice overview of the document. He noted the document is asking "What is the nature of the good business?" and what does that mean for a business leader? He reminded the audience of "The Logic of Gift," or basically what is known as, "To those who much is given, much is expected." Business leaders have been given much, and therefore should be grateful for that. That gratitude should motivate them to lead a good business.
What does a good business look like? Naughton provided a nice framework for the six core principles of a good business:
"Good goods" - provide goods and services that meet true human needs and maintain solidarity with the poor by also meeting their basic needs.
"Good work" - create a workplace that supports the dignity of the worker and practice the principle of subsidiaridy in the organizational structure.
"Good wealth" - create wealth in a sustainable manner and distribute it in a just fashion.
(Naughton recalled that we first met in 1991, when I was at Creighton University and part of a group organizing a conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Mike noted that he was just out of graduate school and happy to find a group of scholars with interests similar to his own. He has gone on to be one of the world's leading scholars on Catholic Social Teaching in the economic sphere.)
The keynote address was followed by a series of panel discussions throughout the day on the 12th and into the morning of the 13th. They were organized to provide different faith perspectives on the documents, so that not only Catholics were involved in the discussion. The organizers worked hard to make this an interreligious event. Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, and other perspectives were included.
The panels included a mix of highly regarded academics, such as Dr. Patricia Wehane from DePaul University, Dr. Ken Goodpaster from the University of St. Thomas, and Dr. Moses Pava, business dean at Yeshiva University. They also included representatives from the business sector such as Sherri Flies from Costco Wholesale, Brian Mistele, founder of INRIX, and Mark Seidl from REI.
John Dienhart, our Frank Shrontz Endowed Chair in Professional Ethics, was the main organizer, but he had lots of help from colleagues in Albers and across the campus. This included Professors Jessica Ludescher and Marc Cohen in Albers, and Michael Trice from STM and Fr. Peter Ely, SJ, SU's VP for Mission and Ministry. There were plenty of students who assisted, especially John's graduate assistant JP McCarvel.
The conference was a big success. We estimate that over 200 student, faculty, staff, and community members participated. Congratulations to John and his team for putting it together!
VOTBL needs to be part of the student experience in the Albers School, and we are in process of figuring that out. We have had some success with that, but more work needs to be done. In the meantime, I encourage you to read VOTBL if you have not already done so!
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
At the Western Association of Collegiate Schools of Business meeting this week we had the opportunity to hear from Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera. It was fascinating to listen to the insights of one of the pioneers of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which have become a hot topic in higher education.
According to Ng, his goal is to expand access to higher education, and he does not believe that MOOCs will drive traditional providers out of business. He believes that Coursera's impact to date has been to bring non-consumers into the market. He notes that 80% of Coursera's students already have an undergraduate degree and are working full time, and in that mode are too busy to pursue a traditional degree program.
Ng explained that in the traditional model, what is constant is time on task, but what is variable is learning. In the mastery model used by MOOCs, that is flipped and what becomes constant is learning and time on task is the variable.
He also talked about their experience with peer grading, which is better than you might expect. The median peer grade is highly correlated with instructor grades, plus students like peer grading because it allows them to calibrate their performance against that of their peers in ways that cannot happen in the traditional model. Coursera's algorithms can also detect "tough" graders and adjust scores accordingly.
They have also had good experience with peer answers to student questions as opposed to instructor answers. Coursera is also finding that peers take more time to provide more thoughtful and detailed answers than instructors do!
Coursera is also having good luck with its verified completion certificate program. Even though they provide significant financial aid for these certificates, revenues are strong and helping to monetize the company. Moreover, they feel they have solved the verification problem with scanned photo IDs and keyboard stoke recognition patterns.
Coursera is collecting lots of data on student learning, single-handedly amassing more data than all of higher ed has collected from the beginning of time. Analyzing this data gives them important insights on human learning that will grow in value as more of it gets analyzed.
After his talk, Ng said that one thing becoming clear is that we will have to "flip" the classroom to stay relevant. Faculty members or programs that do not do that will fall by the wayside. Flipping the classroom means putting content up on the web for students to view outside of class and using class time for more higher level work.
Ng noted that completion rates for Coursera courses are high if you only look at students who complete the first assignment (45%), but for all students runs at a much lower 7%.
Asked if Coursera had algorithms to identify the most talented students, Ng did not answer directly, but made it clear this was in the mix with some of his examples of what could be done.
Asked how he thought Coursera would be different in a few years, Ng responded that it was his hope that under-served groups would be able to receive financial aid to take a collection of Coursera courses (12 was the number he mentioned) that would allow them to find a job and enter the middle class in our society. It was clear that Ng sees the most important role for Coursera is to create access to education and economic opportunity.
While Ng sees a noble role for MOOCs, others are worried that Coursera will put professors out of a job. Ng's response is that MOOCs cannot replace the most important things that faculty do, which is to mentor and advise students. If anything, technology will allow faculty to reduce the low value activity of lectures and grading homework and allow for more time for high value activity such as mentoring.
It's tempting to accept Ng's benign description of MOOCs, but something tells me it will not be so easy for the rest of us. We will have to change to stay relevant. What will happen to traditional providers if the mastery model gains greater acceptance? What about the rising cost of higher education (not just what we charge, but what it costs to deliver in the traditional model)? Will the data advantage of MOOCs give them a significant advantage in improving their product? And if the faculty role changes to mentoring and advising, will we need as many faculty?
All the sudden the future does not look so sanguine!