Monday, February 28, 2011

The Chairman's response to WSJ's "Harvard Changes Course"

To see the article, click here

On Revamping Harvard:

Requiring students to work in groups of 6 is a good start. The fact they will have to create something is even better. Is it enough to address the source of the problem? Are the appropriate questions being asked to create leaders of the future?

While it is important to learn from case studies and just as important to be competent in finance, a question remains. How do you build valuable products or services that are sustainable or a least malleable enough to continue to produce value?

If Harvard is going to make significant changes to its curriculum, they need to understand there are mental models that are built into every system. If they change what they present to students without adjusting for mental models that perpetuate the existing paradigm that caused the financial meltdown, the paradigm will not be changed. It will be improved or diminished.

It is what happens when the average person wins a large lottery. The person burns through cash because their money management principles remain constant. As a result, the wealthy lottery winner is usually worse off with more money. Will the new Harvard curriculum allow students to justify the same past behavior with a new intellectual spin for why things will be different this time?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Chairman's Response to the WSJ's "Five Signs You're a Bad Boss"

From the Boss’s View:

Bad bosses are made, not born.  As much as it is hard to admit, bad bosses are a reflection of our culture.  Every manager and leader has been created from our social structures and educational system. 

According to social anthropologists, culture is a network of conversations. 

If you are the CEO, you are the source of corporate culture. You set off the network of conversations in and around the company, mostly by the commitments you make. For example, investing in a superior product is a commitment to customers. Investing in the quality of your interactions with your employees is a commitment to leadership.

It can be difficult to stand by the conversations you set off as they evolve throughout the company. As a message travels throughout the business, it accumulates context built from the perspective of every stakeholder within and without the company. When it gets back to you, what you said before has evolved into something bigger. It’s easier to put on the brakes of what seems to have become a runaway train.

However, instead of holding it back, you have to step up or else you stifle the initiatives that you yourself set forth for the company.

In general, the challenge here is to be responsible for the new conversations that promote what you say you are committed to.  Every employee and manager should ask themselves what kind of company do I want to work for?  What am I willing to do to be responsible for the existence of that kind of company? Making specific promises and requests of managers and employees is a powerful way to change behavior and the future. 

Regarding leadership as an employee, you have to ask yourself what you are willing to do to be responsible for the company and the conversations you create. Do you take initiative for what the boss is not doing, or do you let everyone keep ‘waiting for Superman’?

-Ted Santos
 Board of Veteran CEOs