Archive for February, 2012

Sam Palmisano, one of IBM’s most-successful and most-influential chief executives, ended his tenure as CEO ended on Dec. 31, 2011.  As CEO he drove unprecedented innovation across IBM and  focused corporate attention on analytics, cloud computing and the Smarter Planet initiative.  In a recent article, Palmisano used a “guiding framework” to devise and execute IBM’s successful strategies.  This guiding framework boils down to four fundamental questions:

  1. “Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?”
  2. “Why would somebody work for you?”
  3. “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”
  4. “And why would somebody invest their money with you?”

I believe that these four questions are fundamental to a university and to a college of business.  These questions are fundamental to the four primary constituents for a university.   Let me explain:

STUDENTS – the university must clearly articulate the value proposition for students and their families to attend your university.  Why should a family spend a significant amount of money for their child to attend your school?  Why should a business professional spend their hard earned money to attend your MBA program?  In an era of increasing public skepticism of higher education, it is imperative for everyone in your organization to clearly and consistently answer this question.

FACULTY – talented and energized faculty are the lifeblood of the university.  Finding, developing and retaining the right faculty members – one’s that are a great fit for your university – is perhaps the top priority of the university.  What is special about your university from a faculty member’s perspective?  Why would a faculty member select your school?  Why would they stay there?  What is the value proposition for an outstanding faculty member to commit their career to your university?

LOCAL COMMUNITY/REGION/STATE/COUNTRY – what value does the university add to the local community and region?  Are the faculty, staff and students engaged with the community?   Is the leadership of the university engaged with the community?  How is the university positioned within the state?  Within the country?   Within other countries?   Is their scholarship that contributes to the well being of the region or state?  Is the university involved in regional economic development? If the university is positively engaged, the citizenship will want the institution to operate.

ALUMNI/INDUSTRY – what value proposition does the university offer for alumni giving?  What value proposition does the university offer to industry partners?  The university’s development office must offer a consistent message about the ‘return on investment’ for investment.  For state institutions, the value proposition for targeted stated funds must be consistently delivered to state legislators and bureaucrats.

Academic administrators, keep asking these four questions.  They will fundamentally focus your efforts on the right things!


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The College of Business is a complicated, multi-faceted system of people, processes, technologies, stakeholders and policies.  It is critical that the associate dean understand all of the organization’s dimensions.  A business architecture is defined as:

“a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.” (from  Object Management Group, Business Architecture Working Group)

Ultimately the business architecture provides an understanding of the organization by:

  1. providing an understanding of what the business currently has (“as-is”)
  2. providing an understanding of how the business fits into its environment
  3. providing an understanding of where we want to go (road-map/”to-be”)

According to Chris Reynolds in the book “Introduction to Business Architecture”, defines 5 dimensions to the business architecture:

  1. Goals: a clearly articulated set of goals for the business
  2. Facades: a model that shows what the business looks like within its environment, including interactions the business offers to its customers and suppliers
  3. Processes: a model that shows how the business needs to operate as a set of processes in order to support the interactions it exposes to the outside world
  4. Communications: an understanding of the mandatory and appropriate communications between a business and its environment, as well as internal communications that would be relevant and important
  5. Entities: an understanding of the information, in the form of business entities, that the business cares about, as well as interrelationships between the business entities that the business cares about.

My goal over the next six months is to apply the principles of business architecture to the College of Business.  I hope that BA will provide a better understanding of the gap/fit of the organization in its environment and its competition.  This should help clarify the right portfolio of projects to help the College of Business evolve toward its envisioned future state.

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What characteristics do you look for when searching for a university president, an academic vice president, a dean or an associate dean?  I have served on all levels of university search committees seeking top individuals to lead our academic institutions and colleges.    If you look at a typical job description for an academic leader it will almost certainly list attributes such as:  (1) a distinguished record of accomplishment in higher education, (2) demonstrated leadership skills,  (3) strong administrative and management skills, and (4) an effective and proven track record in fundraising.

What guidance can I give to academic search committees?  According to George Bradt, managing director of the  executive onboarding  firm PrimeGenesis, “There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions.   These are:

1.  Can the candidate do the job?  (candidate’s strengths)
2.  Will the candidate love the job? (candidate’s motivation)
3.  Can we tolerate working with candidate? (candidate’s fit)

According to Bradt, all interview questions derive from these three basic categories.  Bradt goes on to say:

If you’re the one being interviewed, prepare by thinking through examples that illustrate your strengths, what motivates you about the organization and role you’re interviewing for, and the fit between your own preferences and the organization’s Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE).  But remember that interviews are exercises in solution selling.  They are not about you.

Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to solve the organization and interviewer’s problem. That’s why you need to highlight strengths in the areas most important to the interviewers, talk about how you would be motivated by the role’s challenges, and discuss why you would be a BRAVE fit with the organization’s culture.

It sure seems like good advice for academics!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

For more on this topic, see my post “Academic Dean – Job Interview Questions (Part II)”.  It turns out the the source for this material can be found in the book entitled ‘The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan’.

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