Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fraydog thinks SIUC is well managed? I think not.

As you know I enjoy Fraydog's comments. But I really hate his ideas about management so far, so I'm going to wack them with a stick here. I swear this is like when you see a 10 year old smoking, they think they look so tough. College kids don't know anything about leadership or management, they just don't have the experience yet.

Fraydog said...

The basic problem is they (the JRB, the Chancellor, and Provost) are dealing with a system that was broke long before the present people got there. I'm not going to say that mistakes haven't been made by Wendler and Dunn. On the contrary, I think this can be a good learning experience for everyone if they all play it right. After studying this issue for a little bit, I'd say the JRB would be correct if issues merely dealt with procedural mistakes made and bias errors. After hearing the details involved in both cases, and thoroughly examining the Faculty Senate minutes, I'm not convinced that's the case.

Personally, I'd rather have the Chancellor error on the side of not giving someone tenure. The person who failed to receive tenure can go teach elsewhere, and if it is indeed an injustice they will go to a better institution. However, we as the students, alumni, and friends of SIU, are stuck with whatever deadwood we get. If Wendler has a .0001 % chance running through his mind that he's dealing with deadwood, he should deign tenure.

Would formulating better procedures help? Surely they would. I think the Faculty Senate and the Chancellor should work together to work out what the issues are and come up with a system of tenure and promotion that encourages excellence. However, if the Faculty Senate drags their heels, the Chancellor and Provost have to come up with a solution on their own.

Now on the Faculty Senate proposal: I don't agree with it. Personally, I think it screams out the need to get better processes, but to shift power from one people to five isn't a solution that brings excellence to the tenure process, it's a Band-Aid. I think the Chancellor would be very wise in rejecting it.

Oh Fraydog, you are just a young guy and don't get it. You are going to have doubts about everyone you hire and promote when you are a manager. By your standards no one would ever get hired or promoted. Humans are wonderful, almost always they live up to expectations, if those expectations are put forward by reasonable people in a reasonable way.

Wendler and Dunn have been truly bad at managing people at SIUC. Didn't you read my entry about how Wendler needs to prove then can manage the thing they have control over (the administration) first? I am giving the professors a bad time right now, but the administration is so poorly managed, fat and lazy at SIU, it is sickening. The administration is so bad that they aren't really fun to blog about, it is so easy, just like hitting the side of your house with a rock. The worst part is the administration is more corrupt and bad under Uncle Walt then they were before.

If SIUC was a high tech company they would be turning over 25% or more of their professors per year. The people would be streaming out of there. Because they are a university, the professors just tune them out and go into their offices and do research. This isn't leadership, it is madness.

Here is the problem I pose to you Fraydog. A professor is up for tenure promotion, he is going to get that promotion or be fired. He has no black marks on this record. He has published his papers and taught his classes. His department's faculty does their review and votes to promote. His department chairman does this review and votes to promote, as does his dean. Now it goes up to Dunn and Wendler, they decide not to promote. Now let's assume that the field is chemistry and Dunn and Wendler know jack about it. What do they know about this? Have the met the professor? Have they reviewed this record? If they did review it, do they know enough about chemistry to judge his record? Could you review a chemistry professor's record and know if the work was good or not? The real question is why have they decided to fire the professor? They simply don't say, which is why the JRB keeps returning 3-0 decisions against the administration (this includes the person the administration appoints to the JRB panel).

Remember if you screw over the professor, everyone is going to know about it. So you make everyone, everyone do less work. We have a good suggestion that it is likely more efficent for the organization to not screw people over. Read the first comment again, it is so fundumentally correct that every manager or future manager should take it to heart.

I can't tell you how many times I have had someone in my office complaining about the performance of someone else, I always ask them what would they like me to do? Fire them, complain at them, hit them with a 2X4? If I took that action they would stop working for at least a month and then maybe they would quit. It is better to ask them to perform better, while giving positive feedback, and leave them alone. People get sick, their dog dies, get divorced or have other personal problems. When they do, they get less done. Over the course of years it evens out, so you do nothing unless you are really sure you want to replace them.

Have you had a class where you do the work, pass all the tests, but get your report card and get a "F"? Wouldn't you be demanding a reason for flunking? Is "because I said so" a fair answer in your book?

One of the problems with being a smart 20 year old is that you just don't have the life experience to understand the way the world works. You keep writing about how Wendler had an impossible task, everything was messed up, blah, blah, blah. In fact, Wendler inherited a great situation. I wish someone would give me something that easy to do, software startups are really hard. A got a free staff of super smart professors that are largely working hard for below market wages, tied to the university by a retirement system SIU doesn't have to pay for. All Uncle Walt has to do was act reasonable and he would have felt the ground well of support that his predecessors did before being illegally fired. This staff is holding it breath and hoping a reasonable manager arrives and leads this place back to greatness. Instead of taking this fairly easy situation and succeeding, Walt decided to come in as a big swinging dick and he has ruined his chances of ever doing well here. It is to bad you can't hear the new CoBA Dean speak, he knows how to lead at a college. I hope if Wendler stays he starts to chanel some people smarts. Have I mentioned that if Walt loves this place he should resign?

Someday, you will look back at this and realize that you had no clue about managing people yet. You are just too young and inexperienced to understand. Someday you might get lucky and have that great management moment where your best person quits because you screwed up (it has happened to me a couple of times). You get it? If you piss off the people what work for you enough they quit (but if they are college professors they don't go anywhere) and a little less pissed and they just stop working for a while. But hang tight, you are smart and you will learn all of this the hard way soon enough.


Fraydog said...

First of all, for the record, I'm a little older than you think I am and I have seen incompetent management in the private sector. That being said, you acerbic criticism, while it might have been right about me on a number of levels, failed to deal with the questions I had about the situation.

Part of it boils down to me playing Devil's Advocate. Perhaps I should have formulated my remarks in that context, but I don't want us to be giving tenure away like candy. What we need are hard standards based on tenure, research, and service to Southern Illinois, and we need the adminisration to forumlate those standards better, and then the faculty wouldn't feel like they're in the dark.

Now I basically stated that the administration should have better hard standards. I think that if you asked Dunn point blank he would concede that it's been a problem. I think the management isn't worse than what was here before, remember the reign of Ted Sanders? I think he was far worse. At least we are trying to move forward, and while I don't agree with some of it, I think that effort needs to be recognized. I think you make a lot of good points. I don't know if it's time to abandon ship yet, though. I don't see it as a case of Chancellor Wendler coming in and acting like Geoge Steinbrenner to put it that abruptly.

If indeed Wendler and Dunn are deigning tenure based on political or subjective rather than quantitative facors, they should be criticized and called onto the Stone Center carpet in front of Poshard and the BOT. I'd much rather lay things out there that might fix the problem though.

Part of this is inspired by the story of Roger Briggs in the Good to Great and the Social Sectors monograph (pages 13-17). His experience was that if you give tenure to someone, he or she had better be the right fit for the organization. Now if that's not occuring here, the administration should take the opportunity and redeem themselves. If I thought they were pure as the wind driven snow, I wouldn't use the word "redemption."

Now do I need to learn a lot, yes I do. I wouldn't pretend to know as much as someone like Jack Welch or Jim Collins, but I am wiling to learn. If I'm wrong, I'll look for different ways of doing things to make situations right. The quality where I think I'll be able to succeed is if I'm always willing to learn and listen.

We haven't had competent leadership since Delyte Morris (save maybe for Buzz Shaw who was even disappointed with the job he did as System President here, he learned from his mistakes but by the time he emerged as a great leader, he was at Syracuse.) :(

Also see for context.

Fraydog said...

One more thing: where did I ever say we were well managed? Good Lord, I certaintly don't think that. However, I'd rather see the situation fixed than to hurl personal insults or surround the Chancellor's car. For that, I get ostracized.


Peter in Carbondale said...

I think you just don't understand how this works. The JRB is one of those checks and balance items at SIU. It is a rule and a tradition. Wendler and Dunn have chooosen to ignore this rule and tradition, not talk about it just ignore it. That was stupid.

When you (Fraydog) writes that checks and balances should be removed and Wendler should have complete power, you are saying that you think he is doing a good job.

Imagine selling tickets for the football season and every game all the fans show up and are sitting in the seats. At kickoff time, Wendler stands up and tells everyone sorry we have decided to cancel this game. Next home game, same deal. Would the fans be pissed? Would they be more pissed the second time? How about the 8th? Imagine you were talking about something important like someone getting fired unfairly instead?

You got it now?

Anonymous said...

Peter wrote: The real question is why have they decided to fire the professor? They simply don't say,...

This is fasle. The first year Dunn was here his written explainations were rather brief. Since then he has, according to Marvin Zeman, been doing a much better job of giving detailed explainations. Dunn has as pushed deans and departments to do more careful reviews of pre-tenure faculty. The number of cases going to the JRB is way down.

There still serious issues around the JRB. In my view WVW has not done a good job in meetings with faculty over this. He needs to work on his style of communication. He gives good speeches, but has trouble taling with small groups. However, some new ideas to improve the JRB process have been generated.

As for the lasted FS vote on making some JRB rulings binding: In one of these meeting with WVW and some Senators, the Senators thought WVW had agreed to this. I told them that that could not be what he meant. Sure enough, WVW later says he did not agree to that. A commucations problem.

If we can hired someone better than WVW great. But, it is worth noting that today we are arguing what how to improve, what to build when, so the like. Before WVW we did nothing for year after year.

PS: I an older than you Peter.

Fraydog said...

OK, I'll admit I didn't think of it that way.

That being said, I still think it would be better if both sides could come up with better protocol and follow it. The subjectivity is what leads to problems, now if you stay true to principle that is leadership.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I'm going to say to the "older than dirt (or me)" responder that you don't have much empathy for professors being fired. When you have approved by everyone and Dunn sends back a one line response that says something like, your research isn't good enough. Goes to the JRB and refuses to give more information, you get a 3-0 and you are gone. You get to go home and tell your wife and kids you have failed, put your CV on the street and be fired without cause. That kind of sucks, but I guess it doesn't touch your soul? Let them eat cake.

I'm glad to hear that Wendler and Dunn aren't idiots, being pissed on by tenured professors isn't fun and being pissed on they were for these actions. Maybe they are learning?

If Dunn is here in 20 years and transformes himself into a reasonable manager, people will still say that he is pretty good now, but for the first few years he was a complete jerk.

In the meantime, I'm glad you are keeping the faith. If I was stuck/tenured at SIUC, I might feel the same way. But, I'm not. I'm brave enough to vote with my feet.

Everyone should keep hiding in their offices and not to try to fix anything at SIUC, it has worked so well thus far. Just believe that Wendler and Dunn reguardless of past actions, really get it now. The union will protect you, even though they haven't so far. Hold hands and start to chant, I'm sure the direction SIUC has been heading for 20 years will now change and everything will be OK. Remember, don't drink the kool-aid. Rolling his eyes.

The reason I tell Fraydog he is too young yet, is that is all that is preventing him from getting management. He is reading and thinking. The problem is that being older then I am, it will not help you if you are clueless. The real bad news, is that most professors are clueless about management. You guys could think about these issues for 100 years and you still wouldn't get it (same as I can't analize "Moby Dick" or do original research in chemistry in a 100 years, I just don't care).

It is really to bad, because the professors can fix these problems if they really want to, but as a group they are to clueless and "focused on other issues" (ie to lazy to do the important and urgent things first).

As SIUC slowly sinks into the sea and the professor quietly sit in their offices playing their violins. Don't worry, I'm sure someone else is talking action... somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Peter talks of one JRB case and assumes it was typical. (He even be referring to the protion to full case in which W overturned D.) There was another case where the dept, college committe, the dean and the Provost were in agreement but the JRB recommended the candidate be allowed to go up again the next year. When I'd meet with adminstrators they'd point to that case as typical. Neither extreme was typical. It is/was very hard to get both sides to see each other's point of view. It was hard work and many meetings that got things to improve although there is much still to do.